PERSPECTIVE: 'Jersey Shore' incorrectly depicts Italian Americans

Allison Lazarus

By Alex Lento ’10, LifeStyle Section Editor

The newest MTV Reality show, Jersey Shore, has gotten a lot of attention lately, both positive and negative. The National Italian American Foundation sent out an e-mail claiming “Italian Americans were under attack,” by not only MTV, but also Saturday Night Live and Desperate Housewives. Personally, I was disgusted when the previews for the show started playing. I am 100% Italian American and I also have been going to the Jersey shore with my family since I was born. Both are a big part of my life and who I am. Many people may be wondering, is that what it’s really like? I’m here to give you the real story about the Jersey shore and the Italian American culture.

That area of the shore, called Seaside Heights, is a known haven for trashy girls and “juiced” guys looking to have a good time, not to mention the fact that the housemates are perpetually inebriated and hung-over. However, most of the Jersey shore is family oriented and relatively calm.

The people on the show represent a tiny slice of the Italian American population. Besides, one has to wonder about the character of a person who would agree to be on an MTV reality show. I’m not saying there aren’t more people like that outside of the show, because there definitely are. Some of them are my cousins (who all happen to live in Jersey and Staten Island). However, the stereotypes embodied on the show don’t hold true for all Italians.

I watched the first episode with my parents, which in itself was an experience. My mom was just rallying to change the channel and my dad was absolutely eating it up. He grew up in Brooklyn, NY, and, in his own words, is a “recovering guido.”* My dad was reminded of himself as a college student, going to the gym five times a week and wearing a huge cross around his neck at all times. When Vinny’s family came with food, I was instantly reminded of my family: trays of baked ziti and lasagna; loud, obnoxious distant family members; and a mother who always thinks you’re too skinny.

As far as the offensiveness of the show, I think it’s just as offensive as any other Saturday Night Live skit embodying stereotypes about certain races or cultures (which they feature a lot!). You have to learn to laugh about it. My friends make fun of me for the way I pronounce Italian foods, such as “prosciutto” and “mozzarella,” and the fact that I’m always eating pizza and pasta. I’m still extremely proud of my heritage and what a big part of my family life it has become. And as for the Jersey shore, I don’t think I’ll ever stop going. It’s just tradition.

*Guido is an Italian name that evolved into a term for Italian American immigrants.