At the start of December MTV welcomed a new reality series, “Jersey Shore.” The show which has already gained much popularity follows eight young adults in their 20s living in a summer share in Seaside Heights, NJ. Like the hit show, “The Real World,” the show incorporates a “live it up” attitude which is spiced up with partying, drama and gossip, tanning, dating, and sex, where emotions are constantly running high and low. Unlike “The Real World” which casts a diverse group of people, “Jersey Shore” is an all Italian-American cast where the Italian flag is plastered throughout the set. The guys often refer to themselves as “guidoes” and the girls as “guidettes,” which are categorized as racial slurs for Italian Americans, according to an NPR report. NPR stated that at a March casting call for the show, MTV made it known that they were seeking “loud and proud” Italians. However, the focus and portrayal of members of this specified culture has angered several, especially those of Italian heritage.
Members of UNICO National, an Italian service organization which strives to “promote and enhance the image of Italian Americans” were incredibly offended and outraged by the show’s content that the group’s president, Andre DiMino, wrote an angry letter to MTV, according to NPR. The letter included, “In addition to the use of derogatory terms, the program celebrates and highlights incredibly offensive behavior and acts of young Italian Americans – in sum, the entire program is a disgrace and an insult to Italian Americans, and, in fact, to anyone!” The group’s efforts in expressing their anger was to demand for cancellation of the show. DiMino’s Twitter page reveals that he has and continues to make several television appearances to speak about the excessive stereotyping that appears on this program, such as Inside Edition and The Today Show. On the The Today Show DiMino expressed how the show is distasteful and makes Italian-Americans appear as “bimboes” here.
The New York Post described the “Jersey Shore” as, “The most hateful, anti-Italian-American show ever allowed on legitimate TV,” according to an Inside Edition report. The report revealed that MTV continues to back the program by stating, “Our intention was never to stereotype, discriminate or offend.”
The scandal and hype about the show has led Domino’s Pizza to stop advertising for the “Jersey Shore” according to TMZ. Domino’s has released this statement, “The content of this particular program is not right for Domino’s Pizza,” which was included in a NY Mag report this past Saturday.
Personally I have watched this show a few times and my gut reaction was that those living on or near the Jersey Shore would be most offended due to how people living in the area are portrayed. However, with the several recent news stories discussing how the Italian-American culture is negatively portrayed on the show I can certainly understand why such individuals would be offended.
Ultimately reality TV is to entertain. Americans cannot seem to get enough reality TV in their lives. I believe that the “Jersey Shore” controversy has allowed MTV to learn a big lesson – be extra cautious to not discriminate any ethnic groups when developing new reality shows in the future. What is funny to some may certainly not be funny to all, especially when it comes to cultures and values.