Legislators Send Letter to MTV Parent Company, Viacom, Asking Them to Pull Offensive Program
TRENTON – Senator Joseph F. Vitale, the Chairman of the New Jersey Italian American Legislative Caucus, announced today that his Caucus has sent a letter to Viacom, Inc., asking them to cancel the controversial MTV Networks program, Jersey Shore, saying that the show promotes ethnic stereotypes of Italian Americans that are offensive and untrue.
“The image of young Italian Americans conducting themselves in a disrespectful and inappropriate manner at a summer home on the Shore may make for good ratings, but it’s a fabrication that damages our State and cultural reputations,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “Rather than profit off ethnic stereotypes and derogatory myths about Italian Americans, MTV and its parent company, Viacom, should do the socially responsible thing and pull the plug on Jersey Shore. Not only is the program wildly offensive, but it diminishes the accomplishments and contributions of Italian Americans in New Jersey and across the nation.”
The letter (link below), directed to Philippe P. Dauman, President and CEO of Viacom, Inc., represents a joint effort on the parts of the Italian American Legislative Caucus and the New Jersey Italian and Italian American Heritage Commission to convince Viacom to “immediately remove Jersey Shore from its networks.” The letter notes that the Italian American cast regularly uses derogatory terms such as “guido” and “guidette” when describing themselves, and that the use of such terms violates Viacom’s own terms requiring a harassment-free workplace, as well as New Jersey’s tough laws on racial bias and ethnic discrimination. The letter also adds that, while MTV Networks has defended Jersey Shore as part of their tradition of documenting various, naturally-occurring subcultures, much of the show – including the oceanfront deck that serves as a film set, which was built by MTV networks for filming purposes, and dismantled after filming ended – simply does not reflect the reality it was intended to represent.
“Saying that the young people on Jersey Shore represent all young Italian Americans is like saying The Jerry Springer Show represents responsible journalism,” said Senator Vitale. “From casting decisions to scenery to interactions between cast members, everything on Jersey Shore has been fabricated and manipulated, and not a representation of the ‘reality’ that MTV purports to document. The problem lies in the fact that, for the audiences that Jersey Shore is being marketed to, the overly-muscled, overly-tan caricatures of long-held ethnic stereotypes highlighted on the show may form the basis of ethnic generalizations that do a disservice to Italian Americans everywhere.”
In addition to calling on Viacom to pull Jersey Shore off the air, the Italian American Legislative Caucus has also asked advertisers to boycott the program because of its offensive content, and the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, at the request of Senator Vitale, opened an investigation into employment and wage practices, as well as the tax status of the “Shore Store” where cast members supposedly worked while filming the program.