Abhorring the Debauchery

Courtesy of Kessler/MTV/PictureGroup

I am having a very hard time right now keeping my anger inside about the Jersey Shore cast. So now I have to get it off my chest.

I previously wrote about how I successfully managed to avoid watching any episode of Jersey Shore on television, and even after it transplanted itself onto the Italian airways, I still avoided the debauchery. Unfortunately, however, the same cannot be said for the poor people of Italy. Not only has the MTV program started to broadcast into Italian homes, the cast of the show has also literally landed on the boot-shaped peninsula.    

Since arriving back in the States, I have lamented on this blog numerous times about how much I wish I was in Italy now, sipping cappuccinos or enjoying a cone of gelato under the hot Tuscan sun. But in light of the Jersey Shore cast’s arrival in Florence, there is a part of me to be glad that I escaped when I did. It is bad enough that Pauly D and I share the same home state, but to live in the same city as the cast, even in a city like Florence, the majesty and beauty would have felt tainted.

After living in the city for four months, I cannot recall a single day when I felt bored or uninspired in the birthplace of the Renaissance. Walking down the streets was like walking back in time; every passeggiata, or stroll, offered me the chance to explore the remains of one of history’s most tremendous cultural movements. Whether I liked it or not, every excursion was a lesson in history. Unfortunately, I doubt that the beach bum group will be as anxious for such lessons as I was when abroad.

My displeasure with the transplant of the cast from the shore of Seaside Heights to the Renaissance City is seeped with resentment. Snooki and the gang are in a city rich with history, culture, and beauty; yet with their reputations for partying and drunkenness, is it any wonder whether they will appreciate how fortunate they are to be in such a place? Even if the cast proudly proclaims their Italian heritage, their ancestry [excluding Snooki] may be the only Italian thing about them.

Though the MTV cast proudly touts their roots, their excessive drinking, wild fistfights and hair pulling, and their affection for hookups has made many Italians cringe and eager to distance themselves from the New Jersey guidos and guidettes. When the network first announced it plans to film the program’s fourth season abroad, there was great outcry among Italian organizations in America and overseas.

According to a spokesperson for the Italian-American organization UNICO, the show’s relocation perpetuates false and negative stereotypes about Italian-Americans. “People used to go to the circus to see the freak show – that is what this will be… It will not only hurt Italians but all Americans … their outrageous, reprehensible behavior will make us look like buffoons and bimbos.” For UNICO and other groups like it, they believe the program presents Italian-Americans in a poor and unfavorable manner.

Though it might surprise some, there are many Italians who agree with such groups’ attitudes and harsh words about Jersey Shore‘s negative affiliation with the Italian community. Once announced that the cast would be settling in Florence, the city’s mayor announced a strict set of conditions about what and where could be filmed for the upcoming season. Among the conditions: no filming in bars or clubs that serve alcohol; no footage that would promote Florence as a drinking city; and prohibition from filming in some of the city’s most historic sites, including the Uffizi Gallery, the Palazzo Vecchio, and Palazzo Pitti. The aim of the conditions is to promote Florence not as a drinking town, but rather as a place for good food, atmosphere, and art.

Yet, even if they were not banned from such places, I doubt that they would have taken a break from tanning or drinking to explore the rooms of the Medici palaces or to stop and stare at the magnificence of Michelangelo’s work. Since their arrival most tabloid coverage has focused on the late night hotspots and the heated egos amongst cast members. It is a shame to note the apparent lack of interest by Deena, Snooki, Pauly D, Vinny, Jenny, Mike “the Situation,” Ronnie, and Sammi* to immerse themselves in the city’s rich culture and history. Even before they left, many of the cast members made comments that suggested their narcissism and ignorance about culture shock and immersion. Regardless of the fact that many Italians speak English, the cast has done itself no favor by admitting to a very limited knowledge of the Italian language. According to Ronny, he and some of the others will be relying on the lessons from the Rosetta Stone software to help them communicate with the locals. One wonders, however, how committed they were to such lessons before their departure and whether or not the software’s learning guarantee is worth the high price-tag.

Further adding insult to their presence in the nation is the unabashed acknowledgment by some of the cast about their fears of a ruined diet. Though she was about to head to a country with perhaps the world’s best food and wine, Snooki expressed more concern about gaining weight in Italy rather than looking forward to the nation’s gastronomic pleasures. “I’m very, very scared because I’m trying to lose weight…so going to Italy and drinking wine and having spaghetti all day – it throws me off course.” Perhaps if she did not waste her calories on Tequila shots and other alcoholic beverages, then she could savor the rich taste of espresso soaked tiramisu or hand-made pasta with gravy.

I could go on and on about my irritation in constantly hearing the news and reading headlines about Jersey Shore’s export to Florence, but it is probably best that I conclude while I am ahead. Though there are millions who tune in every season to watch the sleaze that is Jersey Shore, I will never be one of them. While I once thought that nothing could put Florence in a bad light, the orange glow of the Jersey Shore bunch has me think otherwise.

*Just to further emphasize how successful I have been at avoiding the Jersey Shore plague, I actually had to search the program on Wikipedia to “educate” myself about the cast while writing this post.

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