Tuesday, December 29, 2009

No One's Bitching about This Stereotype

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," leaping back into the saddle after a brief bout of flu-like symptoms! I'm glad that's over. On to business as usual!

There's a movie I like called "Lone Star," directed by John Sayles. In the movie, a white Army sergeant proposes to a black Army sergeant, and she accepts. When the guy's buddy says, "Is her family going to be cool with you being white?" The sergeant replies, "They're so glad to discover she's not a lesbian that they couldn't care less what color I am." To which the buddy responds, "It's always great to see one prejudice defeat another."

Back in 2003, the producers at CBS floated the idea of a reality t.v. show that would take some poor family from Appalachia and stick them in a Beverly Hills mansion, and film the results. This was to be a real-life "Beverly Hillbillies."

People from all over Appalachia protested. Some even traveled to New York to stage a rally in front of CBS headquarters. Congresspeople from most of the Appalachian states strongly encouraged CBS not to film such a show. CBS caved, and we were spared an ugly spectacle of stereotype.

Problem is, stereotype sells. Human beings like to feel superior to other human beings. Sucky but true, my friends.

You know how poor I am at linking, so at your leisure, Google "MTV Jersey Shore."

MTV has produced a reality t.v. show about a group of young Italian New Jersey-ites who are spending the summer in a beach house together, their antics being caught on camera. The show is a despicable display of disdain toward people of Italian ancestry who live in the Garden State. Not that these kids behave any differently than spoiled brats anywhere else in the country, but they take pride in being "Guidos" and "Guidettes." Their accents grate on the ear. Their clothing -- when they wear any -- is beyond tacky. They all have nicknames like "Snookie" and "The Situation." They're lazy party animals who run values deficits in the triple digits.

My daughters, both born and raised in New Jersey, absolutely love this show.

I watched some episodes of it with them the other day when I was sick. I tried to recall seeing people like this strolling the boardwalk at the Jersey Shore. Not that I spend a lot of time at the shore -- to me, the beach is best kept at a polite distance. But I do go there, and I'm observant. I can't remember ever seeing anyone like these people at the watering holes in my general vicinity.

Never mind that. The kids in Kansas who watch "Jersey Shore" will come to the conclusion that everyone in Jersey -- Heir and Spare included -- is a spoiled, self-indulgent, values-free Italian with an ugly accent. Obligingly, The Spare has begun to cultivate the accent and mannerisms for comedy routines.

The moral of this sermon is simple. Human nature includes the need to feel superior to certain other groups of people. Modern entertainment will go to great lengths to find these small ethnic groups and display them as if they are the norm. Apply this to praise and worship situations as you like, because there it's just the same.

Ask someone on the street to describe a Wiccan, and they'll probably say ... ugly old woman in black with a pointy hat who hoards cats and then kills them. Ask someone on the street to describe a person from New Jersey, and they'll probably say ... a brainless buff Italian with a bad accent and worse work ethic.

Oh well, at least it takes the heat off West Virginia.


yellowdoggranny said...

for some reason I just now noticed that I'm in a league of my own. I laughed out loud and spit hot tea on my screen...thank you very much.

ok...i watched about 6 minutes of the jersey shore and thought no one can possibly be that much of a stero type and switched channels..

Matt said...

I so enjoyed reading this post. Want to hear another one that people stereotype? medical conditions. I have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and am sick and tired of hearing people throw ADHD around as a casual label. In most cases people also don’t understand the conditions they are objectifying; I have heard people use schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder synonymously on multiple occasions. I could go on... and on... and on...

Anne Johnson said...

Matt, I should do a post on that. My poor daughter has a condition that is parodied all the time too.