Behaving Badly at the Shore

Friday, December 11, 2009

A new MTV reality show, “Jersey Shore” features young Italian Americans sharing a summer house in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. Slate's TV critic Troy Patterson talks about the charges of stereotyping and the use of the term “guido.”


Troy Patterson

Comments [17]

Joe B. from Brussels, Belgium

I am an Italian/American ex-pat from West Harlem currently living in Brussels. I've caught this show a few times online (out of pure curiosity) and I must say I feel no offense as an Italian/American at an American, however, I am ashamed. These people are not the only loud-mouthed, gawdy, tactless young adults with ancestral roots in central Europe, or anywhere in or outside the U.S. for that matter. Their cultural background from generations prior have almost no influence on the type of people they have become.
Bottom line, I take no offence as an Italian/American because I don't believe that this silly MTV reality show will act as a template by which my personal behavior will be judged (at least be those who DON'T take their lessons in cultural diversity from MTV).

Dec. 12 2009 09:16 AM
Ellen from Morristown

I understand why many people would be offended by the show. The program does emphasize and show the extreme - fighting, lawlessness, machismo, exclusivism. A lot of it is brought out by an area that promotes partying and drinking and this area just happens to be more embraced by this ethic/cultural group. But, you find variations of this all over the country - just with a different group.

Obviously most Italian-Americans (most I know) do not engage in the extreme. And while the show misrepresents the majority that doesn't mean though that some of the extreme doesn't exist.

And as we all know, the extreme makes for good/profitable entertainment. Or we wouldn't have shows like Bridezilla!

Dec. 11 2009 02:27 PM
the truth!! from BKNY

HJS - Agreed. There is a negative sub-culture in ALL communities - get over it people!!

Dec. 11 2009 12:49 PM
hjs from 11211

the truth!!
of course they are real! some people just don't like the mirror.

Dec. 11 2009 12:40 PM
the truth!! from BKNY

Like it or not, these kids represent a real culture within the italian community! Notice you didn't see any black or italian kids on the "jersey shore" in the stores, clubs etc...wonder why?

Dec. 11 2009 12:29 PM
the truth!! from BKNY

Not Italian and I think some of the responses here are as hilarious as the show! Funny how NOwww you want to align your discontent with African Americans and Latino's..nowww you want us to empathize with you all. Puhleese give me a break.

Italians are one of them MOST racist against Blacks and Latino's in the NY Tri-state area.

Dec. 11 2009 12:28 PM
Italianamerican from Bklyn

To [6] JK from Midtown:

It's not for YOU to say what someone else should or shouldn't be offended by. And what is "eye-talians"supposed to mean? Why New York, JK?

We (Italian-Americans) are tired of the minstrel show.
We're tired of Mafia, tired of Sopranos, tired of "tough guy" morons in New Yorker cartoons and advertising, who are supposed to be (wink-wink) "Mob" associated, but not Italian-American. Uh, yeah, right. If it bothers YOU that people are offended, TOUGH!

Replace the Italians with Jewish or African-American character stereotypes and see if this garbage gets aired. It should be insulting to ALL of us. The same way African-American, Jewish, Latino or Asian-American stereotypes should be tiresome and offensive. It's just stupid. Can't we do better?

Dec. 11 2009 11:50 AM
NeitherHereNorThere from Manhattan

re: Arthur

that is one of the most ridiculous comments I have ever read (especially considering what I wrote earlier)

I'm not Italian but I do have many Italian American friends and have lived in Italy. Love my Italian-American friends, non of which are guidos and love my Italian friends from Italy...all of which are great...been to Seaside Heights and the Guido's there annoy me...been to Naples and Sicily and feared for my life (not really..but the crime and mafia is so apparent)...

Dec. 11 2009 11:49 AM
RCT from NYC

I'm an Italian-American, not an "eye-Italian" (a racist slur should be removed). I grew up in a working-class culture. The people in this show are buffoons and idiots and do not represent my culture. The show is racist.

Like most Italian-American families, our family's goal was the education of the next generation. People sacrificed so that their children could go to college and professional school. That's the real story of Italians in America -- not the Sopranos or the sophomoric baloney on this new "reality serices" -- and that's why two Italian-Americans are now sitting on the US Supreme Court (too bad ther're conservatives; but Alito's sister is a liberal and a noted employee-side employment lawyer).

This show insults all of us who have an Italian-American heritage. The equivalent would be a reality show that featured Hispanic crack dealers or African-American pimps.

