The reality TV series, Jersey Shore (2009)
8 housemates, spending their summer together at a house, partying and working in Jersey Shore, New Jersey. The show premiered with 1.2 million views (considered as low ratings for MTV) but skyrocketed a tripled to 4.8 million by the finale of season 1. How was this possible? While it’s controversies increased, its viewership and popularity increased. People tuned in to see what the attention was about; making Jersey Shore MTV’s most controversial show of all time. Even I was attracted by its social buzz.
Although Jersey Shore aimed at promoting New Jersey as a tourist destination, it was mainly seen as an offensive show, stereotyping Italian Americans. The unique personalities of JWWOW, Snooki, Mike the Situation, Dj Pauly D, Vinny, Angelina, Ronnie and Sweetheart Samantha all placed together brought drama, conflict and criticism; with trending tweets worldwide, headline news and parodies relating to Jersey Shore after each and every episode. Even with the simple intro of the show, you can tell its going to be a huge bomb that has hit the media. After the first season, its popularity rose so much that producers HAD to make a second season; even signing contracts for the housemates negotiating up to $10,000 each episode.
Its main complain other than the provocative lives shown of them partying, drinking and having casual sex; was the portrayal of Italian Americans and those that lived in New Jersey when the actual housemates weren’t even locals of the area. While the housemates were self-proclaimed ‘guidos and guidettes’ the word was deemed insulting to Italians as it was a slang term for urban working class Italian- American with a thuggish, overly macho manner.
“I wanna marry a guido. My ultimate dream is to move to Jersey, find a nice, juiced, tan guy and live my life.” – Snooki (Housemate)
This brought criticisms from groups such as National Italian American Foundation, UNICO National and the Order Sons of Italy in America. President of UNICO National states:
“It’s a term used to insult us, implying we are all uneducated people without social graces.”
Fans of the show have shown to be loyal, raising awareness more than the actual cast and directors. For example, after housemates Vinny and Pauly D started using the catchphrase ‘twinning’, fans on Twitter blasted the phrase in hashtags, soon shooting the topic into global trending status. This as well as many other viral slangs such as ‘#shestooyoungforyoubro, #itstshirttime and #GTL (gym, tan, laundry) are still being used now by teens around the world, 2 years after the series ended. Another issue brought up relating to the series was an incident when Snooki, a female cast member was punched in the face by a man who stole her drink at a bar. The clip of the incident was aired and went viral with news sites reporting it even before its official release; thus demonstrating the mediated public sphere and debate relating to the show.
Here’s what ABC NEWS has to say about the incident
Macale.S, Apr 19 2011. Love it or Hate it, MTV’s Jersey Shore knows social media in The Next Web.com http://thenextweb.com/socialmedia/2011/08/19/love-it-or-hate-it-mtvs-jersey-shore-knows-social-media/ visited 10/4/14
Pilkington Ed, Jan 3rd 2010. Italian Americans hit back at Jersey Shore’s use of the word ‘guido’ in The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/media/2010/jan/03/mtv-jersey-shore-guidos-italian visited 10/4/14
Brooks Caryn, Dec 12th 2009. Italian Americans and the G Word: Embrace or Reject? in Time. http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1947338,00.html visited 10/4/14