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Pardon State

June 13, 2011

With the Summer sun in the sky, and the spirit of Summer omnipresent in pop culture, it dawns on me that there is an interesting philosophical conundrum with New Jersey. Jersey is (almost) everybody’s favorite pariah state; it’s the perennial punch line, butt, and target of countless jokes, whether it’s inquiring the difference between its women and trash (i.e., trash gets picked up), reciting its state bird (i.e., the mosquito), or simply invoking the name Joey Buttafuoco.

Of course, New Jersey has also produced countless valued members of society, and gets a much worse rap than it deserves on average. Jersey unfortunately seems to be the metaphorical landfill it is in jokes because outsiders continue to pile on the garbage; it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. But therein lies the conundrum: it seems as though Jersians are constitutionally inclined to overcompensate for their perceived inferiority. They’ve taken so much crap, while having grown up relatively normal lives on average that they are bewildered by the excessive ragging. They vehemently defend their home state with pride, confident that outsiders “just wouldn’t understand” because “it’s a Jersey thing.” That bravado, in turn, creates more fodder for the Jersey jokes. Those who grew up in New Jersey that don’t have any such pride simply leave, and the remaining cohort becomes even more entrenched in their Jersey mindset. It’s progressed to a state of Napoleons, which in turn creates the perception that they are subject to their own Napoleon complex.

By contrast, New York is the insecure, self-effacing Woody Allen that deflects its own insecurities by highlighting some of the quirks of the New Jersian population. And because New York is a shining center of the media universe, New Jersey ends up getting a lot of light shone on these modest character flaws. Whether it’s the Cake Boss, the continued existence of Bon Jovi, Guidos and catcalls, overly tanned girls and their big hair, “Real Housewives,” “Jersey Shore,” “Jerseylicious,” or John Travolta, there is plenty to joke about. But who doesn’t grow up in an area with jocks or tacky people or bad music or reprehensible matriarchs. These are simply facets of the human condition, and New Jersey just happens to provide one local flavor of these phenomena.

Despite the fact that they are often DayGlo orange, they’re not aliens. But Bruce Springsteen, despite his messianic status, can’t quite deliver the gospel.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. fish permalink
    June 15, 2011 5:44 am

    i thought Buttafuoco was from Strong Island.

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