Staten Island Ferry boat, which runs between lower Manhattan and Northern Staten Island, in New York Harbor. “Made In Staten Island,” a new reality show on MTV, depicts mob and street life in Staten Island, NY. INSAPPHOWETRUST/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS VIA CC BY SA 2.0

Over this past winter break, I devoted a lot of time to watching T.V. A lot of the shows I watched were new, including Netflix originals “You,” “Salt Fat Acid Heat” and “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened.” All of these I highly recommend, not just because they’re entertaining, but because viewers know directly from Netflix whether these shows are scripted or not.

In addition to these Netflix originals, I also watched a new reality show on MTV called “Made in Staten Island.” Simply put, it ruined my great streak of binging.

“Made In Staten Island” is a reality show produced by former “Mob Wives” star, Karen Gravano, starring eight young adults who reside in Staten Island, one of them being Gravano’s daughter, Karina Seabrook. Some cast members have a family history of being mob members or joining the “street life.” The street life is depicted as constantly getting into fights and legal trouble, selling drugs and getting arrested. If they don’t have mob ancestry, then the cast member themselves has been in some type of legal trouble or hangs out with a “street” friend.

I used to be obsessed with reality television in my younger years, from “The Bachelor” to “Jersey Shore” (okay, I still watch once in a while to have a good laugh) to “American Idol.” The only reason I decided to DVR “Made in Staten Island” was because it was about my hometown. When I saw the trailer when it first premiered in mid December, I completely hated it, and only gave it a chance (again) to make fun of it, but also hoped the trailer was super misleading.

Growing up in Staten Island, I was disgusted at how inaccurate the show represented my hometown. First off, the show states that all the cast members are from the South Shore of Staten Island. I’m from the North Shore, and no shots nor mention of this area was represented in the episodes aired so far. Also, based on all the cast members, the show gives the impression that all Staten Island youth is troubled, creating a bad name for the borough.

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The element that I can give some sympathy to is the “mob mentality” Staten Island gives off in the show. There has been a history of mobsters invading Staten Island that extends to today, which is stated in the show. In early January, Staten Island Live reported criminal acts from eight members of the Bonanno crime family, one of the known “five families” that spread across New York City.

Reality television has been investigated to possibly be scripted , even though the name says otherwise. In 2010, AV News claimed that the reality show House Hunters was not true reality television due to owners knowing which house they would pick already. There is currently no information on how scripted “Made in Staten Island” is, but from watching the show, the accents seem exaggerated and the idea young Staten Island residents having to choose the street life or otherwise.

In my 20 years living on Staten Island, I never had to choose whether or not to be in the streets. I don’t know if that makes me lucky, but I’ve never seen any gang-like activity on the island. I even have friends that live on the South Shore, where the cast is from, and have never seen any activity that at all reflects what is shown on the show.

Yes, the show was horrible. But the point is reality television that represents dating or a specific location does not accurately represent the area mentioned on the show. This can be obvious to some viewers, but a lot of young viewers can think the opposite. The New York Times reported in 2010 that most viewers for summer reality shows were in between the age group of 18-49, and 15 of 20 popular shows among young adult groups were reality shows. The Girl Scout Research Institute reported that 8 in 10 girls think reality television represents real life.

I started watching shows such as “Jersey Shore” and “The Bachelor” when I was in middle school, and thought it was cool to get blackout drunk on the beach and fall in love and have it broadcasted in the world. Twenty-year-old me feels different now, but younger me thought the Jersey Shore was meant for partying and drinking. Meanwhile, there are so many family-friendly areas such as museums and aquariums.  

The same goes for Staten Island. Despite the borough’s portrayal in pop culture, there are over 22 parks, new outlets being built by the ferry terminal and an entirely new complex at the mall including Dave and Buster’s and a new AMC movie theater.  

If you do watch “Made in Staten Island,” don’t be afraid to visit. There will not be girls getting arrested in front of you all the time or guys yelling at girls in parking lots.

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