Sunday, January 24, 2010

Something In the Airwaves

It's official: Italian-Americans are the only white ethnic group left that can be stereotyped. And if you're an Italian-American from New Jersey, watch out.
A couple of months ago, MTV premiered "The Jersey Shore," a so-called reality show, depicting Italian-Americans in a rented New Jersey beach house having sex, drinking, and lying out in the sun working on their tans - if they hadn't sprayed them on already. The Italian-American group UNICO demanded that the show be taken off the air, claiming it unfairly depicted Italian-Americans in general and Italian-Americans from New Jersey in particular (even though most of these young folks aren't from New Jersey) as vulgar, crass buffoons with big hair and small brains who all talk like they have marbles in their mouths. Though MTV reacted with greater sensitivity to a smaller show stereotyping young Puerto Ricans, they refused to consider the concerns of Italian-Americans.
Why? Maybe it's because "Jersey Shore" got good ratings. In fact, it set new ratings records for MTV, drawing an unprecedented 4.8 million viewers for the season finale Thursday night.
Twelve-year-olds love it.
While there is an element of truth in stereotypes - "Jersey Shore" was filmed in Seaside Heights, a town I've visited before, one of those places where girls dressed like Madonna before she became famous - not all Italian-Americans are like that. Nevertheless, it seems that Italians don't seem to have the same kind of luck other ethnic groups somehow have in getting those who perpetuate ethnic stereotypes to cut it out. And to be honest, UNICO president Andre' DeMino should consider his own public image before speaking out against shows like "Jersey Shore." Because when you have inch-long hair that stands on end, and you wear dark green shirts with silver ties, you're probably not the best spokesman for fighting Italian-American stereotypes. In any case, being from New Jersey and half-Italian myself, I'm offended by this show, yes, but I'm even more offended by two other embarrassments to the Italian-American population that are associated with New Jersey.
They're both sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Speaking of which, don't tune in to Air America for pointers on what can be done about John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, and the aforementioned Jersey Boys, Scalia and Alito, as they tear apart decades of thoughtful judicial precedent. The liberal talk radio network went off the air last week. Liberal talk radio was always something of an oxymoron, but Air America's failure is due less to an unpopular product - a more progressive political agenda - than to a media establishment that at best limits and at worst stifles contrary voices to their mainstream, conservative biases and agenda. Too bad. UNICO might have found a friendly voice in Air America, which was always against the kind of exploitative fare "Jersey Shore" represents.

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