Italian-American heritage groups and residents of the Jersey shore are threatening boycotts over a new reality series, Jersey Shore, which MTV is promoting as a look at eight of the “hottest, tannest, craziest Guidos” displaying big hair, good abs, and various forms of lack of continence in a summer share in Seaside Heights, NJ.
The show was most likely inspired by the dustup last year when the mayor of Belmar, NJ wrote in a local newsletter that Belmar was plagued with what he called violent and oversprayed “guidos and blondes” from Staten Island, an assessment which was met with some dismay from Italians, Staten Island residents and self-identified “guidos.”
Andre DiMino of UNICO, one of the Italian-American heritage organizations leading the current protest and the boycott effort, was offended by the program before he’d seen anything but the promotional material, but now that he’s seen Thursday’s premiere broadcast he’s really angry. DiMino said that producers decorated the “bordello-like” beach house with Italian symbols to emphasize the Italian ancestry of castmembers, who he called “an embarrassment to themselves, their heritage and their families.”
Castmember Mike Sorrentio, one of three housemates who hails from Staten Island, disagrees with DiMino that the show is, well, demeaning. “It’s just how we have fun on the East Coast. I’m sure when Mr. DiMino was young he went to beach clubs in the summer… I just happen to be 100 percent Italian, I happen to be in very good shape and my hair happens to be spiky… It’s not necessarily a stereotype; it’s just how it is. In New York and New Jersey, that just happens to be the style.”
UNICO, the Order of the Sons of Italy in America and the National Italian American Foundation are asking members to call sponsors, which include American Family Insurance, Macy’s, First Response, Taco Bell, Victoria’s Secret, Honda, T-Mobile, Chili’s, Subway, Best Buy, Sims 3 (EA Games), Verizon and Zappos.com, and ask them to pull advertising from the show. Domino’s has already pulled their ads (line of the day goes to Gawker, with “Irony of MTV’s Jersey Shore Losing Advertising by Business Offensive to Most Italian-Americans Obviously Lost on Both Parties.”)
Meanwhile, a Facebook group of shore residents is split between offense at the term and the conviction that the people who deserve it are really from New York. This, sadly, is not completely uncommon — the term, which most of us of Italian extraction find extremely offensive, is sometimes used to distinguish an Italian-American speaker from whoever they think Those People are. Ethnic slurs are funny that way.