“Jersey Shore,” MTV’s reality series following the antics of a group of self-described “Guidos” and “Guidettes” as they share a summer house in Seaside Heights, NJ, has not only attracted the ire of Italian-American groups who disapprove of MTV’s exploitation of a negative stereotype of Italian-Americans, but has caused the Borough of Seaside Heights to go on the defensive, telling any media outlet that will listen that the borough never solicited the show and that “the people on the show are certainly not indicative of the majority of those who visit, and enjoy the Jersey Shore and Seaside Heights every summer,” and has alienated advertisers such as Domino’s Pizza.
Of course, the controversy has only served to increase the show’s ratings as curious viewers are hooked on the fist fights, fake tans, and castmates’ nicknames–” JWoww”, “The Situation”, “Snooki”– to name a few.
It should be noted that the Jersey Shore is not new territory for MTV as it has covered the summer culture of the shore in its “True Life” documentary series. “True Life: I Have A Summer Share” and “True Life: I’m a Jersey Shore Girl” both document behavior similar to that of the ‘Shore’ kids, and millions of hard-partying twenty-somethings around the world.
Other reality shows profit from exploiting caricatures of culture, economic status, gender, or religion and have similarly embarrassing, catty, and sometimes violent, participants. And yet, has the O.C., New York, or Atlanta come out against the cat-fighting “Houswives”?
Will Aspen disavow VH1’s “Secrets of Aspen” rich white folks? There’s always at least one girl thrown out of Oxygen’s “Bad Girls Club” for attacking one of the housemates, but have advertisers pulled out? And the “Real World” has devolved from an entertaining social experiment into an hour of jacuzzis, sex, alcohol, and angst–albeit with a multi-cultural cast that’s chosen based on stereotypes: the gay kid, the religious kid, the musclehead, etc.
MTV has encouraged the “ethnic identity” aspect of the show, but does it rise to the level of violating New Jersey’s hate laws as some legislators have suggested, especially since these youths are self-identifying and don’t consider the terms “Guido” and “Guidette” derogatory?
Many critics point out that a similar show featuring any other ethnic group would have already been pulled from the air. New Jersey Senator Joseph Vitale has even gone so far as to ask the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development to investigate the show’s employment and wage practices. (Similar tactics were used to attempt to discourage the production of another show thought, by some groups, to portray Italian-Americans in a negative light–the commercial and critical success, “The Sopranos.”)
What do you think: Is the show reinforcing harmful Italian-American stereotypes or is it simply typical mindless reality entertainment?
“Jersey Shore” airs at 10 and 11 p.m. on Thursdays on MTV.