Florence Is No Jersey Shore
Eurotrash Italophile snobs aghast over Season 4 of the MTV reality show Jersey Shore being set inside the pristine borders of teetotaling, sunscreen-loving, sexually Puritanical Italia need to get off their high horses.
Back when Season 1 aired, some reviewers of the show were appalled at the Italian-American stereotypes the Jersey clan supposedly perpetuated, including being muscular and energetic dancers (the guys), fashionable and flirty (the girls), and close-knit and family-oriented (the guys and girls). Heaven forfend everyday folks should associate such ghastly traits with Italian Americans.
That paragon of fine Italian cuisine, Domino’s Pizza, huffily yanked its advertising from the show over feared repercussions from its silver-palated customers.
Season 4 of Jersey Shore, which premiers tomorrow night, was set in Italy, because the cast members are Italian American and the show’s producers thought it would be fun to send them abroad to learn a bit of Italian and explore their roots.
Last week, The New York Times wailed that during their stay cast members had caused Florence residents “to despair that their elegant city had irrevocably become a party town,” and compared the housemates to the “hordes of drunken American junior-year-abroad students [who] have helped transform Florence into the backdrop of a 24/7 movida, or pub crawl.”
The Times admitted that during filming, Italy was caught up in the sex scandals of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was charged with “dalliances with under-age women and hosting wild parties at his villas… in a real spectacle far more grotesque than anything to spring forth from MTV’s almost quaint cultural imagination.” So it appears that guidos and guidettes don’t have a monopoly on bad behavior, and that libido doesn’t slow down for everyone over 30.
The Times quoted one souvenir shop owner who called critics of the show hypocrites: “Many people in Florence and in Italy have harshly criticized the city for letting the show film here… But they forget that we have similar shows on Italian television. What’s the difference between this show and Italy’s ‘Big Brother’ or ‘The Island of the Famous’?”
Lest we forget the disastrous economic fallout from the Jersey Shore invasion, Florentine tourism revenue supposedly doubled during the shooting of the fourth season, as eager throngs chased cast members all over the city and frequented establishments they had visited.
Then again, almost anything would give a jolt to Italy’s stagnant, moribund joke of an economy. (Hey—what’s a more damaging label these days: guidos or PIIGS?)
As one blogger sensibly noted, “The filming of this reality show in Florence mirrors the internationalization and evolving culture of Florence.”
The real source of all the stateside Jersey Shore angst is that American liberals are resentful of stoopid Amurricans who don’t want to live the enlightened, leisurely, contemplative, espresso-sipping, government-dependent lives of Europeans. Though liberals are always threatening to move to Europe or Canada to get away from the fascist, corporatist, workaholic U.S., somehow they never get around to packing their bags.
Here are a few things American liberals love about Old Europe and dearly wish they could force on us here: mandated six weeks’ vacation; mandated 35-hour workweeks; universal subpar health care; tiny useless militaries; a national sales tax; draconian limits on carbon dioxide emissions; cobblestone streets that discourage driving and force you to hoof it everywhere; an indolent café lifestyle free of tacky entrepreneurs and pesky businessmen; forgiving attitudes toward marital infidelity; and a millennia-long history they had no part in creating but can coast on and use to act superior to the rest of the world.
True, Firenze gave us the Italian Renaissance, the Medicis, Florence Cathedral, Ponte Vecchio, assorted palazzi, the Uffizi, and Leonardo. What have they given us in the last 500 years? Benito Mussolini? The European Social Forum? The House of Gucci?
I’m not comparing Renaissance Florence to present-day Jersey Shore. I’m comparing present-day Florence—or any Italian city—with any present-day major U.S. city.
Florence is a museum city in a museum country on a museum continent. Western Europe’s glory days are long gone, best viewed from behind velvet ropes in dusty antechambers from a distance of centuries.
The U.S., even with its recent economic woes, is vibrant and dynamic and forward-looking.
Which country’s population—Italy’s or the U.S.’s—is projected to decline 25% and which to grow 25% by 2050?
Jersey Shore star and eternal optimist Snooki’s self-declared hypothetical presidential platform, declared last season, is: “The economy would rise, everyone would be tan, and all of the radios would play house music.” Sounds a lot better than the European-style decline into impotent unexceptionalism our Socialist-in-Chief envisions for the country.