"Jersey Shore," MTV's hit new reality show following eight fast-living young (mostly) Italian-Americans in New Jersey, has critics seeing red, white, and green. Italian-American groups in particular are incensed at what they see as blatant ethnic stereotypes and at the frequent use of the slur "Guido," and sponsors including Domino's Pizza have pulled their ads. MTV has even allegedly received death threats. Is MTV pushing the already stretched bounds of acceptable taste? (Watch a CBS report on the "Jersey Shore" controversy)
"Jersey Shore" is bad, not anti-Italian: MTV keeps "committing entertainment-related crimes against humanity," says Pete Vonder Haar in Houston Press, but the "sheer loathsomeness" of "Jersey Shore" has nothing to do with ethnicity. The show's self-described "guidos" are "repugnant," but they're "no more representative of Italians than Lucky the Leprechaun is of the Irish, or Tiger Woods is of...Cablinasians."
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C'mon, it's great television: "Let's be honest," says Rennie Dyball in People. "Jersey Shore" is "hilarious," because we get to laugh at its "tanned, gelled, muscle-bound" stars — "I'm not laughing with them, and neither are you." The cast is "hell-bent on upholding the stereotypes," and MTV helps with its selective editing, but this is "so-bad-it’s-good" reality TV at its best.
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There's nothing funny about it: "I understand the 'Relax, it’s just a TV show' argument," says Mike Bruno in Entertainment Weekly, but in this case, the show is just plain "offensive." Reality TV has a "long history of exploiting idiots," but "it is rare, if ever, that a show has so blatantly and unapologetically focused its cameras on a specific ethnic group." MTV specifically sought out "loud, proud Italians" and "guidos" — we're not supposed to be offended?
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It's their version of reality: If a scripted show had such "troublesome characterizations," the protests would be justified, says Jazz Shaw at The Moderate Voice. "But this is, as the descriptor implies, a reality show. These aren't fictional characters," they're actual Italian-Americans, and if "these young people are offensive to their own heritage," that's their fault, not MTV's.
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