An Italian-American’s view of MTV’s “Jersey Shore”

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UNICO National, an Italian-American organization, is really angry over MTV’s Jersey Shore. MTV claims that the show is about the “hottest, tannest, craziest Guidos” who “keep their hair high, their muscles juiced and their fists pumping all summer long!” UNICO National believes that the show is offensive and that it portrays Italian-Americans as violent, attention-seeking, heavy-drinking, poof and fake tan-sporting, party animals. UNICO President Andre DiMino calls the show “trash television.” (umm…has he seen The Hills? The Real World? Any episode of True Life?)

New York Post critic Linda Stasi says, “(‘Jersey Shore’ furthers) the popular TV notion that Italian-Americans are gel-haired, thuggish ignoramuses with fake tans, no manners, no diction, no taste, no education, no sexual discretion, no hairdressers (for sure), no real knowledge of Italian culture and no ambition beyond expanding steroid- and silicone-enhanced bodies.” (side note: not everyone on the show is Italian-American)

I am an Italian-American and I’m not nearly as offended by the show as other people apparently are. I think the show is less about Italian-Americans than it is about the people that go to the Jersey Shore (either way, it’s a TV show! People need to lighten up). Perhaps it’s because I grew up in a very different environment (and I am incredibly pale and don’t chase after guys “with tans and juicy muscles”), but I never get associated with this “guido”/”guidette” culture and therefore find it hard to be offended by. I’m actually more offended by a show like The Sopranos, which depicts Italian-Americans as mobsters. When The Sopranos was on, I was often asked (jokingly, of course) whether my family was in the mob (and it didn’t help that my mom’s name is Carmela, like the mom on the show). I found that incredibly offensive! I would rather be associated with a bunch of ridiculous, but harmless, “guidos” then be associated with the mafia.

Also, what the critics don’t seem to acknowledge is that if you take down the poofs, comb out the hair gel, and wash off the makeup and spray tans, the people on this show seem pretty okay. They actually seem like very family-oriented people! They bitch, they fight, they yell, but at the end of the day, the cast-mates see each other as family and love one another. That’s an Italian-American stereotype that I’m okay with!

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4 Responses to “An Italian-American’s view of MTV’s “Jersey Shore””

  1. Emmy Says:

    I mean, I don’t think MTV should be ashamed of themselves for putting this show out. If anything reality tv makers in general should be “ashamed” of exploiting people in general. However, at the same time these are all consenting adults and maybe they don’t realize the ramifications of their actions–which I don’t know what they are– they are still responsible for the way they are portrayed. Unless you give them certain footage, you can’t be edited to appear a certain way in the first place?

  2. Parker Says:

    There’s a question of whether at any point anybody is given the expectation that MTV is presenting these people as representative of anything. Some of their traits (tall hair, juicy muscles) are certainly stereotypically associated with people who go to the Jersey Shore, but more striking to me is the fact that MTV found eight* completely remarkable individuals — remarkable not for the fact that they conform to stereotypes, but that they completely surpass anything that could be expected to be common to a group, ethnic or otherwise. Stereotypes favor common elements and eliminate the notion of the individual; can anyone who’s ever seen the show actually think that there might be a whole group of people like Snooki?

    *actually seven, Vinnie kind of sucks.

  3. parker Says:

    There’s a question of whether at any point anybody is given the expectation that MTV is presenting these people as representative of anything. Some of their traits (tall hair, juicy muscles) are certainly stereotypically associated with people who go to the Jersey Shore, but more striking to me is the fact that MTV found eight* completely remarkable individuals — remarkable not for the fact that they conform to stereotypes, but that they completely surpass anything that could be expected to be common to a group, ethnic or otherwise. Stereotypes favor common elements and eliminate the notion of the individual; can anyone who’s ever seen the show actually think that there might be a whole group of people like Snooki?

    *actually seven, Vinnie kind of sucks.

  4. parker Says:

    you can say that again!

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