Is Jersey Shore a Modern- Day Minstrel Show?

Posted on February 11, 2010




I watched all the episodes of Jersey Shore.

I simply wanted to know what all the hoopla was about. I was hypnotized by their circus world of  GTL.

Watching “The Situation” bring home countless numbers of girls home to “badda-bing- badda bomb” isn’t sending a positive message especially when STD’s among the age group of loyal MTV viewers are still astronomical.

It surely is a SITUATION but not the kind he is thinking when he posed for this lame photo

Is Jersey Shore reverting us back to a dark time in our history where it was acceptable to portray an ethnic group as uncivilized?

Landing covers of magazines and being featured on Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Rachel Ray Show has solidified this cast for a 2nd season and $10,000 each per episode. That’s a big increase from the mere $200 they received for Season 1.

Although the show has a ridiculous amount of fans there is a still, small voice that has taken a vigilant stand against the MTV series.

The National Italian American Foundation has issued a statement expressing their disappointment and extreme disapproval of Jersey Shore. NIAF President, Joseph V. Del Raso,  said the shows characters have “more in common with the adolescent residents of Animal House than with Italian Americans.” The concerns of the NIAF is not just a case of the old school not understanding the new kids of the block.

These people have a genuine fear that the sweeping ethnic stereotypes that Italian Americans have endure in this country will prevail in society once again. If Jersey Shore continues for multiple seasons (as successful MTV shows have been known to do i.e  The Real World) Italian American might be headed down a rugged and all too familiar path in U.S racial history that existed between whites and African-Americans.
Music and Theater were the main forms of entertainment before the inventions of the radio/TV/ and Film.  Even after the Emancipation Proclamation African-American had to overcome stereotypes of laziness, innate violence, lacking the aptitude for intellect and promiscuity.

This stereotype was enforced within entertainment when African-Americans were portrayed by white actors in “black face”. Although minstrel shows phased out in the early 1900’s with Al Jolson the impact has been multi-layered and has had lasting effects within the African-American community.

Minstrel shows were a powerful tool of racism that  allowed society to continue to view African-Americans as “less than” therefor making it easier to deny them social equality.  Although slavery was never a part of the Italian-American experience there are some similarities between the two groups.  During the 1800’s through the early part of the 20th century Italian-Americans were subjected to extreme amounts of bigotry and violence. In the south when lynching was the cool thing to do, Italians were a target.

Exchange the black soot for Spray Tan and Hair Gel and you’ve got a modern-day minstrel show.

The women of Jersey Shore were, drunken, argumentative, and violent. Snooki and J-WoW refer to men they think are gorgeous as “Gorillas” and “Juice Heads.”

Mike “The Situation” Ronnie, DJ Pauly, and Vinnie were  promiscuous, dancing fist-pumpers who were always ready to fight.

The cast of Jersey Shore have become the funniest joke in pop-culture  now.

The underlying cause that made minstrel shows so destructive for African-Americans is the fact the stereotypes  became widespread. History has proved beyond a shadow that negative portrayals of an ethnic group make it difficult for social and economic advancement and justice. Italian-Americans have made such strides to overcome and demystify stereotypes of the past that have severely disenfranchised their people. Jersey Shore threatens the hard-work and determination of generations before them.

People are not laughing with the cast of Jersey Shore they are laughing at them.