“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” No, it’s not the French peasantry being demoralized, as Dickens wrote in his novel, but the people – especially the Italian American people – of two cities, right here in New Jersey, that share that contrast.
Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer denied filming permits to a spinoff of MTV’s disgraceful “Jersey Shore” reality show. But, within days Jersey City Mayor Jeremiah Healy rolled out the welcome mat to these malcontents. MTV’s “Jersey Shore” has been a blight on New Jersey, as well as an insult to all Italian Americans. Why would any community want to be associated with the bad acts, lewdness, inebriation, violence-against-women, crudeness and other garbage spewed by this trash programming. Mayor Zimmer, in stark contrast to her counterpart in Jersey City, has done the right thing and we officially commended her for that with The Italian American ONE VOICE Coalition “Una Voce” Award. (“Una Voce” means “One Voice” in Italian.)
Mayor Healy, what were you thinking? Your quick embrace of “Jersey Shore” to promote Jersey City not only shows poor judgment, but also threatens to, once again, sink the reputation of the city you lead – all for a few moments of infamy on MTV.
We call on Mayor Healy to reverse his decision, do the right thing for all New Jersey, and just say “no” to the negative stereotypes and garbage spewed by this trash programming. In contrast, several Jersey City bar owners denied permission to use their establishments to film. We thank Skinner’s Loft, LITM and Barcade for doing the right thing – Bravo!
Our organization is in a constant battle against the continued, and actually, accelerating stereotyping and denigration of Italian Americans. The explosion of horrendous reality shows, like “Jersey Shore,” “Mob Wives” and others, and constant depiction of Italian Americans in mainstream media as criminals, mobsters, bimbos and buffoons, is disgraceful and unacceptable. We objected to “Jersey Shore” and its ilk since before its debut and we will continue to do so.
The plethora and ubiquity of this type of brainless and denigrating reality programming is exploding, no doubt fueled by “Jersey Shore’s” huge ratings. It seems a new industry has been spawned to produce shows with cookie-cutter stereotypes of Italian Americans, acting badly and striving for new lows in behavior. The bimbos and buffoons on these shows, starving for their 15 minutes of fame, live up to the pseudo-reality their puppet-master producers create in their desire to say to the world that this is what Italian Americans are really like.
It is self-evident that Italian Americans were, and continue to be, the only ethnic group that it is totally acceptable to negatively stereotype and demean. This is certainly rampant in fictional works, such as HBO’s “Sopranos,” but, what’s different with “Jersey Shore,” and shows like it, is that it is promoted as “reality” and I believe that is what has galvanized so many Italian Americans to be so vehemently opposed to this disgusting series and MTV.
But, it doesn’t stop there. Italian American denigration is seen, across the board, with supposedly responsible people like political commentator Bob Beckel, a host of “The Five” on Fox News. Beckel has repeatedly used the pejorative terms, “greaseballs” and “guidos,” when referring to Italian Americans. Although he apologized for insensitive remarks about other ethnicities, and rightly so, he has yet to apologize for his hate-speech towards Italian Americans – even after a barrage of calls and emails from ONE VOICE activists and many other Italian Americans. We know about the firing of Don Imus and, very recently, the ESPN editor, for pejorative comments about other races and ethnicities. But, when it comes to Italian Americans, there is no reproach for such demeaning utterances. And, that precisely defines the double-standard we face every day – it is off limits to stereotype and denigrate other ethnicities but it is de rigueur for Italian Americans.
And that brings us back to our Tale of Two Cities – Hoboken and Jersey City – a sharp contrast, not only for Italian Americans, but for all the people of New Jersey!
Italian American ONE VOICE Coalition