Whenever I see a post about the kids on “The Jersey Shore” it’s always followed by comments about how they aren’t really Italian. There’s always someone pointing out that if they went to Italy they would be made fun of and not accepted because they don’t speak Italian and don’t look/act like they are from there either.
Now, the issue about “being Italian” has also been brought up in interviews with the cast, and they are always quick to respond that they aren’t representing Italian Americans; for them it’s about the Guido lifestyle. I can respect that. I’m curious though, about the gap that viewers see in “being Italian” and “being Italian American.” From my understanding, “the Jersey Shore” cast sees it as there still being cultural ties/practices that relate back to the “old country.” So in living their way of life, and through ethnic background they consider themselves to be Italian…so why can’t the rest of us?
How much does cultural background influence us? If we have the ethnicity in our genes can we really say we identify with it if we pass for “white” and are not raised in a place/by a person that encourages a connection with our heritage? What about those who are white, but were brought up in a place where the majority of people were from a different racial/ethnic background and that influence was strong?
In a way I can relate to the cast’s plight because as a Latina (who doesn’t know Spanish) I’ve been told many times over (usually by people of the Caucasian persuasion) that I’m not Hispanic. If this has ever happened to you, you can understand how incredibly frustrating it is to have some say this, especially when you do have many ties to your culture. There are subtleties that outsiders would miss. Hell, there are people who I’m related to who don’t really understand specific traditions because they were not brought up with those concepts in mind.
I’ll admit it, I’m annoyed by those people who don’t really identify with being Hispanic unless it makes them look cool among their “white” friends or helps them get a scholarship/job when they tick the box on an application form. It’s unfair for the rest of us who’ve had to put up with racial slurs and being treated with prejudice. In fact I know one person who passes for white, who sort of laughed it off when their fiance boyfriend called them “a wet back,” simply shrugging and said he doesn’t know better.” All the people I know(white or Latino) would find that unacceptable, but maybe that’s because they’ve been immersed in the Hispanic culture. Or maybe they just know that exploiting and insulting people of different ethnic backgrounds is never in vogue.
So here are 5 random things that I either discovered or really enjoyed this past month. I urge the rest of you to check them out.
1) Castle:Not just another cop show, it’s about a crime writer (Richard Castle) helping the NYPD solve crime. The writing is amazing, just when you think they’re going to fall back on cliches they surprise you. There’s sexual tension between Nathan Fillion’s Castle and Stana Katic’s Kate Beckett, but the show isn’t constantly hitting us over the head with it. At this point the writers are showing us a truly beautiful friendship developing between them. The writers also allow the police (Beckett’s team, Esposito and Ryan) to be intelligent and observant, they’re good at their jobs–Castle doesn’t need to solve the crime for them.
2) Whip It! : It’s a coming of age story about a girl, Bliss Cavendar, from a small town in Texas. Her mother wants her to be a pageant queen, constantly reminding her that youth and beauty are fleeting. Bliss wants out of the town, and away from a destiny as Susie Homemaker. She ends up joining a roller derby team in Austin; she makes some cool, older (sometimes wiser) new friends, and really finds something to fall in love with.
3) Cheryl Cole’s Boys: Now let me tell you this is one difficult track to get a hold of if you’re stateside. It’s penned by Adele, and is the B-side on Cheryl Cole’s single 3 Words. It’s a catchy and relatable song about girls falling for guys’ bullshit and ultimately getting a broken heart.
4) The Jersey Shore: One of the more controversial shows to hit the air in a long time. An old school “Real World” type reality show, where 8(and then 7) guidos and guidettes must live, and work together on camera. I initially avoided the show, not wanting to get sucked into trash television. I ended up catching the third episode (the one with the infamous punch) one night and fell in love with the cast. They’re probably the most “real” reality show cast we’ve had in years. They’re a group of funny, observant twenty-somethings who are learning the same lessons we all are. My only hope is that fame won’t go to their heads, and when we see them in the 2nd season they’ll be just as lovable and interesting as before.
5) Jwoww: I know she’s not one of the three JS cast members we see on late night TV, but she’s my fave. This is one ride or die chick. In a world where girls have no problem selling each other out, and not backing one another up, it was refreshing to see a young woman be there for her friend. She was one of the first people to come to Snooki’s defense after some asshole took a swing at her. Jwoww constantly made sure her friends were OK. If someone had a problem with her girl, you can bet your ass she was there to help out. She seemed to genuinely care about her amigos.
On this week’s The Jersey Shore, the roommates talk to Mike (aka The Situation) about his behavior. The main complaint is that he’s changed. He’s not the person they originally thought he was. He’s become more dickish and “in your face” about things. They miss the guy they first met. Keep in mind this was filmed in a months time–so maybe the Mike they met was a front, and this is the real deal.
This episode got me thinking about the friends who’ve pulled 180’s to the point where if I met the today I know I wouldn’t want to be friends with them. Looking back there are times when I wish I had the balls the JS crew had to confront those friends. I regret not telling them their foolish ways were off-putting.
I’ve been thinking about my former roommate, and how in our entire year of living together there were these fleeting moments where she’d let people see how amazing she was. I remember just before Christmas that year I stayed at her family’s house. We watched stupid movies, gorged on holiday treats, and danced around to crappy pop music. I know if I were to stay with her today, those things wouldn’t happen. It would be awkward.
I’ve talked to our other ex-roommates as well. Each of them noticed as time went on the vivacious person she could be, eventually disappeared. She’s been replace by something selfish, overbearing and fake. I wonder how many of us mourn the loss of who she could’ve been.
At the end of the day we hope that we get better with age. For most of us this is the case. But what about those around us who let their negative qualities take over? Do we sit by and pray that one day they’ll have an epiphany? Do we stage an “intervention” like The Shore housemates did with Mike? Is it ever too late to let a person know you miss the old them?