State Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Woodbridge), the chairman of the New Jersey Italian American Legislative Caucus, says that an MTV show, Jersey Shore, promotes offensive and untrue ethnic stereotypes of Italian Americans, and has asked Viacom to take the show off the air.
“The image of young Italian Americans conducting themselves in a disrespectful and inappropriate manner at a summer home on the Shore may make for good ratings, but it’s a fabrication that damages our State and cultural reputations,” said Vitale. “Rather than profit off ethnic stereotypes and derogatory myths about Italian Americans, MTV and its parent company, Viacom, should do the socially responsible thing and pull the plug on Jersey Shore. Not only is the program wildly offensive, but it diminishes the accomplishments and contributions of Italian Americans in New Jersey and across the nation.”
Vitale says that the Italian American cast regularly uses derogatory terms such as “guido” and “guidette” when describing themselves. The use of those terms, Vitale says, violates Viacom’s own terms requiring a harassment-free workplace, as well as New Jersey’s tough laws on racial bias and ethnic discrimination.
At Vitale’s request, the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development has opened an investigation into employment and wage practices, as well as the tax status of the “Shore Store” where cast members supposedly worked while filming the program.
“Saying that the young people on Jersey Shore represent all young Italian Americans is like saying The Jerry Springer Show represents responsible journalism,” said Vitale, a four-term Middlesex County Democrat. “From casting decisions to scenery to interactions between cast members, everything on Jersey Shore has been fabricated and manipulated, and not a representation of the ‘reality’ that MTV purports to document. The problem lies in the fact that, for the audiences that Jersey Shore is being marketed to, the overly-muscled, overly-tan caricatures of long-held ethnic stereotypes highlighted on the show may form the basis of ethnic generalizations that do a disservice to Italian Americans everywhere.”
The Italian American Legislative Caucus also wants advertisers to boycott the program because of its offensive content.