Last week I saw a dirty “denim designer diaper” on the sidewalk next to a parked BMW, which proves that people can buy anything they want in this world—except class.
There are few places where that statement is more frequently and dramatically proven to be accurate than right here in New Jersey, a state that typically ranks among the highest for income while maintaining a firm stranglehold on the amount of “reality television programs” per capita. Fact is the Garden State has long had a bit of a public relations problem, but lately the relentless barrage of off-putting unctuous imagery has reached a tipping point. If New Jersey’s politicians actually have the audacity to question the portrayal of our state in the media, you know it has to be pretty shady.
After much blustering, harrumphing and grandstanding from elected officials on both sides of the aisle, the State has decided to block a tax credit for the infamous MTV program “Jersey Shore.” State Senator Joseph F. Vitale, a Democrat from Middlesex County opposed the tax credit, stating, “The words the cast members use to describe Italian-Americans, ‘Guido’ and others, are no different to me than words used to disparage other ethnic groups or races. It wouldn’t be an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars to support that kind of language. That’s my beef with the show.”
Republican Governor Chris Christie eventually agreed, claiming he wanted to ensure that taxpayers were, “not footing a $420,000 bill for a project which does nothing more than perpetuate misconceptions about the state and its citizens.” In his statement to the Economic Development Authority, Governor Christie went on to say, “In this difficult fiscal climate, the taxpayers of New Jersey should not be forced to subsidize projects such as ‘Jersey Shore.’” Meanwhile, the taxpayer-funded multibillion-dollar megamall project, aptly named “American Dream,” lies rusting in the Meadowlands.
As a New Jersey Taxpayer, it’s easy to agree with the Governor’s rationale. But it’s those tax credits that entice production companies to film in this state in the first place—it’s not GIVING tax money to the productions; it’s alleviating fees that would otherwise be charged. There’s a difference in the sense that we’re not taking money out of a teacher’s pocket to pay Snooki, we’re simply cutting them a deal so that they’ll film here in the first place. That way we generate SOME tax revenue rather than none at all. Ask any New Jersey politician—current, former or recently paroled—cutting deals is how things get done.
To renege on that arrangement sets a bad precedent, in that the Governor could theoretically screen a New Jersey-based production and approve its tax credit based on content. And let’s face it—no one sets a story in New Jersey to talk about how nice it is…
Urban sprawl, ethnic stereotypes, swamps, stucco, oil refineries, nail polish, cannolis, capicola, Patron Café, Drakkar Noir, family gatherings, bar fights, family gatherings that end in bar fights—THIS is the “reality” circus the world craves. So screw it… let’s give it to ‘em.
There’s no sense blathering to the media about how New Jersey is a nice place. Vermont has conservatives, Texas has liberals, and New Jersey has decent human beings—but the other ones are just louder, which is why they end up on TV. New Jersey certainly has a unique product in its citizenry, so I say we milk it for all it’s worth before the Jersey Fatigue sets in. If exploited properly, New Jersey’s “lack of class” could potentially pump money into our classrooms.
Meanwhile our politicians are certainly being careful before giving US any tax breaks. Even with New Jersey property taxes among the highest in the nation, some classy misguided troll still has the spare cash to buy designer denim diapers—they’d hate to see what we’d waste our money on if we had even more of it.
Christopher M. Halleron, columnist/contributing editor for hMAG, has covered the world from Hoboken and beyond for well over a decade. Like a good Manhattan, he is stirred but never shaken. Follow him on Twitter @HALLERON.