Though the last season of Jersey Shore has come and gone, its leopard-print legacy continues, to much celebration and chagrin. On January 8, MTV will premiere the second season of Snooki & JWoww, which, on the surface, might seem like just another excuse to eye-roll or lament the current state of American culture. But this spin-off has a surprising layer of depth that should warm the hearts of even the harshest Snooki critic, if they can manage to look past the spray tans to find the classic themes of love, friendship, and family underpinning the whole show.
The first season was a uniquely colorful romp through Hoboken, originally planned to follow in the antics of the shore house and then happily derailed by Snooki’s unexpected pregnancy. This time around, the series will continue its focus on the two heroines, following them through the last weeks of Snooki’s pregnancy, the highly publicized (and scrutinized) birth of her son Lorenzo, and JWoww’s continuing relationship with her Seaside Heights boyfriend, Roger. And above all the series will continue to place the love between Snooki and JWoww at the center of its narrative.
That is perhaps the most exciting and refreshing part of the show. In the current landscape of American reality television, female stars are typically cast as frenemies (as in the numerous Real Housewives series), daughters or wives deeply embedded in a family structure (as in Keeping Up with the Kardashians), or as simply competition for male attention (as in The Bachelor and its many imitators).
This trend is echoed in traditional scripted shows, even as the number of shows led by female characters rises. Dramas like Scandal, Law and Order: SVU, or Once Upon a Time are based on complex and dynamic women and still their focus weighs more on their professional, familial, or romantic relationships than any sort of female companionship.
In this light, an entire show about young women building and maintaining a healthy friendship is most welcome. It could be a tiny positive speck for teenagers sifting through an ocean of television, movies, and real world examples of how grown women treat one another.
And, yes, admittedly, with trailers named “Boobs” and “Weiner,” it’s easy to mistake Snooki & JWoww for a cheap spin-off that hopes only to capitalize on the huge success of Jersey Shore, like Pauly D Project. It’s easy to look back on the leading ladies’ checkered rise to fame, which did feature drunken hookups, peeing behind bars, and multiple hair-pulling altercations with roommates, and write them off entirely.
But to do so would be to neglect the real beauty of the show — its heart. There is no cynicism or punchline on Snooki & JWoww There’s no invitation to gawk or judge. Everything, from the embrace in a bed of zebra print to the tearful wait outside a hospital room, is sincere. Whatever were the beginnings of JWoww's and Snooki's fame, their show and its new season delivers something rare — an unabashed celebration of young women, their lives, and their choices.