We Apologize in Advance: “The Jersey Shore” Goes to Italy

I’ve written about the “ugly American” syndrome.  I’ve written about the value of going abroad to learn about your host country and yourself.  And today, I’m apologizing for what I expect will be nothing by an “ugly American explosion” in the country that gave the world Michelangelo, DaVinci and Botticelli.

This spring, we are sending Italy some of the least cultured media/pop culture that the United States has to offer, a show called the Jersey Shore. One of the more notable characters we are sharing is “Snooki.” (This young woman was arrested for public intoxication in the stateside version of the reality show she is on – called “The Jersey Shore.” I wonder if MTV cares that it is sending her to a country where public intoxication is not well tolerated. Then again, I wonder if the Italian government cares – they apparently are granting her a visa!)

Yes, you heard me correctly.  MTV is sending the cast of its popular TV “reality” show, “Jersey Shore” to Italy.  Why?  Because the cast is of Italian descent and ratings are high, so why not exploit them further?  Chris Linn, MTV’s Executive Vice President of Programing and Head of Production for MTV said, “The cast is headed to the birthplace of the culture they love and live by. We can’t wait to see what erupts as a result,” he added.

Erupts.  Interesting choice of words.

I will echo the words of a wise Italian American friend, who, when she heard about Jersey Shore abroad, eloquently stated:   “Che schifo!” (“How gross!” in Italian.) She went on to add, “It is bad enough these young people represent… the shore, (in the US) …. And now Italy? Horrible.” 

UNICO, an Italian American organization in the US promptly responded to the news by saying, “It will not only hurt Italians but all Americans … their outrageous, reprehensible behavior will make us look like buffoons and bimbos.”

My only hope is that MTV attempts to educate these twenty-somethings about the local laws and culture.  And I can only hope that the “cast” of this show will understand what is means to respect their host country. Perhaps they’ll learn something about themselves and their home country along the way. However, based on their interviews, it sounds like most of what they do each summer is sleep until noon, drink alcohol, dance all night and stumble home.

One can only hope that they manage to identify the differences between their own representation of Italian Americans and Italians.

Stay tuned.  Or not.  It might be too difficult to watch.

If you haven’t experienced Snooki yet, here is her interview with David Letterman:


  1. Pamela says:

    You know, it might be great. Since public drunkeness is not widely accepted, and Italian women are notoriously difficult to “pick up”, the joke might be on them…

  2. Renay says:

    Wow, to say the least! Thank you for sharing! It’s situations like this that make me ask “really”!? I am an extreme advocate for exposure, exchange, meaningful dialogue, exploring roots, etc. but for some reason, I am not thinking that the Jersey Shore going to Italy is going to embody the interactions I had in mind (or those that the network is selling either).

    It is unfortunate that our culture celebrates and endorses such a poor representation of “us” like this. Proudly taking it abroad saddens me. There are millions of people who will never visit the U.S. for themselves or interact with Americans firsthand. Sadly, the only interaction they will have with Americans will be the cast of the Jersey Shore. Moreover, there are many study abroad students who will cosign and reinforce the Jersey Shore mentality.

  3. Maria says:

    One will hope that the cast will appreciate the beautiful country their ancestors came from, but alas the ratings is what matters to MTV.
    Here is a great educational opportunity to show what Italy has to offer to young students. Instead the more outrageous behavior, the more TV viewers will see a piece of the US being misrepresented abroad. I agreed that the generalization will eventually come that we all look as ugly Americans. Sad.

  4. Lori says:

    While it’s unfortunate that this show may perpetuate the ‘Ugly American’ stereotype, it does cause us to reconsider our own meta-perceptions of ‘American’ culture (however we may define it). NAFSA Region II & IV conference had an excellent session on the topic and aired this clip. Very interesting! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmCWRTKJGgg

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