Indian Jersey Shore

30 Aug

Originally published at Brown Girl Magazine.

I am a fist-pumping, pouf-loving Jersey Shore fan.  I got into a “fight” over Twitter last week with my friend defending Snooki’s honor (after this New York Times article).  But after hearing about a “Asian” version of Jersey shore – filmed in Los Angeles’ Korea Town, tentatively titled “K-Town” and a possible Persian version, I wondered if my own ethnic group was worthy of its own television show, examining its eccentricities?

Could there be an Indian version of Jersey Shore?

We all know there are Indian strongholds in pretty much every major American city, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, etc.  Urban twenty-somethings with their own cliques, parties, and activities very similar to the subculture depicted on the Jersey Shore.  Even Indians born and raised in America live straddling both cultures and many choose traditionally Indian immigrant professions (entering medical school or the family business) and Indian culture (Indian food, music, and movies).

There has been much debate about whether the kids on Jersey Shore represent traditional Italian culture in the Northeast or whether the “guido” culture depicted on the show is offensive to Italian-Americans. Assuming the culture depicted in the show is accurate (I was born and raised in the suburban Midwest so I won’t pretend to have firsthand experience beyond True Life episodes), I see a lot of similarities between Indian and Italian culture in America.

The first season of Jersey Shore showed a visit from Vinny’s family, Vinny being arguably the sanest, smartest member of the cast.  His mother brought trays of food and cleaned the entire house.  Of his mother, Vinny said, “She cooks, then cleans, then eats by herself in the dark, a typical Italian mom.” How many times have we seen our mothers take care of our families in a similar way? Living close to home or with parents is often encouraged and Vinny announced on the reunion show he saw no reason to move out of his parent’s home.

As Joel Stein’s recent article on his hometown of Edison, NJ being taken over by “Guindians” as he called the Indians who resembled “guidos” with gelled hair and gold chains, a subculture of music and dance loving Indians already exists.

Reactions are mixed on the possible debut of “K-Town,” with a cast of young Asian-Americans. commenters were alternately proud of Asians moving beyond either a nerdy or hyper-sexualized stereotype in Western media and horrified that another ethnic group would subject themselves to the same ridicule heaped on the Jersey Shore crew.

So would an Indian Jersey Shore be a step backward?

Certainly the Jersey Shore cast has been the butt of jokes in the media for months.  The show’s breakout star, Nicole “Snooki” Pollizzi, was recently profiled in the New York Times Sunday Styles section, in a piece that characterized Snooki as an immature, unattractive child.  Late-night talk shows and even politicians have used the show as an example of the downfall of America’s youth.

I think a happy medium is possible between debauchery and Indian stereotypes.  Dev Patel, star of Slumdog Millionaire, recently lamented the lack of visibility of Asians in Hollywood. “Asian actors tend not to be sent Hollywood scripts that are substantial or challenging,” Patel told theDaily Mail. “I’m likely to be offered the roles of a terrorist, cab driver and smart geek.”

I think it’s good for the Indian community to gain visibility in popular media, warts and all.  At least it will prove we are not all terrorists, cab drivers, or geeks.

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