Saturday, January 30, 2010

DJ Pauly D on the 1's and 2's...

So, I watched the season finale and the Reunion show for Jersey Shore last week.

One of the first questions that the host of the Reunion show asked the cast was if they felt like the show portrayed Italian-Americans in a derogatory light. My man Pauly D had what I thought was a very good response. He said something to the effect of, "I was not on the show to represent all Italians, I was representing myself." His co-stars also reiterated a point that they'd made previously, that if you didn't like the show then change the channel and watch something else.

I agree with Pauly, he is not (nor should he be) responsible for carrying the reputation of the entire Italian-American community on his shoulders. But it was his answer to a related question that made me a little confused. The host Julissa asked if the word "guido" was a derogatory term. He said, "Oh no no no--it's not."

I think what he should have said was, "Well, speaking only for myself and not all Italian Americans--I don't find that term offensive." It's like, you can't have it both ways, bud. You can't on the one hand say that you speak only for yourself, and on the other think that you can give the people watching permission to use a word that many people do find offensive. Because I can guarantee you that thousands of people saw that show, and have now incorporated guido into their vocabularies primarily because Pauly D said that it was okay.

I said the last time I talked about this show, that I had a lot more to say, but Sweet Tomatoes was calling my name. I really appreciated the insightful comments that I got on that post, and I wanted to incorporate some of them here to help guide this post along. It's like Follow Up Fridays, except it's Saturday and I'm not really following up, I'm adding on.

Here is part of what my white friend Carema had this to say about stereotypes:

I am not in as much agreement that the stereotypes that are probably presented in Jersey Shore are harmless as they may seem. Stereotyping, no matter how seemingly inane, leads to prejudice, that leads to discrimination.

I can see how it could seem like I was saying that the stereotypes that the cast of Jersey Shore reinforced were "not that bad." I agree that stereotypes are harmful, or at the very least, not helpful ( you can read more about my thoughts on this subject here.)

What I was trying to say has more to do with the second sentence of the excerpt. Why does someone fitting into a stereotype have to equal discriminating against them? Why does someone doing things differently from you automatically make their way inferior? Like I have said before, I fit some what? It doesn't mean that anything else is automatically true about me.

And here is some of what my white friend JOHNFERGUSON had to say about stereotyping:

Like all jokes and humor about subordinated group identity and cultural difference, it is funny because we can all say, “Yeah that is so true.” But like you noted about the use of pejorative naming words, it is mostly OK when we perceive that the teller of the joke is on our side. When we feel some suspicion that they are taking some attitude of superiority, we are offended.

This is such a critical point. Jersey Shore is only "harmless fun" if everyone is laughing with the cast and not at them. But sadly, we know that is probably not the case.

One of my friends on Facebook posted a Jersey Shore related link on her wall only to have one of her other friends comment, "It's ridiculous they don't realize that they're actually being made fun of."

Now, I don't know this other person. So I can't say if he was speaking as a person who actually does the making fun of, or simply as a concerned citizen.

But I think we can all agree if people are watching the show and treating Italian-Americans worse as a result...that's a bad thing. I watch the show and like the show because I know that I am watching it with a critical eye, and am not looking down on the people I'm seeing on the screen.

But the problem is that there are probably lots of other people who say they feel the same way as I do, but are more inclined to do or say something racish to the next Italian-American they see because that show has been introduced to their brains.

So, where does that leave us? I don't know. I know that Mtv is running a Jersey Shore marathon before the Super Bowl, and that the show is more than likely going to be picked up for a second season. As a reality show connoisseur, I can tell you that the next season won't be as good. They caught lightning in a bottle this time around, and whatever they do next time is sure to be more manufactured and artificial. But this show made Mtv a lot of money, and you can bet they will milk it for all it's worth. I just wonder what that means for all of us.

Comments? I'd love to hear them.

1 comment:

  1. j galt8:44 PM

    This show and a great deal of other reality shows stoop to the lowest common denominator, the exploitation of people and stereotypes. The formula is pretty simple, put young, focus group selected; relatively attractive people in an environment fill them full of alcohol and watch what happens. I forgot the really cool decadent crib to give the cast a sense of entitlement. These shows pedal in creating characters within a sub culture and promote villains and heroes. Who can’t relate to at least one of the characters at some point in a show? This is what gets me about the concept of stereotypes. Stereotypes are used to get you to focus on the group and what that group is doing in comparing it to some established norm, be it a positive or negative one. Stereotypes are about key holing people into a predetermined slot to then set them apart from someone else or group. This group think bothers me. When this happens a person is no longer looking or judging the individual and the merits and character of that person, but yet is asked to cast those beliefs aside and focus on the grander picture, the group as a whole. For example we have all heard those Italians, those blacks, those whites, those Jews, those gays. Act white, act black, act manly, act feminine, act your race, act your sex don’t be uppity and so on. Where does this come from? I contend this stems from a conscience attempt to not focus on the individual and more of the collective group. There is a movement to isolate and corner people into groups pit them against each other and manage the chaos between the groups. It becomes a never ending job, there are always groups and it is always easy to stir the nests. One term is identity politics, the isolation of groups then pits them against each other to win political favor. There is a focus to no longer judge a man by the character of his conscience, but by what group he belongs to. For example it is ok for a politician to be a racist so long as he is with the right political group. As long as you’re in the right group then you are ok. The problem is which group are you in and are you being targeted and are you in the right. Stereotypes and group identity is like a circular firing squad every one gets hit along the way when exploiting groups. Pauly D had it right “I was not on the show to represent Italians, I was representing myself” I will judge him and all future and present reality cast members as individuals not a member of some group d jour.