In Defense of 'Jersey Shore'
New York Post critic Linda Stasi recently accused MTV’s new show, Jersey Shore, of furthering the notion that “Italian-Americans are…ignoramuses with fake tans, no manners…and no ambition beyond expanding steroid- and silicone-advanced bodies.” Actor Spencer Pratt, of MTV’s The Hills, had one thing to Tweet in reply: “Linda Stasi you should change your name to Linda Boring if you can’t be entertained by young Italian-Americans enjoying youth and partying!”
This is not the snappiest comeback ever written, but Pratt has a valid point. The first three episodes of Jersey Shore have elicited an extraordinary amount of preemptive criticism, notably from the National Italian American Foundation and the Order Sons of Italy in America. Perhaps the self-proclaimed Guidos and Guidettes make a few too many specific references to being Italian, but if you cut out select lines like, “Being Italian – it’s about family, friends, tanning, hair gel, everything” (episode 1), the critics wouldn’t have very much to say about the show’s offensiveness. Evidently, they are worried about the public projecting the characters’ personal qualities onto *all* Italian-Americans, which is a little offensive in itself.
Complaints about the show’s writing and overall quality are a separate matter. Personally, however, I am just as entertained as Spencer Pratt. Episodes 2 and 3 see the return of more predictable-yet-satisfying hookup drama – J-Wow cheats on her boyfriend and feels guilty about it, Snooki makes out with a female friend in the hot tub, and Angelina is kicked out of the shorehouse by her boss (a sensible young fellow, the show’s foil character). Sammy and Ronnie become a couple while Mike unconvincingly insists he’s not jealous. For a while, it seem like Sammy and Ronnie actually have some sort of a serious thing going on, but in true Guido form (there I go, offending people), they catch each other flirting with strangers at a club. Episode 3 ends with Sammy and Ronnie denouncing each other. I have a feeling things are going to be very awkward in the Jersey shorehouse next week.
Also creating a big stir is a promo clip for an upcoming episode that shows Snooki getting punched in the face, very hard, by some dude at a club. So outraged were viewer responses to the clip that executives removed it from the episode and released a statement admitting that the footage is “extremely disturbing.” The punch itself will not be aired, but the episode will still “make it clear that events transpired, including the full aftermath.” The guy who threw the punch has been arrested.
Although Jersey Shore is treading on thin ice, careful editing should be enough to stave off the critics. After the initial publicity bounce, the show may eventually be cancelled for low ratings rather than racism. In the meantime, perhaps “Linda Boring” should give intelligent Jersey Shore fans a little more credit – we know that being Italian is not all about the hair gel.
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