Sisterhood Blog

Why a JAP-y ‘Jersey Shore’ Makes Me So Nervous

By Elissa Strauss

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I think many of us saw this coming. Really, how many other cultural clichés could lend themselves as easily to the outrageousness and garishness displayed by the self-proclaimed “guidos” and “guidettes” on the MTV reality show “Jersey Shore”? The “Jewish American Princesses” just had to be next.

And now they are. Radar Online recently got their hands on a casting call for a “company looking for ‘Super Jappy’ groups of friends! Women ages 21–45 are able to apply for this reality show. … Gone are the days when being a JAP was a bad thing Jewish American Princesses are proud. … Think Jersey Shore meets Real Housewives of New Jersey – but classier. We want beautiful, fun, outspoken groups of Jewish American Women.”

The production company is searching for Long Island-based talent, and has not yet been picked up by a network. If the concept is sold, are we Jewish women ready for the Jewish Snookis and JWowws of the world to bring — just a guess — their designer purses, nasal voices, and elaborate and expensive, beauty rituals into the homes across America?

While I am more tolerant than some about playing around with cultural stereotypes (see my defense of the term “Coastie” used at Midwestern college campuses, here), I am wary of this potential show.

The reason I liked term Coastie was precisely because it is something that could be used instead of JAP. Coastie refers to origin, and to some degree, socioeconomics, making the differences more about geography, money and culture than religion. With JAP, the vulgarity and religion are one.

I don’t want to speak for the Italian-American community, and understand that a number of Italian-American groups took issue with the portrayals on “Jersey Shore.” But I do think it is safe to say that the guido stereotypes are less based in reality than those associated with the JAP. We all know that “Jersey Shore” is a bit forced, a bit artificial. For starters, some of them are not actually Italian, and only one is from New Jersey. Also much of their so-called “guidoness” was formed by MTV, and not in the communities where they come from.

The JAP show, I fear, will be a little more, well, accurate. And this is where we will have a problem. Of course, there are many more non-JAP-y Jewish women than there are JAP-y Jewish women But there are also lots of Jewish women who fall into the category of materialistic and entitled. (There are also more than a few non-Jewish women who fall under this category.) I grew up with them in Los Angeles, met them at college in the Midwest, and run into them here in New York. This is not to say they are necessarily bad people or one-dimensional. After all, many of those with the biggest diamond rings and the most demanding at restaurants are often also accomplished professionals, loyal friends and dedicated mothers. Still, they don’t exactly defy stereotypes.

I have never self-identified as a JAP — in fact, in high school and college I avoided wearing the color black and went vegan, placing virtue above Vuitton. But now, at age 30, I wear Prada, order steak frites, and am comfortable occasionally enjoying the finer things as brought to me by my above-average-earner father. I feel like I am not alone in just starting to think through the JAP identity. In some ways, we have just begun to consider it from within. And this includes the good parts — the big mouth, the female “pushiness” — as well as the more materialistic ones.

But a cartoonish version of the JAP, it just feels too soon.


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