Does Jersey Stink?

So the Mythographer has recently moved to Jersey  City, New Jersey, from the bucolic reaches of upper Manhattan. I make this announcement with some measure of caution, though I’m excited for my new digs, because when you say “I live in Jersey,” especially to New Yorkers, you get a lot of scorn. Jersey is of course a land of myths, most of them more contemporary: The Sopranos, the lousy drivers, the turnpike, the toxic waste.  Generally, as a mythographer I have a thick skin when it comes to this kind of essentializing. After all, I’ve also lived in Queens.  But something about the way the lackey in my  building’s management office said “You’re going to be a Jersey girl now” when I handed in my keys and gave him my forwarding address made me want to protest: But, but, I grew up in Maine! I’m half WASP! I don’t own a car! Or a hairdryer! I blame my extra sensitivity on the MTV reality show Jersey Shore–about a bunch of kids who spend their drunken disorderly days on the beach, or the tanning salon. With the onslaught of their new season, the show seems to be talked about everywhere these days, including the New York Times.  Maybe it’s in that sweet spot between the “crappy show we all know is crappy” and the “so crappy it’s cool” category. New Jersey’s new Republican governor Chris Christie gave the phenomenon an inadvertent boost the other day when he declared on ABC that the show was “negative” for his state. His earnestness seemed somewhat endearing.  Then I realized that what he actually objected to was the show’s inauthenticity–those Jersey Shore kids are actually, wait for it, from New York. Heaven forbid! But there is a more earnest pro-Jersey contingent out there: a booster campaign called Jersey Doesn’t Stink, in which a local auto-insurance company markets “We Don’t Smell as Bad As You Think” bumper stickers, and offers easy “digital fight kits” for talking up the Garden State.  I don’t know whether to love or hate these people. Per the Mythographer’s mission statement–to look past whether the myth is “true” or “false” and discover why it exists to begin with–I’m not so hot on the publicity campaigns.  Why are we always dissing Jersey?  Best explanation I’ve heard so far is geographical: it’s right next to New York.  And New Yorkers need someone to feel superior to.  But I’m open to better suggestions.  Readers?



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