Controversy has erupted in the past few weeks as the new MTV show “Jersey Shore” has left many audiences, especially the Italian-American community, offended over their ethnic stereotypes of “guidos” and “guidettes.” The new reality show aired last Thursday yet, prior to its release on television, previews of the program had many Italian-American organizations protesting its release. In a press release by UNICO National in cooperation with the Sons of Italy in America and the National Italian American Foundation, supporters are urging to “pull the plug” on the show by attempting to convince Jersey Shore sponsors to cut all advertisements and affiliations from the show and its network. Macy’s, Sony, Domino’s Pizza, Verizon and Victoria’s Secret are among those to vouch for support.
Italian organizations’ response toward the controversial docu-drama, depicting the life of eight individuals who are of Italian descent while living a “guido” lifestyle, has been one of offense and anger.
“The Italian American community feels that the characters on this show need to stop associating themselves with being ‘Italian’ because their efforts are in poor taste, and, many feel, quite laughable,” sophomore Alyda Stabile, member of the Italian Student Organization at Seton Hall, said. “The term ‘guido’ needs to be removed from any association with Italian-Americans, because many young men and women who live this type of lifestyle are not of Italian origins.”
Stereotypes that many organizations accuse MTV of untruthfully depicting on the show include the violent, gaudy and self-centered actions portrayed by the cast members. A media frenzy, according to the press release, has emerged as “tweets, blogs and posts” on Facebook and Myspace are boycotting the show. The New Jersey State Assembly has also been appalled by the network’s decision to defend its new entertainment.
“The show is an attack on Italian-Americans altogether and its end result is stereotyping,” assemblyman Ralph Caputo said. “One would like to think that MTV would have higher programming standards than this.”
Others, however, see a different viewpoint. Cast members Mike Sorrentino and Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi said they don’t see anything wrong in what they do and take pride in who they are as Italian-Americans. Students at Seton Hall have mixed feelings toward the show but can see a few positive aspects.
“It’s typical Seaside Heights,” said Patti Cedrone, a freshman. “They don’t have the right to stereotype but they are depicting ‘guidos’ directly.”
Freshman Laura Perez agrees.
“It’s all high maintenance people,” said Perez. “But in some ways it’s true.”
Still, the majority of the Italian community, inside and outside of Seton Hall, is not taking the show lightly. Former president of UNICO and Seton Hall alum Frank Cannata was outraged by the show’s implication about Italian heritage.
“It is insulting to every decent Italian-American man and woman who came to this country to build a better life not only for them but for their families.” said Cannata. “I refuse to sit idly by and allow these merchants of hate degrade or denigrate what Italians and Italian-Americans have contributed to our way of life. It is an outrageous distortion of fact that bears no semblance to truth.”
Cannatta still represents his organization, an 88-year-old group whose purpose is to “promote higher education and the truth about the real contribution of Italians and Italian-Americans to our way of life.”
The show’s creator, Tony Disanti, who is also an Italian-American, promoted his ideas for the show through President McGrath who won an Emmy for her documentary in encouraging anti-defamotory and discrimination against ethnic groups. MTV stated it will not apologize for its decision. Italian organizations hope that their support will ultimately cancel the series.
Katia Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.