MTV's Jersey Shore has served as a lightning rod for social commentary on the rise of the bar-frequenting, working-class Italian-American male commonly known as the guido. Critics regularly lampoon the show, complaining that it promotes a litany of unbecoming behaviours such as belligerence, binge drinking and belligerent binge drinking. Despite the words of naysayers, the guido stereotype, as well as that of the "choch," its not-so-distant cousin, have recently enjoyed increased scrutiny and have been both emulated and disparaged as their popularity has grown.
Brendan Prost, a Calgarian studying film and communications at Simon Fraser University, explores these aforementioned stereotypes in a new film quite simply titled Choch. The movie follows a central character, Zack White, who is torn between the violent, womanizing persona he presents on a regular basis and his calmer, more reflective inner self.
"The film is a character portrait of what seems to be a very stereotypical 'choch' character from Jersey Shore and [the viral YouTube video] 'My New Haircut' -- the chauvinistic, self-obsessed, masochistic sexist jerk that you see at the bar," says Prost. "But it's kind of a breaking down of that stereotype. It's a suggestion that the way we perceive people is not actually indicative of who they are on the inside."
The discrepancy between who you are and who people think you are is one of the key motifs of the film, and Prost perceives this as an inherently problematic subject. Though his work is titled Choch, and Prost deals with the ideas that surround that particular stereotype, the film is broader in its aim.
"I was really interested in the idea of someone being perceived as an ugly person," says Prost. "That notion that all anyone ever knows about you is what you communicate to them. There's an inner person that is mostly good in everyone, and so how does anyone ever become a nasty, ugly person? Often, it's just a general error in communication."
The film is built around the character of the 'choch' as he is presented with the choice to take one of two distinctly different life courses.
"It's using this personality type that we're all familiar with to explore what it's like to be dishonest or to have fallen into a kind of personality that you don't feel accurately represents who you are," says Prost. "Eventually, he's confronted by this choice between his fears and anxieties of being by himself and losing the people around him he finds acceptance in, and the unknown of doing something new and potentially feeling better about himself, but losing what he once had."
Prost's character-driven film will provide much for its audience to mull over -- regardless of which camp they fall into on the subject of Jersey Shore.