Over the holiday, I had the good fortune to catch an MTV marathon of their new show, Jersey Shore. I had only seen bits and pieces before last week, but now I have seen every episode in Italian-shaming detail. I find it addictive, shameful, licentious, and gratifying all in one 60 minute little package.
Beyond the confines of the television, the show actually reaches out into the world and evokes a range of passionate responses in many different people. I myself am Italian, but am not easily offended, and I enjoy laughing at a Muscle Milk drinking, fake tanning, over juiced cad as much as anyone else. (My college friends and I actually rented a summer house on the notorious Jersey Shore several years ago, and it was every bit as gel-tastic as it seems on TV. When we get together for a night out its rare for that summer not to come up in conversation at least once every 20 minutes.) Some groups have spoken out against the stereotypes and the perpetuation of a negative image of New Jersey culture. I think anyone knows that stereotypes are born from truth, and by that same token, the entire state does not call themselves by nicknames such as 'the Situation' or refer to themselves in the third person.
The very night after watching hours of Jersey drama, my husband and I went to Smith and Wollsenky, our favorite NYC steak house, for drinks at the bar. It was a holiday weekend full of tourists after all, so what we found there shouldn't have been as shocking as I initially found it. Seated front and center was a foursome of late 20-somethings, girls decked in faux leather jackets, Snookie-style 'poofs' on their heads, clunky black boots, and way too much eyeliner; guys wearing nearly identical Harley Davidson t-shirts with angel wings printed on the back. My husband kept asking me not to stare, but who could resist? As if their attire wasn't bad enough, one of the guys leaned over and asked the bartender to watch their drinks while they 'went out for a cig' no less than 3 times in the 45 minutes we watched them sit there. Before they left they also complained about the tunnel traffic, parking, and how early they would have to get up the next day to get an appointment at the tanning salon since 'everybody would be there' at the end of a holiday week.
Don't be angry when a show portrays a side of your culture that makes you cringe, just laugh. And watch the Jersey Shore.