The Jersey Shore Solution: How Every Country Can Learn To Love Its Minorities
This has been a tough year for immigrants. France is dismantling Roma camps and forcibly deporting them to Romania, even in defiance of its own court of law. The EU is considering giving known terrorist Muammar Gaddafi 5 billion euros a year to (in his words) keep Europe from ‘turning black.’ Individuals in Arizona can now, by law, be asked to produce proof of citizenship by police officers based on no other offense than looking foreign.
Meanwhile, 5.5 million Americans and counting settle in to watch “Jersey Shore,” MTV’s pop-culture hit reality show documenting the fist-pumping, abs-flashing shenanigans of 8 young Italian-American adults filled with alcohol and set loose in a vacation destination. The show is so wildly popular that it is aired around the world (including in Italy), is reportedly negotiating a 4th season, and has spawned two spin-off series that will be based on similarly spoof-worthy cultural stereotypes: the Boston Massholes, and the southern rednecks.
The world appears to love the cast themselves, not just the show. The cast members have had their episode fees tripled and earn up to $20,000 per personal appearance at publicity events. “Snooki” and “The Situation” are this year’s hottest selling Halloween costumes. Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino is appearing this fall on ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars.”
It’s not like these are loveable people: the cast routinely engages in verbal and physical brawling on and off camera, and all have been either arrested or sued for their violent and disorderly antics. Ronnie Ortiz-Magro was arrested for aggravated assault last fall, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Jennifer “JWOWW” Farley and Paul “Pauly D” DelVecchio are all being sued for assault in bar brawls. The men tan, work out, and plot sexual conquests while avoiding “grenades” (ugly women). The women primp, smoke, gossip and start slurring, shrieking catfights on the dance floor.
The show is hardly a celebration of Italian-American heritage; and since only half of the cast members are Italian-American, their cultural integrity is beside the point. What “Jersey Shore” seems to have done is spoof the “Guidos” so successfully as to make even their worst stereotypical behavior out to be…well, quaint. The alcoholism, violence and dysfunction is entertaining, not menacing. We feel okay about sharing our streets with Snooki, JWOWW and The Situation. In fact, we almost hope to run into them in a bar.
So, is it as simple as learning to laugh at our ethnic minorities instead of fearing them? Maybe MTV France could produce a show depicting the so-called “crimes” of the Roma as the naughty but amusing coming-of-age antics of an eccentric group of friends. Perhaps a brave television crew could round up a group of outspoken Hispanic merrymakers, unleash them on an unsuspecting Scottsdale golf resort, and air the ensuing shenanigans on Fox News Channel. If we’ve learned anything from reality television, it’s that we can turn society’s villains into clowns with a lot of editing, and just the right dose of humiliation.
It’s insensitive, politically incorrect and I don’t expect a whole lot of approval for this idea. And since I happen to consider Sarkozy and his supporters to be a more dire menace to the world than the biggest boatload of migrant laborers, perhaps I’m missing the big picture. But maybe a reality show could help with this, too. I, for one, would be much more sympathetic to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer if she would agree to live in the Big Brother house with 11 Mexicans and one shower.
At any rate, it seems to me that it’s easier, cheaper and more enjoyable to make fun of people than to deport them or throw them in jail. Let’s ask the Roma what they’d prefer.