The working-class weirdness of Geordie Shore
Above: Jersey Shore. Right: Geordie Shore.
The men and women of Jersey Shore touched down in Florence last week to begin the show’s fourth season. But while the Guidos and Guidettes may have single-handedly stimulated the Italian taxicab industry with the volume of their luggage, Europe doesn’t actually need to import hard-partying 20-somethings eager to make fools of themselves on TV. When it comes to wreaking havoc while on holiday, Jersey Shore now competes with its own U.K. spin-off, Geordie Shore, which returns to screens on August 23. But where the Jersey Shore cast is full of professional fame-seekers who just happen to have found their launching pad on MTV, its younger British sibling is more working-class, making for entertainment that’s somehow realer-seeming—but not necessarily more compelling.
England’s always had a fine-grained taxonomy of working-class sub-cultures. Geordies—a term for people from the Tyneside region of Northeast England—may not have always existed in their current form, but the regional nickname stretches at least all the way back to the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, and certainly was in current usage by 1793. The stereotype Geordie Shore exploits is, as MSN TV Editor Lorna Cooper puts it in an email, that “all Geordies are thick, drink brown ale, say ‘why-aye-man’, have women that look like brick houses.” Of course, this has driven Geordies who aren’t on TV crazy. Part of the problem, Cooper says, is that the show and its audience have conflated a regional stereotype with a class one: While “Geordie” refers to the many residents of a geographic area, the Geordie Shore stars are all working class people who engage in all sorts of hard-partying anti-social behavior. They’re considered chavs.