When Andre DiMino saw the promos for MTV's new reality show, "Jersey Shore," which promises to offer a peek into the lives of the "hottest, tannest, craziest Guidos," he said he was offended.
"MTV is using very pejorative terms, 'Guido' and 'Guidette,' to promote a program and as a corporation that is not correct," said DiMino, national president of New Jersey-based UNICO, which describes itself as the largest Italian-American service organization in the U.S. The series, which premieres Thursday at 10 p.m. ET/PT, focuses on a group of young Italian-American men and women living on the shore: "sometimes surprising, often hilarious and usually over-the-top personalities as they juggle work, love, nightlife, friendship and the drama that ensues" — behavior DiMino said is offensive and stereotype-promoting.
In light of DiMino's concerns about the show, MTV released a statement, which reads: " 'Jersey Shore' is a reality series that follows eight young adults spending their summer at the beach. The show continues MTV's history of documenting various subcultures, rites of passage of young people, and the ways they self-identify. The Italian-American cast takes pride in their ethnicity. We understand that this show is not intended for every audience and depicts just one aspect of youth culture."
Mike Sorrentio, 27, is one of the castmembers of the show, and the Staten Island, New York, native said he doesn't see anything objectionable in it.
"The show didn't even come out yet and people didn't just see a bunch of kids having fun," said Sorrentio, an assistant manager at a gym. "It's just how we have fun on the East Coast. I'm sure when Mr. DiMino was young he went to beach clubs in the summer."
Sorrentio said he doesn't see the stereotypes DiMino said the show purportedly depicts. "I just happen to be 100 percent Italian, I happen to be in very good shape and my hair happens to be spiky," he said of DiMino's objection to promos that promise to show young people who "keep their hair high, their muscles juiced and their fists pumping all summer long!"
"It's not necessarily a stereotype; it's just how it is," Sorrentio said. "In New York and New Jersey, that just happens to be the style." Sorrentio said his family has not objected to his participation in the show and are excited for the debut. "It's just watching a bunch of young kids interact with the cameras. Is there a dictionary definition of how Italian-Americans should be portrayed? I know I didn't hold back and I'm not too worried about what people think. When I look in the mirror, I feel good."
UNICO, which has raised objections in the past to other shows it said used stereotypes in depicting Italian-Americans, such as "The Sopranos" and "Growing Up Gotti," has called for "Jersey Shore" not to air.
"Since I came out with this, I've received hundreds of e-mails from Italian-Americans, and even people who are not Italian-American, some Jewish Americans, who are disgusted," said DiMino, who decried what he called decades of depictions of Italian-Americans as "either Mafiosos, buffoons, bimbos or bums" on TV and in movies. "No ethnic group should be treated this way. Just because these young people refer to each other this way [as 'Guidos'] doesn't make it proper."
Despite the protest, Sorrentio said he's not bothered by the controversy. "People like to point the finger," he said. "I had an awesome time on the show ... I had an awesome experience and I'm not really worried about anybody."
How do you feel about "Jersey Shore?" Are you offended by the terms "Guidos and Guidettes"? Tell us what you think below ...