I normally never, ever watch MTV's "television programs" but earlier this week when my friend T wrote about the new "Jersey Shore" on Facebook I knew I had to make an exception.
I grew up going to Cape May, which while technically a beach in New Jersey, is not really a part of the Jersey Shore (one way you know this is true is because people who go there don't say they're going to 'the shore'). But those who know me personally know I went to boarding school in Southeast Pennsylvania, perilously close to South Philly which is a true velour track suit Ed Hardy paradise.
My brother, A, lives in South Philly above a "t-shirt store" that, when I visited in June, stocked nothing but spray painted jeans, Ed Hardy t-shirts, rhinestone belt buckles, and huge rhinestone sunglasses for dudes. Let that sink in for a minute. They also had a catalog of "custom t-shirt designs" that I looked at, thinking I could get a nice vintage Phillies t-shirt for my then-boyfriend.
When I asked about how much it cost to get a shirt made, the bleached-blonde, Ed Hardied-out gal behind the counter gave me a look that said, "Huh? [translation: "We don't really sell custom t-shirts because we are a front business."]" Just then, a huge dude in a velour track suit walked in, went to the back room, and walked out with a beat up looking shoe box.
Just sayin'. So the firestorm of controversy surrounding "Jersey Shore" is based on complaints that it perpetuates stereotypes of Italian Americans as "Guidos" and "Guidettes," a term every character on the show uses to describe themselves. I've known and loved my fair share of Italian Americans, even some who had vaguely suspicious bookkeeping jobs, and I have never, not even on the Jersey Shore, not even at Rehoboth Beach, heard anyone describe him or herself as a "Guido" or a "Guidette."
The first guy to introduce himself, Pauly D, emphasizes what it's all about for him: "family, friends, tanning, gel, everything." He has a tanning bed in his house--that's how "serious" he is about "living up to this lifestyle." Important Italian Americans, including Alyssa Milano, are pissed:
"In the name of decency and fairness to millions of Italian Americans whose hardI don't know what to say about this other than "There is no condom for the eye."
work helped build this Country, and provide a steady source of sponsorship,
revenues, and support for your network, I am writing to your office to demand
that you immediately pull this series before it airs," DiMino noted. "It is also
hypocritical and shameful that MTV openly advocates against this type of
discrimination and racism, (and offers a community program at http://think.mtv.com/Issues/discrimination) yet does the
direct opposite in its programming toward Italian Americans.