BY HILARY HAGERMAN
Every Thursday night the guidos and guidettes of MTV’s Jersey Shore welcome us into their world of bar fi ghts, fake nails and neon tans. But are TV shows like this giving young Italian-Americans and Italian-Canadians a bad rep?
“Shows like Jersey Shore do nothing but hurt the Italo-Canadian and Italo-American people,” said Paul Fanone, communications offi cer for Ryerson’s Italian Students’ Association (ISA).
“They paint this image of Italians that we are all hairgelled, trance-loving spoiled brats.”
Fanone said the “guido” perception is an entirely North American view on Italians. He said if people were to visit Italy, they would see there are few people who act like that.
Natalie Ciarallo, president of the ISA, agrees. “I think the whole guido thing is strictly pop culture,” she said.
“Let’s get real — characters like this don’t exist in Italy and never really have.”
Ciarallo also said the characters on Jersey Shore, “don’t have an appreciation for true Italian culture.”
“Do they make pomodori (tomato sauce) every September? Do they grow their own vegetables in their back yard? Do they celebrate the fi esta of La Madonna (the Mother Mary)? These are all things that traditional Italians do; along with possessing values of hard work, respect and humility,” she said.
“These characters don’t really show that, yet [they] take pride in this made up persona that they consider to be truly Italian.”
Salvatore Bancheri, a professor of Italian Studies at the University of Toronto, said the show could even be considered racist.
“It’s doing a lot of damage to the image of Italians,” he said. “This show is, in a way, more problematic than The Sopranos.”
He said the problem is that a lot of viewers perceive what happens on the show as actual reality.
“Italians have one of the richest cultures. The positive image of Italy can sometimes be seen, but the negative dominates.”
But some don’t have a problem with the show. Stefania Scarfo is a third-year RTA student and a proud first-generation Italian-Canadian who said what’s seen on MTV isn’t something new to her.
“Oddly enough, a lot of the situations on the show are very similar to ones I’ve dealt with in real life,” she said. “Jersey Shore is just like Wasaga Beach for Italians in the GTA.”
She said the show doesn’t necessarily claim to be an exact representation of all Italians and there’s always going to be a group in any culture that’s similar to a guido or guidette.
Scarfo also said some parts of Jersey Shore demonstrate the positive aspects of Italian culture.
“I think it’s nice that they all sit around and have dinner together and say a prayer, that they take turns cooking and washing dishes and that their families come and visit them,” she said.
“They’re all really close to their families and that’s a very important thing in the Italian culture.”
She thinks it’s funny that people are finding controversy in the show.
“People are acting like it’s so controversial. It’s not,” she said. “It’s real life. There are people like that and you can find them in a parking lot in Woodbridge or cruising the Wasaga strip. The only difference is that these ones are on TV.”