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Thursday, May 26, 2022

Columns

Jersey Shore not a bad situation


Critics from groups such as UNICO National, the nation’s largest Italian-American service organization, have called MTV’s Jersey Shore and its young cast of eight self-proclaimed “guidos” and “guidettes” superficial and blatantly racist in their depiction of Italian-Americans.

Some have called the program a threat to and perversion of the rich history of Italians in the U.S.; others have called it offensive to the entire human race.

Such claims of discrimination are indeed imbued with a genuine sense of Italian or Italian-American pride. No objection there.

But the ferocity with which demands to cancel the show have been made, along with critics’ apparent eagerness to manipulate into racial prejudice what is truly benign, smack of an ideology far more pernicious than the innocently misguided phraseology and sybaritic lifestyle of a group of 20-something co-eds: fascism, or more precisely, Italian Fascism.

For those who don’t recall, Italian Fascism maintained, at its base, doctrines of extreme conservatism, authoritarianism and Italian nationalism.

This last tenet, purportedly founded on Italian pride (again, no objection there), led to Italianization — the forced and systematic assimilation of non-Italian minorities.

An opportunistic tool for unification and power solidification used by the authoritarian regime, Italianization silenced minority cultures by supplanting their histories and expressions with indoctrinated fascist values and a supremely glorified Italo-centric history.

Of course, the defense of Italian-American culture from the perpetuation of stereotypes and the use of certain phrases or words that could be slurs is nothing to be condemned or to be associated with a nefarious dictator’s philosophy.

What makes the defense ring of Italian Fascism are the insistences that Jersey Shore ought to have been cancelled, effectively taken off airwaves and should definitely not be renewed for another season (which, according to an article in Saturday’s New York Post, is currently being negotiated).

The guidos and guidettes of Jersey Shore represent a subculture of Italian-Americans. Although they might be a crass, ostentatious group of insensitive and insular boors, that doesn’t mean they should be silenced by haughty Italian-Americans afraid of being thrown into the uncouth-labeled crucible with cast members “Snooki” and “J-WOWW.”

The only group the actions of the cast affect negatively is its own self-referential clique, a group so far removed from Italian culture and American social norms that the possibility viewers would assume any of the cast members is a true and full representation of all Italian-Americans is about as likely as a child playing Super Mario and coming to the conclusion that all Italians 1) have a best friend named Luigi and 2) fight evil turtles.

The bottom line is that this particular subculture has said nothing that condemns other Italian-Americans or alleges a superiority of guidos and guidettes.

Italian-American critics of the show who cry racism should refrain from playing the aggressor so as to stop painting a picture of Italian-Americans as instigators of internal conflict.

Maybe calling for the cancellation of Jersey Shore out of fears of stereotype perpetuation doesn’t constitute a full-blown Mussolini-inspired resurgence of Italian Fascism; perhaps it’s more at half-blown — like cast member Pauly D’s hair midway through a night out — because all things said and done, one of Italian Fascism’s more famous mottos was “Me ne frego,” a phrase meaning, “I don’t give a damn.” And clearly, those critics give a damn.

Ironically, the Jersey Shore cast members say “I don’t give a damn” (or a more vulgar variation of the phrase) so often that it might as well be their motto.

Sure, it’d be redolent of an aspect of Italian culture no Italian-American should be proud of, but I don’t think the cast knows any better.

With their rigorous schedule of gym, tanning and laundry, the cast members are unlikely to set aside time to learn about their Italian heritage and culture.

Instead of calling for its silence, Italian-Americans should try to teach the cast a thing or two.

If Italian-American organizations want to criticize a negative portrayal of Italian-Americans, they should cast aspersions on the movie Nine — an affront-homage to filmmaker Federico Fellini’s 8 ½, with a protagonist named … wait for it … Guido.

Kalani Man is a history senior and may be reached at [email protected]


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