MTV’s Jersey Shore has concluded filming season four in Florence, and newspapers have been covered in headlines detailing how much the Italians hate their so-called “guido” and “guidette” American counterparts. They have been ridiculed for their usual antics, which are a cocktail of drinking, cursing, and wearing inappropriate clothing.
In the field of conflict studies, we believe that culture is the vehicle on which conflict rides. Culture does not cause conflict; it only intensifies it and is used as a scapegoat. For the cast of Jersey Shore, their culture and heritage is central to their identity. Being Italian, as they define it, dictates how they behave and relate to people.
But what happens when your ‘own’ culture does not welcome you, and even blatantly hates you? The cast has been banned from museums and refused restaurant seating. Their “Italian” attire of gold crosses, Italian horns, and the Italian flag has done nothing to help them assimilate or get along with the locals. Furthermore, their brazen lack of consideration for decorum raises the question of how, or if, one should conform to the local culture.
When low-cut shirts, mini-skirts, and rude behavior receive outcries from the Italian government similar to those from the French government about headscarves, I cannot help but wonder: what is the difference? They are both forms of expression (though one is of poor taste) that, for one reason or another, do not sit well with certain people.
The headscarf is a religious display or a political statement. But, if I was in an overtly Muslim country, I am not sure if I would cover myself. This is not to say that I would disrespect their traditions, but I am not Muslim nor do I cover my head on a daily basis.
So can the cast of Jersey Shore be allowed to express themselves as they want? Yes, but there is a balance between disregarding the people and the country one is visiting, and respectfully being oneself and maintaining one’s identity. Unfortunately for Americans, and Italian-Americans in particular, Jersey Shore has forsaken the latter for the former.