Guest Post by Andrew Stein, Peppercom
So the talk of the town since last Thursday night has been MTV’s new reality show “Jersey Shore.” Along the same lines as the famed series the “Real World,” this show puts eight self-proclaimed “Guidos” into a share house in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, for a summer of debauchery and is there to film all the drunken missteps, fights and overall stupidity that ensues. As someone that grew up in Toms River, just a stone’s throw across the bridge from lovely Seaside Heights, I have a soft spot for the content of the show and must say I couldn’t be happier after watching the two-hour premiere.
However, there seem to be larger issues at hand than just my shear enjoyment of this train wreck. Many Italian-Americans throughout the country have expressed their distaste for the show and for MTV, saying it is offensive and portrays Italian-Americans in a false and negative light.
Now as someone that has taken more than my fair share of vodka shots in these local drinking establishments, I can promise you that the characters on this show are not acting. While I’m sure they’re showing off a bit for the cameras (put a shirt on fellas), I have seen a whole lot of “Guidos” in action behaving just like these clowns. So while MTV may be exploiting this particular sect of Italian-Americans, how can you really blame them? These people are willing to make total arses of themselves on national television, which is gold for any reality TV franchise. Unfortunately for Italian-Americans, scientists and CEOs don’t make for gut-wrenching channel surfing. These morons do.
So should Italian-Americans be upset with MTV? Personally, I can’t tell someone whether they should be offended by something or not, particularly when I’m not part of the minority in question. However, these people on the show are glorifying “guido” culture on their own; MTV is just serving as the medium for them to share it with the world. I can understand Italian-Americans being upset with the people that act this way because they reflect negatively on their culture. However, why is that MTV’s responsibility? They’re in the business of making money through bad TV and this particular show happens to be a jackpot.
Most of what I’ve heard and read from the offended seems to blame MTV for falsely portraying Italian-Americans. As someone that grew up around these people, the idiocy and embarrassing behavior is accurate and MTV just happens to be smart enough to film it for profit. I can totally understand why Italian-Americans may be unhappy being associated with these people, I just don’t see why that is MTV’s fault. The fact is, “Guido” culture exists with or without MTV. While the cable network may be exposing it to the rest of the country that may not have the pleasure of seeing it on a regular basis, they certainly did not create it and, in my opinion, are not irresponsibly embellishing it.
Once again, as an Italian American from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, I have never heard anyone refer to each other using these derogatory terms. (And I go back to the old neighborhood once a week to visit my mom). I agree with Linda Stasi; I hold MTV responsible for giving the “Jersey Shore” cast a national platform to propagate these negative stereotypes.
To your point, I would say that it’s not the show that is sanitizing the term, but rather the people the show features. MTV didn’t start using this term and then it became “acceptable.” Instead some Italian-Americans began using it when referring to themselves, in turn downplaying it to the point where those not familiar with the culture don’t even realize that it is offensive to some people. Again, I don’t think MTV is at fault for this, but can understand why it irks you to see it thrown around so loosely on the show.
Perhaps it is a generational thing, but I can assure you that no Italian-American who grew up in my neighborhood in Brooklyn found the term “Guido” endearing, nor did they throw it around like a compliment. It is an ethnic slur, no matter how shows like these try to sanitize it. Maybe next they’ll try to convince me that “dago, wop, guinea and greaseball” are acceptable.
Julie, I can totally understand your feelings about how TV and movies portray Italian-Americans. However, I’m having a hard time with the comparison of the “G-word” to the “N-word.” In my experience in growing up in a mostly Italian-American New Jersey town, the only people that actually use the term “Guido” are the Italian-Americans themselves. It seems that the word has been completely desensitized by this group, who seem to embrace the term as their culture. And unfortunately, they fail to make any distinction between themselves and the rest of the Italian-Americans. Rarely have I seen it thrown around as a racial term the way the N-word is used by many in hate speech. This seems to me like the characters on the show are what is offensive, not MTV.
Walked in on my 13-yr-old daughter watching “Jersey Shore” this weekend. This morning on the way to school my 10-yr-old son was regaling us with quotes from “The King of Queens” when daughter wondered aloud why he liked that “stupid show.” I mentioned (tongue in cheek) that “Jersey Shore” was SO much more intellectual, to which she replied, “At least it’s REAL.” Frightens me that she may want to emulate these shmoes and their groupies.
On a related note, mom grew up in Trenton, and spent summers at Seaside and Wildwood. Dad is from California, but is 100% Sicilian. Mom always seemed to be more in touch with Italian culture from Philadelphia. Gonna have to ask them if they have any opinion on the program (if they are even aware of it).
Finally, it looks like my Jersey Shore nickname is The Prince of Paramus…
Andrew, my sincerest apologies. I should have known better. Steve rarely watches TV.
As an Italian-American who grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, I can tell you that the term “Guido” is as offensive as calling a black person the “N-word.” It is not to be celebrated on national television. MTV may “just be the messenger,” but they are also exploiting mentally and socially challenged young people by giving them this show.
The other problem Italian-Americans have with “Jersey Shore”? It seems like anytime there is a TV show or film representing our culture, it’s filled with these “cafone” or mafiosi leading the pack. As someone who is half-Sicilian, I can tell you we are not all Carmela Soprano.
Bret Michaels, front man for Poison, is the man!!!
I’m S-tan. I can live with that.
Couldn’t agree, more Stein. Also – as a TV critic, Linda Stasi should have flipped the channel (or done some research) before she used her column to brag about her familial accomplishments. Has she forgotten the uproar over the behavior of the man and contestants at the center of Flavor of Love and Flavor of Love 2? Rock of Love? Read any critiques on the spoiled behavior of the cast of The Hills? It’s Reality TV in general.
My real name says i am “The Blowout” and Lunch Boy became “Tan Jovi”
I watched a bit of Jersey Shore last night. I must say, it’s like watching a car accident — you don’t want to watch but you cannot tear yourself away.
I’ve also never wanted to punch someone in the face so badly since watching that show.
Flackman, the one time I guest post and you still think its Steve?? I’ll try not to hold it against you. Thanks for the link, its ridiculous to say the least. My name is “DJ Douchebag.” Seriously.
Right you are, Steve. So, what is your Jersey Shore name? Find out at http://www.unlikelywords.com/2009/12/08/jersey-shore-nickname-generator/.
Mine is “The Operation”.
Ha, thanks Lunch. The group that the characters on the show represent are definitely a rare breed. But you hit on my point of don’t kill the messenger. MTV is just showing the rest of the country what many of us living in New Jersey and New York already know and I personally don’t think it is in any way at fault for that.
Solid post, Andrew. You can’t please everybody, right?
To all the naysayers and those bitchin’, I say stop and do your best to fix the problem versus complaining that someone is highlighting it and gaining a profit while doing so.
For the record, I vacation in South Jersey, below AC and above Wildwood. We don’t let any guidos in those parts, thankfully.
They look like Oompa Loompas with their fake tans and highlights. And the women are even worse!