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MTV's 'Jersey Shore' renewal "concerning" to Italian American group

By Christopher Rocchio, 02/01/2010 

The National Italian American Foundation only needed speculation that Jersey Shore was being renewed to express its "continued concerns" about the MTV reality series and its depictions of Italian Americans.

"We as Italian Americans must acknowledge that some within our community adhere to and embrace 'guido' culture. This is a small group, which has captured the nation's attention," said NIAF president Joseph V. Del Raso in a recent statement.

"But we also must acknowledge that MTV's program sends a harmful message that permeates pop culture, damaging the image and sensibilities of Italian Americans as a group. Italian Americans, the Garden State and the Jersey Shore deserve better."

MTV confirmed late last week that Jersey Shore's first-season cast will return for the reality show's second season, which won't be set in Seaside Heights, NJ and will instead follow the cast in a "new destination."

Regardless of where the show is set, Del Raso said NIFA doesn't appreciate the message it sends about Italian Americans.

"NIAF objects to MTV's continued billing of this program as a 'reality' show," he said in the statement.

"While there are examples of Italian Americans who sympathize with the characters on Jersey Shore, the reality of the Italian American experience is much different. New Jersey's 'reality' of Italian Americans includes Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., General Raymond T. Odierno, Bruce Springsteen, and Governor Chris Christie. It also includes a diverse group of white- and blue-collar individuals with varying socio-economic and educational levels who share a common position: that the outrageous behavior evident on Jersey Shore, which was laden with promiscuity, debauchery, and violence, was a disgrace."

Even before Jersey Shore premiered in December, UNICO -- the country's largest Italian-American service organization -- claimed its content was offensive to Italian-Americans and added the show should be pulled from the air prior to its debut.

Specifically, UNICO president Andre Dimino had a problem with the use of the term "guido," which he saw as derogatory.

"This was blatant throughout the program's narrative, character development and choice of background imagery, which depicted a beach house decorated with maps of Italy and the colors of the Italian flag. As we noted at the time, 'guido' is widely viewed as a pejorative term that reinforces negative stereotypes about Italian Americans," said Del Raso in his statement.

Despite being "pleased" that MTV stopped using the term "guido" in promotional voice-overs, he was upset that it was still used on the show.

"The deliberate association between Italian American identity and the term 'guidos' persisted throughout the season and was unmistakable in the program's branding and marketing. Moreover, MTV failed to demonstrate that the 'guido' trend transcends ethnic lines," he continued.

"Rather than being a manifestation of Italian American identity, it is a youthful expression and lifestyle predominantly visible in the Northeast. This program and its characters had more in common with the adolescent residents of Animal House than with Italian Americans."

While Del Raso pointed out that the Facebook group "MTV's Jersey Shore Is a Disgrace to the Jersey Shore and Its Inhabitants" has more than 70,000 members, cast member Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino feels they need to lighten up.

"We represent ourselves," said Sorrentino during Monday's Today broadcast.

"We're not saying we're a definition of Jersey, or a definition of New York, or a definition of Italians. I just happen to be Italian. I happen to have some spiky hair and a six-pack, and I am proud to have that. And if you don't like me, I don't care. I still got 5 million viewers Thursday nights at 10PM."

However Del Raso feels "MTV is exploiting bad behavior for shock value and ratings" and added their are "ramifications."

"Herein lies the problem of Jersey Shore: it portrays the program's characters as representative of the Italian American community. This is simply not accurate and its prevalence in the media is damaging to Italian American identity," he said in the statement.

"Television personality Joy Behar perceptively remarked, 'It makes it hard for young Italian Americans to be taken seriously in the work force.' This concern is even more salient in places around the country where there are few Italian Americans."

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