The armpit of America’s cleaner side
By Francesca Toscano
I am the product of a state synonymous with hair poufs, middle-aged mothers in Range Rovers and the infamous fist pump. Those who remain current in the world of trashy reality television can immediately associate these unflattering traits with the state of New Jersey.
Unbeknownst to today’s generation of brainwashed, reality-obsessed teens, New Jersey is more than a breeding ground for tomorrow’s club-hopping, orange-skinned youth. It is an eclectic, diverse hub in which only a limited portion of the population can identify themselves as a stereotype. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie complains, “We’ll take Snooki and The Situation, and you can have them back.” While the complete disappearance of these pop culture phenomena would result in a teenage mass hysteria, the disappearance of New Jersey clichés is long overdue.
Many shows are culprits of this blasphemy, the most prominent being The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Jerseylicious and, of course, Jersey Shore. The Real Housewives of New Jersey traces the lives of four housewives of an affluent New York City suburb, exposing stereotypes of snobby and drama-driven mothers who are concerned solely with wealth, expensive clothes and sabotaging the lives of their fellow cast members. Jerseylicious and Jersey Shore, though different in plot, consist of similar Jersey clichés. Jerseylicious follows the drama of a central Jersey hair salon, and Jersey Shore narrates a house of self-proclaimed “guidos and guidettes” as they party, tan and start trouble shoreside. Both Jerseylicious and Jersey Shore conventionalize New Jersey as a home of pouf-haired girls and meathead guys who thrive on drama and partying.
Though New Jersey does have its fair share of stereotypical residents, many are appalled with the current perception others have of the state. New Jersey residents are currently burdened with the popular perception of young adults from New Jersey. On Jerseylicious, The Gatsby Salon was a fully functioning boutique when it was run solely by New Jersey adults. However, when they hired the young Tracy DiMarco and Olivia Blois Sharpe, drama and mayhem ensued. Many people don’t realize that only two cast members on the Jersey Shore are from New Jersey; the beloved characters Angelina Pivarnick, Jenni “JWoww” Farley, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Pauly “DJ Pauly D” DelVecchio, Ronnie Ortiz-Magro and Vinny Guadagnino are all residents of other northeastern states. However, the prominence of New Jersey in the show forces the stereotypes to become exclusively associated with New Jersey.
The Real Housewives is emphasized by Bravo for ratings, and while many parts of New Jersey are upper middle class, not everyone is ostentatious about their wealth. Though three of the 21 counties in New Jersey are amongst the 25 richest in the nation, the affluence is to be expected: The state contains ideal suburbs of New York City and Philadelphia, as well as gorgeous beaches that have still not been infected by the “guido” lifestyle. And, as a resident of a wealthy New York City suburb, I can personally say that only a limited amount of the population have the audacity to flaunt their wealth.
The flame of New Jersey disgust is further fueled by the endless stupidity of the cast members of the shows themselves. In regards to her growing fame and infamy, Snooki retorts in a Rolling Stone article, “The only reason people talk negative is because they’re jealous. Every time they call me a midget, Oompa Loompa, orange, they’re just jealous. It makes me want to act more ridiculous and stupid.” As if more absurdity could result from a girl who is searching for a meaningful relationship from a “romantical juicehead”, Snooki’s denseness mirrors how the entire cast of Jersey Shore not only accept their label as idiotic “guidos” and “guidettes”, but embrace it. As evident by multiple seasons and countless press coverage, it is only expected that The Real Housewives and Jerseylicious are equally accepting of their skewed perception.
With support from New Jersey politicians and residents alike, it is agreed that the state of New Jersey should not be associated with the negative connotations in Jersey-focused reality television shows. Although they have undeniable entertainment value, these shows, as the case is with many reality shows, have no basis in reality. As “eloquently” stated by Snooki in regards to the success of her show, “You get addicted to it. It’s like a drug.” I am not suggesting that the population should stop watching the reality shows, as withdrawal symptoms are imminent. However, if the world can learn to separate New Jersey from its stereotypical counterparts, the reputation of the tainted state may one day be salvaged.
Francesca Toscano is a freshman IMC major who never forgets to GTL. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.