NPR logo MTV's 'Jersey Shore': Reality or Racist (And To Whom)?


MTV's 'Jersey Shore': Reality or Racist (And To Whom)?

By Lee Hill

Guido: A sad pathetic excuse for a male; not necessarily of Italian descent, but most likely; usually native to the New York/New Jersey Tri-State area. -Urban Dictionary

MTV is out with a new reality show. As you might guess, it's decked with all the trimmings of typical MTV reality fare — a group of young adults, mostly strangers, thrown into a house where they fight, scream, hug, cry, drink/eat and have a fair amount of sex (okay, maybe not necessarily in that order).

But in contrast to the cable network's successful franchise of "The Real World," "Jersey Shore" comes with a cultural twist. The new series focuses on eight, young and highly-coiffed Italian-Americans who descend upon Seaside Heights, New Jersey, to basically compete for the title of hottest guido, or guidette, terms considered racial slurs to some Italian Americans.

(Back in March, a "Jersey Shore" casting call by VH1, which is owned by MTV, called for "loud and proud" Italians and only the "hottest pimps and sexiest ladies.")

UNICO National, an Italian American service organization that considers its mission, in part, to "promote and enhance the image of Italian Americans," has called on MTV to cancel the series, which debuted on December 3rd. Andre DiMino, the group's president, wrote the following in a letter to MTV programming president Anthony DiSanto:

In addition to the use of derogatory terms, the program celebrates and highlights incredibly offensive behavior and acts of young Italian Americans - in sum, the entire program is a disgrace and an insult to Italian Americans, and, in fact, to anyone!

DiSanto defended the program with this statement to UNICO:

The Italian-American cast takes pride in their ethnicity, and that, in fact is a key driver of how they bond with each other and self-identify. They refer to themselves as 'guidos' in a positive manner.

So whose problem is it?

Certainly, we could talk at-length about the not-so-popular intra-cultural debate over the use of racial slurs, and who has the "right" to use them. But in "Jersey Shore" the way the word guido is tossed around by cast members, you'd almost think it's a synonym for Italian American.

Watch the series trailer (posted above) and tell us what you think.