Translating MTV’s Jersey Shore

Please Share:

MTV’s reality show “Jersey Shore” has joined the list of American cultural exports of questionable taste. The show, which follows the exploits of a group of over-tanned, over-muscled and under-dressed young Italian-American twenty-somethings, began showing in 30 other countries last month.

To promote the show, MTV has created a global ad campaign translated into several different languages. For example, in Latin America, the “Jersey Shore” lifestyle of “gym, tan, laundry” translates to “gimnasio, bronceado, lavandería.”

MTV believes that the show has the potential to be successful in other countries despite being called “the most appalling show of 2009” by American critics.  In order to appeal to a youthful overseas audience, the ad campaign emphasizes the key features of the lives of the show’s stars: working out, tanning, drinking and partying.

Sean Saylor, who is overseeing the international marketing campaign, explained to the New York Times:

“We found universal ideas, universal truths, and did a campaign that fits with everyone.”

“Universal truths” like “everyone loves to watch a train wreck,” perhaps?  MTV is counting on it…as the New York Times article points out, there is a lot of money to be made by exporting the show to other markets.

Currently, “Jersey Shore” is showing on MTV’s international channels, but the network is also planning to market it to third-party syndicators.

One thing that won’t be translated: “The Situation” (for those unfamiliar with the show, that’s what one of the main characters calls himself) will remain “The Situation” in Portugal, France, the Netherlands and other markets. If you think about it, that actually makes a certain amount of sense. If your nickname makes no sense in English, why bother translating it?