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HICKS: MTV’s assault alive in ‘Jersey’

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A message for Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi: I am not a hater.

I can see why you'd come to that conclusion after last week, when my comments about you and the show on which you appear, MTV's "Jersey Shore," made their way from Us Weekly online to countless entertainment Web sites, including the infamous PerezHilton.com.

But honestly, it's not personal, Snooki; it's strictly business.

If you're reading this and you're not sure what I'm talking about, congratulations. You've managed to avoid MTV's latest assault on Western civilization. But just in case you find yourself at a cocktail party and you run out of jokes about politicians, here's the lowdown:

"Jersey Shore" is the MTV reality show featuring eight Italian-American young adults who reside for one month in a summer home on — you guessed it — the Jersey Shore. By day, they're required to work in a T-shirt shop on the boardwalk; by night, they're free to roam the clubs, drink, "hook up" and generally pursue a hedonistic lifestyle. Lights, cameras, action.

MTV has been widely criticized for this program, especially by UNICO National and the National Italian American Foundation, for besmirching the image of Italian-Americans. The show's stars call themselves "Guidos" and "Guidettes" and generally promote every cultural stereotype of their shared ethnicity, from hair gel and "mommas boys" to steroid use and fake tans.

In fact, it's Snooki's advocacy of tanning that drew me into the "Jersey Shore" controversy. Appearing on "The Jay Leno Show," Snooki said her goal in life was to "change the world by installing a tanning bed into everybody's homes." Perhaps Snooki hasn't heard that tanning beds are known to cause cancer.

Us Weekly's online edition asked the Parents Television Council (PTC) for a response to Snooki's inane comment. As a member of PTC's advisory board, I offered the observation that "Jersey Shore" is just one more example of MTV's exploitation of young adults in an effort to chase ratings, while at the same time promoting dangerous, destructive, immoral and unhealthy behaviors like binge drinking, illegal drug use, promiscuous sex, foul language and now, it appears, excessive tanning.

The headlines read "Snooki blasted by TV watchdog group" but they should have read "MTV continues assault on America's youths."

Of course, MTV is not alone. As PTC thoroughly documents, the public airwaves are fraught with content that corrupts the hearts and souls of our youngest generation, most of which is easily accessible despite Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules that supposedly regulate the "family hour."

Sadly, trashy TV shows garner ratings and young children are in the audience. Worse, most of the parents I talk to don't know about the programs their kids watch.

Studies have long proved that television content promotes similar behavior in viewers. TV shows obviously are effective in establishing trends and fads that kids enthusiastically follow. The bottom line: Kids adopt the culture they see on TV.

This is why America's parents need to do a better job of sheltering kids from destructive content on TV. It would be nice if there were fewer shows that corrupted our children's innocence and taught them about things beyond their years, but we can't count on the FCC or our local broadcasters to do our job for us. It's up to us to be the filters through which our children absorb the culture.

I don't hate Snooki or any of the young adults on "Jersey Shore." In fact, I feel sorry for them. While they may think they've found fame and fortune on the Jersey Shore, the truth is they're being laughed at and ridiculed for their comical portrayal of a "subculture" of young adults. When their 15 minutes of fame are up and their fake tans fade away, their big break will be remembered as a big joke.

But it's not personal. It's strictly business.

&• Visit Marybeth Hicks at www.marybethhicks.com.

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