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Gym, Tanning and Laundry: Controversy over MTV’s Jersey Shore

January 9, 2010

I remember a few years back, MTV aired an episode of their True Life series entitled, “I have a Summer Share”. Back in 2004, the show introduced us to Tommy, Anthony and other friends who spent their summers partying hardcore in Seaside Heights, NJ, where the current Jersey Shore series is filmed.  No doubt, “I have a summer share” was the brainchild for Jersey Shore and MTV has capitalized bigtime on this apparently fascinating group of young adults.

I can vouch for the accuracy of this program, but however irritating and obnoxious these characters seem to be; why are they constantly being singled out as “Italian-Americans” acting poorly? These are young adults acting like every other idiot on the boardwalk every summer, except they are being televised while doing it. By isolating this group as ‘giving Italian-Americans a bad name’, critics are neglecting to see the macro-culture surrounding the Jersey Shore and the actions of all the other tourists at the beach. How about the long line of females “The Situation” brings back to the rooftop for some after-hours loving; the gym teacher who punched poor, pint-sized Snooki in the face; or the couple who antagonized muscle-bound Ronnie into a boardwalk brawl: why aren’t the condemning naysayers chiming in on these violent and inappropriate people?

Are we really to believe that the cast of Jersey Shore, who self-identify themselves as “guidos” and “guidettes”, should be responsible for decades of stereotypes and negative portrayals in movies and television? Hello Sopranos, Goodfellas, A Bronx Tale and Donnie Brasco…and of course, The Godfather. Better yet, go attack My Cousin Vinny for portraying Marisa Tomei and Joe Pesci as a trash talking guidette and her bumbling idiot boyfriend, both obviously stereotyped versions of New York Italian Americans. Strange, I don’t see NJ State Senator Joseph Vitale and the NJ Italian American Legislative Caucus protesting any other form of Italian propaganda, or is it just that MTV is an easier target than HBO or Warner Brothers.

Sen. Vitale actually complained to MTV that, “the show was a series of bias-related acts…and inflames tensions and promotes social hostility”.Is he referring to the Jersey Shore cast or the other fist-pumping, drunk club-hoppers they interact with, because I feel he has a huge fight on his hands if he wants to take on every tourist in Seaside Heights. Sen. Vitale also stated the show “might violate state hate crime statutes” and “wants a Department of Labor investigation” with no basis for his request. He is already inciting anger from his constituents by using taxpayer money to possibly investigate something as ridiculous as reality tv show.

Be careful Sen. Vitale, by pushing your own agenda, you could alienate many non-Italian Americans who see your crusade as pure publicity-seeking rubbish and think of Jersey Shore next time they go to the voting booths.

Can we just leave this show alone? I mean really, the only people they are hurting are themselves. They don’t claim to speak for Italian-Americans across the country, nor do they try to jump on the mafia bandwagon. They are just a bunch of young, immature adults who make a lot of bad decisions. So thank you Snooki, JWOWW, Sammi Sweetheart, Ronnie, Vinny, Pauly D, and “The Situation”, you make my Thursday nights enjoyable and give me hours of discussion with my friends.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get my GTL on…fans, you catch my drift.

Disclaimer: I am an avid Jersey Shore fan, being equally disgusted and enthralled by my weekly doses of “The Situation”, Snooki, and Pauly D (my faves). I am also a lifelong New Jersey resident and have spent every summer from ages 3 months to 17 years old down the Jersey Shore…and I am talking whole summers, not just summer shares (my grandparents lived there).

Lastly, of course I get annoyed with the hoards of people that overcrowd the Jersey Shore every summer, but that is typical of any seasonal tourist attraction. We need to realize that those “Go back to Long Island” remarks that lured Ronnie into that boardwalk fight are just obnoxious coming from those proud NJ residents that are just “protecting their space”. Really, what exactly are you protecting? Take the tourist revenue and shut up because I don’t expect to hear “Go back to Jersey” next time I want to visit Central Park in the fall.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. kewlskewlboy permalink*
    January 10, 2010 9:01 am

    This is a great article. Thank you for articulating what I felt, and probably couldn’t put into words.

  2. snugglebus permalink*
    January 10, 2010 10:18 am

    I just started watching this show…I love it, but it totally makes me feel dirty and guilty. I mean it kind of is racist or whatever word makes most sense to use in this context.

    They do make this choice to take this particular group of people and really stress that they are a particular community, and selected participants seemingly because they typified the stereotype. As soon as you demarcate it like that, the entertainment becomes about watching this stereotype play out.

    What blurs the line is the way the participants themselves manage to get you to root for them, so ok, you do more than just laugh at these guys. but the fact remains the whole show is about projecting a stereotype and making it entertaining.

