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An ongoing discussion about conservatism in New Jersey.
Christie Versus Alien Guidos, Tax Edition
Peter C. Hansen  (September 27, 2011, 11:37 am)

Word comes from the NY Times that Gov. Christie has blocked an otherwise approved tax credit for the next iteration of "Jersey Shore." In the delightful Jersey cut-to-the-chasery of State Senator Joseph F. Vitale (D, Middlesex Cty.), the cast is "just a bunch of deadwoods getting drunk and getting arrested."

Christie is letting tax credits go forward for other shows, like Law & Order, SVU. Christie, however, claimed a duty to prevent taxpayer from "footing a $420,000 bill for a project which does nothing more than perpetuate misconceptions about the state and its citizens." Christie blamed the "difficult fiscal climate" as a justification for holding that "the taxpayers of New Jersey should not be forced to subsidize projects such as ‘Jersey Shore.’"

One might perhaps argue that "Jersey Shore" is entitled to be judged by the same criteria as other shows. It is indeed interesting that Christie has imposed not so much a morals clause, but rather a penalty of lèse-majesté against New Jersey. At the same time, I suspect that many a NJ patriot's blood boils at seeing a horde of out-of-staters trash NJ before the world. (Seriously – I watched Jersey Shore at a private home in Nairobi, Kenya. It was rather hard to explain.)

If the cast were home-grown (only 2 of 9 are), that might be a different matter. Let's face it – Jersey has its share of guidos, and the State can make exuberant fun of itself. It is having outsiders do it that rankles. It's an ancient wound – not exactly a Balkan-level grudge, but irritating nonetheless. It's like going back to a high-school reunion and getting teased again by the class jerk. The fact that NY dregs wash up at certain spots of NJ's coastline is distasteful, but a fact of summer life. Having those NY dregs publicly misrepresent Jersey's highly diverse shore communities as a cesspool is just wrong.

Ergo, a bravo to Christie – if the TV company wants to treat NJ badly, NJ shouldn't pay for the privilege. What would be better is if the company relocated the cast to their more natural home – Staten Island. The cast could then perhaps take a drunken stroll off the island's 835 foot long pier. That should take at least an episode.

One last point, where I have to differ with the aforementioned Mr. Vitale. The senator voices a complaint that is pretty over the top. As the Times quotes him: "It's about the words, and words matter .... The words the cast members use to describe Italian-Americans, 'Guido' and others, are no different to me than words used to disparage other ethnic groups or races. It wouldn't be an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars to support that kind of language. That’s my beef with the show."

Nonsense. As I have written before, "guido" describes a personality type, not a nationality. (Cast member Angelina Pivarnick's family doesn't hail from the shores of fair Italia, for example, and Snooki is an adopted Chilean.) There is nothing genetic about guido-ism. It is most definitely a lifestyle choice, one easily avoided by reducing gym-tan-laundry time. While guido-ism may spring from certain working-class Italian-American cultural traits of decades ago, it is a bizarrely evolved lifestyle (hence the TV show). The epithet of "guido" just doesn't apply to most working-class Italians, and still less to Italians as a whole. No one would call Alan Alda a guido, for example. Most any Jerseyan could tell you that.

So, Senator Vitale, let's relax a bit on the wounded ethnic pride. NJ is not a PC locale, and "guido" is in any event not an anti-Italian slur. It is an anti-guido slur. A lot of Italians use it freely to disparage the dregs they see on TV. If guidos don't represent Italian-Americans, there is no reason for Italian-Americans to own the term.