Since its premiere on December 3, MTV’s latest reality sensation “Jersey Shore”
has been flooded with criticism. The show insults many Italian-Americans, who claim cast members misrepresent their culture. Italian-American groups National Italian American Foundation, The Order Sons of Italy, and UNICO National complain that the show incorporates “ethnic slurs, violence, and poor behavior to marginalize and stereotype Italian-Americans.”
“Jersey Shore” follows eight self-proclaimed “guidos” and “guidettes” for four weeks as they live and work in Seaside Heights, N.J. The crew enters the shore house with plans to tan, party, hook up, and have the best summer of their lives.
Even those who don’t tune into the show are familiar with the controversy surrounding “Jersey Shore.”
“I know the show deals with Italian- Americans, and it is causing different reactions because of its portrayal of Italian Americans,” said assistant modern Italian literature Professor Stefano Giannini. “But unfortunately, I have been unable to watch it.”
As a full-blooded Italian, I understand why the Italian community views “Jersey Shore” as another negative stereotypical portrayal of Italian culture.
But I find the show to be an amusing and shocking look at what life is like during wild summers spent at the Jersey Shore.
While watching the first episode of the hit show, I was overwhelmed by the amount of pride these eight Italian-Americans take in their ethnicity. Whether it is DJ Pauly D’s Italian flag tattoo or Snooki’s ultimate desire to marry an Italian man, the cast shamelessly broadcasts their Italian heritage to the world every Thursday night. I find it refreshing to see people embrace their backgrounds rather than integrate into America’s melting pot.
Nonetheless, when the housemates embarked on their wild nights on the boardwalk, I was a bit reluctant to associate myself with any of the eight party animals. Although I like to let loose and enjoy myself from time to time, I have never been in the spotlight for doing Snooki-like cartwheels on the dance floor, nor have I ever engaged in a bar fight like muscleman Ronnie. Still, I realized: Since I have never participated in such commotion, clearly not all Italian-Americans are one in the same.
As the season progressed, I came to see the antics on “Jersey Shore” as outrageous and comical. I came back to the show each week to see how the cast would top the previous weeks adventures. On no other channel could viewers find Long Island native “JWOWW” assaulting “The Situation,” a former exotic dancer, in an Atlantic City hotel room.
The claim that “Jersey Shore” offers a stereotypical portrayal of Italian-Americans may be true, but the portrayal is just that—a stereotype. All guidos may be Italian, but all Italians are certainly not guidos.
I found it is easy to laugh at the craziness the show displays once I realized that the cast’s behavior is not the norm. I am highly anticipating the show’s rumored return and sincerely hope that the following season brings even more hair gel, Ed Hardy and hot tubbing.