The variables in The Most Important Sociological Experiment of Our Time—the castmembers of MTV's Jersey Shore—want cash: according to an item in this morning's Page Six, the Orange Creature Cadre are trying to get seriously paid.

And by "seriously" we mean "fairly and proportionally":

The "Jersey Shore" cast is bidding to bump its salaries up to a fist-pumping $10,000-an-episode following the wild success of their MTV show. The cast...earned only a few hundred dollars each per episode for the first season, and now want a huge raise for the next one.

A few hundred bucks per episode? And they didn't even get to take the Duck Phone? I wonder if they have agents! Not because the number's so low, but because it's so patently reasonable, even though they've astutely noted that the castmembers of The Hills are grabbing $100K an episode despite lower ratings. So why'd they only bid at $10K, and why's it a smart move?

1. They'll never be sustainably famous. And there are reasons for this:

(A) The entire existence of Jersey Shore: The Phenomenon is predicated on the extremities they inhabit that most of us have and never will consider. Nobody wants to be like them except for a small segment of the population who are either already like them or, given a few years, will be them.

(B) The cast of Jersey Shore makes nobody self-conscious, unlike the moneyed Aryan Celebrity of The Hills and The City, the stars of which have the inadvertent (or intended) power of destruction on the teenage girl psyche, and reach beyond that. Whereas The Hills and The City casts can position audiences in a place to question their personal fiscal, physical, and class consciousness, the Jersey Shore kids—god love 'em—are scrappy underdogs of celebrity who make us feel better about ourselves, because we're not thicknecked, fist-pumping, misogynist, abusive, spineless, awareness-lacking neanderthal tribalists. Or at least we're not to the extent they are.

(C) They're self-aware. The Jersey Shore cast knows that their fame is almost, to an extent, niche fame: that they're stereotypes, that they're encouraged to aide these stereotypes, that they are objects of studied fascination who don't carry the ability to provoke vicarious living, and that, as individual characters, they're meaningless to the narrative. This is unlike, say, The Hills, the castmembers of which have engaged in a two-step dance of careful cognitive dissonance with the subversive intent to convince themselves—and then: us—that their drama is both real and scripted, on two levels (in the press, and on the show) like some kind of lucid Hollywood dream existence where nobody can wake up. That is a $100K/episode show. $100,000 buys you post-modernism.

2. They're easily replaced. The Jersey Shore kids have sworn to stick together through their negotiations.

A source close to the crew told us, "They want $10,000 an episode, arguing that the stars from 'The Hills' get $100,000 per episode and that show doesn't even rate as high. They're hanging together like the cast of 'Friends' and saying if they don't all get the pay increase, none of them will return."

Among their ranks, they should be less concerned about defectors and traitors from the hard-party line of negotiations, and more concerned over just how essential of a component the entire cast is to the show. Sure, you could replace a few members, but that skews the dynamic: some have lived a life of celebrity, others haven't, so much of the drama of the show is based around these specific characters' interactions with each other. To take out some of the essential ingredients and replace them wouldn't be nearly as compelling as just—let's face it—replacing them completely. An entirely new cast of Jersey Shore creatures who aren't jaded by the antics of the first season, who see the potential celebrity that awaits them? They'll go harder, faster, stronger, juicier, orangey-er! You can't buy that kind of moxie, unless you buy it new, or shoot it through a hypodermic needle into your shrunken balls, which they've already no doubt tried. The Juice of Ron Ron will only take you so far.

3. Hollywood entitlement and celebrity corrupts the essence of Jersey Shore. The Hills and The City both strain to avoid discussion of their own celebrity, instead letting that dialogue play out in the press. The press will never be genuinely interested in where Snooki is showing up (instead, writing each item with an underlying theme of heh); they're more interested with the fact that other people are interested in where they're showing up, and their interest isn't genuine affection so much as (mostly) fascination and interest. And the entire fascination with Jersey Shore is, again, predicated on the fact that we've never seen anything really like this on TV before. If they become celebrities of celebrity—like the Kardashians, for example—they become the same product we see everywhere else: a typical, unoriginal commodity. They lose their mystique. And thus, their value to The Most Important Sociological Experiment of Our Time, Jersey Shore.

The thing is: the audience does care for the cast of Jersey Shore! They are, somehow, lovable, and they have—incredibly—endeared themselves to us in spirit and heart. So $10K an episode seems like a pretty fair shake for a second (and final) season for this cast to get paid, and move on, thus, setting a two-season term limit on the Keepers of The Duck Phone. Besides which, even underdogs have other options:

But Snooki says that if the talks fail, she plans to find herself a rich man. She told The Post's Kirsten Fleming: "If I am not tied up with work, I will get my own beach house in Belmar and live it up. There's mad-hot rich guys there."

Unlike the hard-earned endearment the cast of Jersey Shore holds with their viewers, there's no shortage of mad-hot rich guys in Belmar, who are (apparently) limitless. And as New Jersey's native son Bruce Springsteen once sang:

Well now, everything dies,
that's a fact..
But maybe everything that dies
comes back.
Put your makeup on,
fix your hair up pretty,
and meet me tonight...

in Seaside Heights, where dreams and fair labor talks can come to life. Long live The Duck Phone.