But there is some push-back - if not in entertainment, then at least in real life (a less-noticed phenomenon) - reining in the sort of personality eruptions that can cause havoc in resort towns. In other words, the real New Jersey Shore has rules.
Back in the early '90s, New Jersey enacted what is commonly called the Animal House law to help Shore communities control rowdy, offensive, and antisocial behavior. Both the owners and tenants of rental properties are subject to fines and other penalties if they harbor habitual disorderly conduct. The fines are levied by special Animal House magistrates, who work long into the winter adjudicating cases.
In Shore communities such as Belmar and Point Pleasant Beach (about 12 miles north of Seaside Heights), seasonal rentals may house as many as 20 to 25 young and intent party animals - often college buddies from real-life "Beta Houses." In Belmar, code officers make early-morning visits, even on Saturdays and Sundays, to check on crowding and other violations. For many young Shore renters, the day doesn't dawn until around noon, so such problems are sure to be found at those hours.
Point Pleasant Beach is even more innovative in its approach to the problem. Its neighborhood action program has police patrolling by foot, bike, and motor vehicle for violations. There are even undercover bike-riders looking for drug activity.
Whether in Florida, California, Delmarva, or New England, rules and enforcement like this make sense for resort destinations.
Point Pleasant Beach has also taken the step of banning both MTV and truTV (formerly Court TV) from shooting scenes in the borough. Why? As one official told me, such programs rarely offer accurate or complete portrayals of the communities in which they're set. Rather, they offer narrow, private, and prurient agendas. Seaside Heights, for example, has beautiful stretches of beach rarely seen on Jersey Shore.
Over the past two years, because of the economy and an increase in year-round property rentals, many Shore points have lost some of their party people. Indeed, considering the price of rentals, Animal Housers may find it cheaper to go to Cancún or other places designed specifically for their "situations."
Resort communities across the land face similar seasonal problems, but New Jersey has proven that all kinds of visitors can be accommodated given rules and a will to enforce them - even if it means arresting Snooki. The characters of Jersey Shore don't rule because the Jersey Shore has rules. (Sorry, Snooks.)
Silvio Laccetti is a social sciences professor at Stevens Institute of Technology who has written extensively about public policy in New Jersey. He can be reached at email@example.com.