  3. ontheborder permalink
    January 10, 2010 2:54 pm

    In my opinion, this “guido” and “guidette” stereotype has more to do with location and appearance than cultural heritage. The whole point of the article was to point out that Italian-American groups and politicians have no right to lay claim to this group, and say they are acting poorly and making their community look negatively.
    Fighting, drinking, and hooking up with multiple partners = because they are Italian… no! From what I can remember, the times when Italian heritage is mentioned on the show, they all refer to large families, great food and loving, doting mothers. Is that so wrong? Those are not negative qualities.
    To me, “guido” describes your clothes, your hair, and your attitude…not your ethnicity. That is why I don’t believe an ethnic stereotype is playing out here.

    But, to address your point, I agree, there is ‘something’ going on here and it is difficult to find a word to describe it. You wouldn’t necessarily say racist or prejudice…but what is it?? I think it might just be MTV exploiting another group of naive young adults for lots and lots of monetary gain, but it isn’t all bad for the group also. They are getting paid up to $10,000 for appearances now! And that’s where the WTF comes in.

  4. snugglebus permalink*
    January 10, 2010 3:17 pm

    yes, but if they are asking you to identify these people as italian americans (which clearly they do: flags, references, etc), and then kind of asking you to mock them for being promiscuous, sleazy, hard partying, vain etc. then the show does indirectly link the two, of course it does. just because it is never explicitly said that these people act this way because they are sleazy italians or whatever, the show encourages you to make the link between young italian americans and guido, guidette culture. you may be able to understand a bit of nuance (e.g. guido is about a lifestyle not a ethnicity), but it doesn’t mean that in general this is the case. every single one of those kids seems to be identifiably italian-american no?

  5. ontheborder permalink
    January 10, 2010 3:26 pm

    Agreed. Indirectly, MTV is linking these two together, especially with the Italian flag colored state painted on the garage. But I don’t think the cast is truly making the case that their out of control lifestyle correlates to being Italian. Although, I am sure MTV does NOT want that because they thrive on controversy and would love more publicity about this show.
    Also, I might not be looking at the cast through virgin lenses like some others across the country and world, because in a way I have become desensitized to this “sub-culture” of people. So it is totally possible that my opinion has been hardened and I can’t identify certain aspects that would point out obvious stereotyping qualities.

    • snugglebus permalink*
      January 10, 2010 3:52 pm

      i think you’re right – the cast dont make any negative links themselves. actually in a weird sort of way I think the cast actually make this kind of guido/guidette lifestyle sympathetic if you actually watch the show, because you get to see that they are all really quite endearing people in their own retarded way. not black and white at all. that and they manage to turn it into a form of TV crack.

  6. sysh permalink*
    January 10, 2010 5:15 pm

    what i find really interesting is how all of their drama is directly related to one thing: the desire to mate. maybe i’ve been watching too much planet earth…

  7. ontheborder permalink
    January 10, 2010 6:38 pm

    exactly. endearing and crack at the same time. and so much like a family is the best part, like really protecting each other and even turning on one another if they aren’t doing their share to protect.

    sysh: it’s not just the planet earth, most of their issues stem from “creeping” or trying to hook up.

  8. JerzGirl permalink
    January 18, 2010 5:43 pm

    I’ve seen one episode–the one where snookums (whatever her name is) gets punched in the face by a bk school teacher. But as shocking as it was supposed to be to see a girl get punched in the face on television, I wasn’t surprised that this is the new low (or high, however you want to look at it) of televised entertainment. The way i see it, is MTV has tried to discover a new way to push pop culture limits, as it always aspires to do (the first season of the real world in the 90s, 50 cent, and lady gaga, are just a few other examples). The Italian American theme happens to be the thread that strings the show together, but I’m not insulted. this is an industry that thrives from showing the public obscenities in a way that no other TV station can if not only because they don’t have the same success rate with this branding technique. ‘The Jersey Shore’ is predictable, lame, and trashy. I would even argue that–in its subject and its ability to attract shockingly high numbers of viewers and discussion– it is everything wrong with American pop culture.

  9. January 22, 2010 4:44 pm

    guys are steroids freaks, but the girls are preatty sexy except snooki shes a preatty ugly horny chick….!!

  10. Jaterria permalink
    February 1, 2010 11:26 pm

    snooki is my role modele also jwoww pauly d u so cute situcition i hate u ronnie cant dance vinny quiet guy and other girl i dont like u ugly but snooki aka nicole my role modle jwoww

  11. February 2, 2010 9:01 pm

    Hey, great blog…but I don’t understand how to add your site in my rss reader. Can you Help me, please 🙂

    surface encounters mi

    • sysh permalink*
      February 2, 2010 11:49 pm

      hey FrankT– glad you like it 🙂

      no idea how to add the site to rss reader– i guess for now you’ll just have to bookmark it, but i’ll let you know once i’ve figured it out!

  12. February 24, 2011 11:21 am

    I bask to taste you from my minor urban center of Trouville in France. I apprize the kind of information you supply . Mayhap a day, I will have the similar valorousness like you ! Regards, Anna from Trouville.

  13. March 1, 2012 1:25 am

    snoki an jwow have buts

  14. March 1, 2012 1:26 am

    i love jerzzy shore i whish i could meat snoki ronie an sweethart an jwow an dena

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