UNICO National has been joined by many Italian American organizations, including Order of the Sons of Italy in America (OSIA) and the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) -- which are among the nation's largest Italian American organizations -- in calling upon MTV to pull the plug on its new series "Jersey Shore" that features ethnic slurs, violence and poor behavior to marginalize and stereotype Italian Americans.
After viewing the debut of "Jersey Shore" UNICO National President Andre' DiMino, stated, "It's worse than I imagined. MTV has festooned the 'bordello-like' house set with Italian flags and red, white and green maps of New Jersey while every other cutaway shot is of Italian signs and symbols. They are blatantly as well as subliminally bashing Italian Americans with every technique possible." And in reference to the cast members, he continued, "They are an embarrassment to themselves, their heritage and their families."
DiMino is urging UNICO National members across the country and all supporting organizations to immediately contact sponsors of "Jersey Shore" and ask them to withdraw their advertising from the series and the MTV Network as a whole. He commented, "UNICO was founded in 1922 to positively counteract discrimination against Italian Americans. Here we are 87 years later and companies like Sony, Macy's and Best Buy are sponsoring it. What a disgrace!"
Some of the major sponsors include American Family Insurance, Macy's, First Response, Domino's Pizza, Taco Bell, Victoria's Secret, Honda, T-Mobile, Chili's, Subway, Best Buy, Sims 3 (EA Games), Verizon and Zappos.com.
MTV refuses to acknowledge the show stereotypes Italians. DiMino said, "They have been steadfast in their refusal to pull the show, or apologize for slurring Italian Americans. Their sponsors will now hear from our community."
"NIAF supports the work of our friends at UNICO," said Joseph Del Raso, NIAF President, in a statement. "We share a desire to promote a positive image of Italian Americans. We find this program alarming in that it attempts to make a direct connection between 'guido culture' and Italian American identity. 'Guido' is widely viewed as a pejorative term and reinforces negative stereotypes."
In a letter to MTV CEO Judy McGrath, who, ironically, won an Emmy, as her biography notes, for "taking a stand against discrimination," Santina Haemmerle, President of the National Commission for Social Justice, the anti-defamation branch of OSIA, wrote: "Our office continues to receive many calls, e-mails, faxes, and letters of complaint from our membership about MTV's newest reality series, 'Jersey Shore' ... This defamatory show ... will join the ranks of some of the lowest forms of television entertainment."
New Jersey State Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-28) also expressed his displeasure with MTV for airing the show. "The show is an attack on Italian Americans altogether and its end result is stereotyping," Caputo said. "One would like to think that MTV would have higher programming standards than this."
UNICO's Anti-Bias Committee, Italian American One Voice Coalition, Speranza, the New Jersey Sons of Italy, and the Italic Institute of America are also involved in the effort to fight bias.
DiMino last week called upon MTV CEO McGrath to cancel the series as it slurs and stereotypes Italian Americans, unleashing a national and international media fury mostly critical of the show, and MTV's decision to air it. The action has resulted in posts, tweets, blogs, letters, news accounts, and emails condemning MTV for its stereotypical portrayal of Italian Americans on the show.
However, while MTV has failed to apologize or pull the show, as the final hours approached to yesterday's airing, it very quietly changed "guido" to "housemate/co-ed" in its promos, deleted the words "guido" and "guidette" from its corporate web site, set up a viewer liaison to deal with concerns about the show, and even dragged out the Italian American cast to do last-second interviews. In one of the interviews in a Staten Island online newspaper (silive.com), one of the cast members contradicted MTV's "message" and admitted that the term "guido" was an ethnic slur.
In the article by Stephanie Slepian, she wrote: "Mike's [Mike Sorrentino] not quite sure what the fuss is all about. Could be MTV's promise that 'there's no spray tan too orange, no hair too spiked, no bod too tight for this crew' on a show that 'exposes one of the tri-state area's most misunderstood species, the Guido' -- a term Mike and his agent find insulting."