So it was a total surprise to me, on becoming an adult and on gaining an New Jersey Italian husband (who did spend summers "down the shore") and gaining an Italian name and moving out of a majority Italian area, just how much trafficking in silly stereotypes about Italians there is. (Almost none of which, incidentally, apply to my husband. Trying to picture him as boisterous and boomingly affectionate, or full of joie de vivre and love of simple pleasures, or gelling his hair and buffing his Camaro, or uneducated, or blowing his stack every two minutes, or connected to organized crime in some way, is a rather a challenge to the imagination. He is, however, a very good cook.)
Not only is this silly stereotyping common, it's thought to be innocuous. People say things to Italians about Italians that they would NEVER say to a Jew about Jews.
Which brings me to the show Jersey Shore. The whole point of the show is to follow some twenty-somethings around and laugh at them as the fit every negative Italian-American stereotype. They are deliberately choosing people and moments that suit that very purpose and editing it together. I frankly can't imagine a reality show about Jews whose very point was to deliberately showcase, say, pushiness or graspingness. Or a reality show about blacks which sought to hold up examples of every white's worst stereotype.
Italian-Americans have protested, mostly about the use of the word "guido" (which I think is a non-issue, but that's beside the point). But I've read plenty of people who think that because the Italian-Americans depicted are allowing themselves to be filmed, this is all okay. It's just a depiction of "reality." Case in point. The author, apparently at least 1/4 Italian herself, says:
This isn't "The Sopranos," where a screenwriter and a director sat down and decided they wanted to portray Italian-Americans as marauding morons who pray to the holy trinity of spaghetti, strippers and silencers...We Italian-Americans ought to be thanking the network for shining a spotlight on a small but real subset of the culture. One that we should recoil from - and raise our kids to be nothing like.Actually, I think this is much worse than the Sopranos, which is my favorite TV show of all time. That show was complex and nuanced and psychologically rich. Jersey Shore is, to put it mildly, not.
Just because Italians agree to let themselves be filmed this way seems an odd sort of imprimatur of ethnic sensitivity, as if the presence of Stepin Fetchit made his depictions not racist.
I don't want to be a humorless but-won't-anyone-think-of-the-children type. But can anyone tell me why this should be different from other ethnic depictions?