Media, Pop Culture and The Continued Support of Violence Against Women
I really don't want to write about Jersey Shore, MTV's new disgraceful and irreverent "reality" show documenting the lives of "Real Italian" girls and boys from Jersey, but a recent clip was emailed to me this week and I cannot stay silent. Much has been written about this show, and to be true, I have watched 2 commercials and 20 minutes of one episode. I assure you, this was more than enough to make me gag in horror and disgust. The show has everything our pop culture obsessed society wants. True to form MTV delivers: degraded women, dominating men, alcohol and a camera to show every juicy detail.
As an Italian, it disturbs me to no end that a mainstream television show is allowed to portray such a reaffirmation of dehumanizing stereotypes. But of course, this is the point, is it not? As an appeal to the subconscious typecasts each person in our society possesses, Jersey Shore draws upon and connects to what many people believe to be true and thus becomes appealing. Do you think Italian-Americans are loud and rude? Lazy and stingy? Materialistic? Crass, dirty, promiscuous, and dangerous? Watch Jersey Shore , it will affirm each one of these notions to be true.
Sadly, this is not a new phenomenon. Many social theorists believe modern mainstream media is a driving force behind current trends in racism, ageism, and sexism, only to name a few. Jersey Shore exemplifies this theory. It displays in high-def, orange glow; the lives of young, irresponsible and violent adults, with an endless supply of alcohol and no doubt encouragement to "let loose" for the camera. Labeling them “Italian” sends a message to all viewers: this is what Italians are. Is it deliberately malicious, with designs to further trap Italian-Americans within the confines of terribly dehumanizing stereotypes and gender constructs? Of course not, but nevertheless, this is the end result.
One particularly blatant example of minority typecasting, is the suggestion that minority [Italian , black, Jewish, Latino ] men are naturally more violent, uncontrolled, and stupid, whom must be controlled in order to protect larger society. The clip I mentioned earlier is of one recent advertisement for an upcoming episode and it has created a firestorm of criticism and rage. This clip shows a male cast member knocking out ( via an aggressive, closed fist punch to the head) a female cast member. My reaction is one of absolute dismay. Without so much regard for a woman who could undergo a debilitating flashback by trigger or the implications of portraying Italian men as violent, MTV has stooped down to Jerry Springer's level of entertainment and appeal. Just as Springer stands back and watches to women fight over "their" man, so does MTV and their audience stand back to watch as a woman is brutally assaulted. Then, perhaps even more disgusting, is the accepted excuse by the assailant who attempts pathetically to justify his actions, with not so much as an ounce of remorse. Lastly, the message that this could be your daughter getting punched by those unruly Jersey Italian boys is beyond damaging.
I am at a loss to convey how depressed this makes me. MTV has revealed that they will play an Anti-Domestic Violence PSA after the episode airs in order to placate the concerns of their critics. Of course, MTV is completely missing the point- as most people are. They shouldn't consider airing this shit in the first place. Gender and race are inextricably linked, thanks mostly to popular media. Violent men, disgraced and beaten women who are portrayed as deserving of such brutal treatment on the show Jersey Shore is the perfect case in point. What MTV and pop culture at large needs is to replace the entire show with an episode of True Life: The Danger of Mainstream Media, followed by How Not to Validate Violence Against Women and Minority Stereotypes-PSA. And they should put that one on repeat.