'Jersey Shore' stirs up controversy

Published On:
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
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Karl Marx famously wrote “religion is the opiate of the people.” Fast-forward 167 years, and apply the ascension of reality TV. In today’s era, reality TV is the opiate of the people, and though almost all networks parlay its appeal, none can rival the chief of crass programming, MTV.

MTV has devolved from a music emphasis into a channel mainly known for tacky shows that espouse violence, casual sex, nonstop partying, and overt materialism.

It is a behemoth of pop culture and consumerism, a staple of entertainment across the globe, and key in determining the latest trends.

MTV’s latest offering to the masses, “Jersey Shore,” is no different than its usual vapid approach; however, the show’s depiction of Italian-Americans is inciting some serious vitriol.

“Jersey Shore” is MTV’s rendering of life as an Italian American living on … well, obviously, the Jersey Shore. It follows the antics of eight housemates who proudly refer to themselves as “guidos” and “guidettes.” The show centers on their tanning, barhopping, fighting, and working in a T-shirt shop. It is the same blueprint as the “Real World,” only the cast is specifically Italian American.

Bad move.

I just got back from the East Coast, and guido, an ethnic slur for working-class metro Italians, is not a term most aspire to be.

Italian-American groups are outraged MTV would air a show that typecasts them in a less than desirable manner, especially given MTV’s ubiquity and the extent of its influence.

Groups such as the National Italian American Foundation and Unico National have criticized the premise of “Jersey Shore,” and Domino’s Pizza pulled out as an advertiser, according to a Time article.

In The Wall Street Journal, Jersey Shore Convention & Visitors Bureau director, Daniel Cappello, voiced concerns over how the show devalues the area as a destination.

Controversy incites publicity. “Jersey Shore” cast members are outspoken about their pride in being a guido. They love to typify the image and be a part of it. They shun the criticism and bask in their 15 minutes, as most reality stars do.

It is disturbing how recklessness is lauded and how derogatory stereotypes are played upon and cashed in for entertainment value.

Italian-Americans have a right to be upset. MTV set out to film the most pejorative cliché of Italian-Americans to represent and define a certain demographic for entertainment value. Not only does “Jersey Shore” encourage such stereotypes, but it promulgates the erosion of societal values.

It is time that MTV and other networks attempt to restore morals en masse. Television is a widespread medium, and to continue to create such shoddy programming is troubling.

Being such a pervasive consumer entity, MTV should strive to influence its viewers to be a more cognitive force, as opposed to the vacuous image that defines it with blatantly ignorant shows such as “Jersey Shore.”

Reach Alana at alana.arbuthnot@asu.edu