Enough is enough. It's not funny; it's not reality; it's racism.

Dec. 11 2009 11:46 AM
arthur from NY

As someone who was born in Florence grew up in Venezuela and now lives in New York; I find most Italian-americans (and their lives) alien to me as well as to my friends back in Italy. For the most part, so called "Italian-American" culture is a despicable corruption of the great Italian Culture. These descendants of earlier Italian imigrants are devoid of any understanding of what is to be Italian.

Dec. 11 2009 11:37 AM
RES in Brooklyn

I think the issue is more about reality television--ESPECIALLY the shows created by VH-1 and MTV (Charm School, Bad Girl's Club, the "of Love" shows).

They're just current versions of minstrel shows, cast/produced/edited to display the most egregious stereotypes. Is it possible that this is the first time the lens has focused on Italian Americans? (And since so much of what VHI and MTV has on is so derivative, isn't it likely that they were prompted by the insane popularity of the Real Housewives of New Jersey? Is it more of a Jersey thing than and It-Am thing?)

In any case, i tried to watch the show (because i admit, i succumb to lots of bad TV--and offset it with NPR in the morning ;-) and i think it insulted my humanity, and not just the Italian-American part of me.

Dec. 11 2009 11:20 AM
JK from Midtown

I think if people actually WATCH the show, so many of you eye-talians wouldnt be so insulted. at first, i watched skeptically, thinking its another mtv show about airheads and meatheads, but the kids all seem to have pretty decent heads on their shoulders. most of them work hard at the t-shirt store and seem to be decent people. sure they party hard, but people in their early/mid twenties do that. id rather have a show with these "guidos" and "guidettes" than the same homphobic, racist redneck hillbillies that mtv is always casting on the "'real world.'"

Dec. 11 2009 11:13 AM
hjs from 11211

I've only seen clips but what's the big deal. this is america. this has nothing to do with italian americans. this show could have be recast with paris hilton types from LA or hillbillies from the south. if u have a problem with these kids hold on to your panties the worst is yet to come!

we reap what we sow, thanks ronny.

Dec. 11 2009 11:10 AM
NeitherHereNorThere from Manhattan

The term 'guido' is NOT associated with crime anymore. Its a term now used to define a look/attitude popular among Italian-Americans that includes big muscles, fake tans, & over gelled hair - with party attitude. Go to Seaside Heights and you will be sure to see it everywhere. It's a reality and it makes for good reality tv. The uproar over the show is just from people who take so much pride in their Italian heritage and are now embarrassed about being associated with these people.

Noone would define an actual Italian from Italy a "guido".

Dec. 11 2009 11:08 AM
ed from east village

I watched the premiere of Jersey Shore. As an Italian American who grew up right outside of Hartford with many guido cousins, I would comment that while guido culture is hallmarked by certain style, fashions and parlance, I believe it does not demand certain behaviour. My guido cousins may not be cultured with a capital C, they are the most generous, warm-hearted and supportive family one could hope to have. They unfailingly supported me when I came out as gay and treated my German-American partner like family. But as for the participants in the show, I am reminded of Justice Brandeis: "Sunlight is the best disinfectant."

Dec. 11 2009 11:07 AM
Robert from NYC

Bravo Steve, as another Italian American I second your statement and join in sharing your offense. There's a lot more history to the discrimination that goes back a century when the Irish and Jewish immigrants who proceeded the larger Italian immigration and initiated the idea that ALL Italians are criminals and have criminal minds. Bear in mind the Irish cops were more corrupt than the Mano Nera and the Jewish gangsters often took italian names. It's deep seated discrimination against Italian Americans that goes unheeded and almost just accepted in our society here. Not so say that Italian Americans aren't to blame for not fighting more vigorously to point it out, educate and present a better and truer image of our people and history.

Dec. 11 2009 10:54 AM
Steve M from Morris Township, NJ

As an Italian-American the very notion of this show offends me. Italians are not defined by the term "Guido". My high school, in the late 80s, was infested with Guido’s, who, more often than not, were WASP, Jewish or even black kids looking to belong to something.

A "Guido" was born of the late 80s and is defined by Hair gel, gold chains, IROC-Z,
Z-Cavaricci jeans and Reebok sneakers. They have no cultural affiliation.

Italians and Italian-Americans have a heritage of great thinkers, mathematicians, scientists, artists and master craftsman.

You can’t reconcile the two.

Dec. 11 2009 10:41 AM

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