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Good for New Jersey governor Chris Christie (with whom I seldom agree) for vetoing the proposal to give the TV show Jersey Shore a taxpayer-funded tax break. In axing the legislation, Christie said, appropriately:
“…as chief executive I am duty-bound to ensure that taxpayers are not footing a $420,000 bill for a project which does nothing more than perpetuate misconceptions about the State and its citizens."
“Misconceptions” doesn’t begin to describe how many Italian-Americans feel about this show and other television and movie projects like it over the years. It is about time a prominent government figure reinforced the movie NETWORK's sentiment that, “we’re mad as hell and and we're not going to take it any more” — let alone pay for anyone to insult us!
In an era when fairness, equality and accuracy should play a major role in the media, the offensiveness of Jersey Shore goes far beyond any concerns about political correctness. The idea that these inarticulate, foul-mouthed young people who personify what Italians call “cafoni” (coarse, ignorant and tasteless people) represent in any accurate way the average American of Italian background is ridiculous. While there are thousands of these types who worship at the altar of 20th century machismo, bigotry and stupidity, there are also millions more who have taken their rightful places in American society as revered and respected scholars, inventors, scientists and physicians, artists, lawmakers, judges, diplomats, businessmen, military heroes, great parents, hardworking and skilled workers, and dutiful children.
Italian-Americans should not be portrayed endlessly in the media as ignorant, tasteless dolts any more than Jews should to be stereotyped as avaricious and conniving sneaks, Blacks miscast as lazy and inferior slackers, or WASPS characterized as heartless, prejudiced snobs.
The Godfather trilogy, considered by people of all stripes as an artistic triumph tells the story of one sub-group in America’s criminal underworld. It also portrays the anguish of good people in the Italian community who are not and do not care to be part of that equation. Most importantly, it is fiction, not a “reality” show.
The popularity of Jersey Shore is due in part to the apathy of Italian-Americans who do not stand up for themselves and, by extension, for their forebears and grandchildren. Indeed, too many in this group watch Jersey Shore and even enjoy it at some misguided level. They apparently forget that if we belittle ourselves we have no credible defense against people intent on belittling us.
Jersey Shore is not “reality” it is the worst kind of bastardization of the Italian-American ethic which is far more complex than any of the people involved in this show can or do appreciate.
Chris Christie—son of an Italian mother—does understand this and has rightfully moved not to have taxpayer money pay for attacks on fellow Americans. For that he deserves, and has, the gratitude of all reasonable people, in his home state of New Jersey and beyond.