First there was “Jersey Shore” on MTV and then “Mob Wives” on VH1.
Now another reality television series, set to debut on Monday, features a blend of both — and like its predecessors, it is drawing criticism that it stereotypes Italian-Americans.
“Bosses aren’t born, they’re ‘Made in Staten Island,’” MTV said in promotional materials for the show, “Made in Staten Island,” which the network described as “grittier and edgier” than its other reality shows.
“Made in Staten Island,” which tracks young adults trying to avoid mob lifestyles, has drawn the ire of city officials and thousands of people who signed an online petition calling for it to be canceled. The show perpetuates the notion that Staten Island is “a cesspool of gangsters, meatheads and low lives” and is premised on the idea that “kids from Staten Island all grow up surrounded by the mafia,” the petition said.
One of the show’s executive producers is Karen Gravano, a star of “Mob Wives” and the daughter of Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano, who was a hit man for John Gotti, the Gambino crime family boss, and later became a government informant. Ms. Gravano’s daughter Karina Seabrook, 19, is one of the stars of the show.
“A lot of us are faced with two options: the street life or the straight life,” says one of the show’s other stars, Christian Patterson, 20, in a preview. “Our crew was born in the streets, and now they’re looking for a way out.”
“They are stereotyping Italian-Americans on Staten Island as having a connection to criminal enterprises,” he continued. “If you named any other race, religion or creed, people would be upset about that.”
A preview of the show described Ms. Seabrook as a “Staten Island princess” and another character, Paulie Fusco, 19, as a “dramatic hotheaded hustler” who will ”never stop chasing the money.”
“You’ll never be able to leave the street. Even if you do, you’re never out,” MTV quoted Mr. Fusco as saying on social media.
Mr. Patterson, who narrates the preview, said people “just automatically look at me like a street guy but I got a good heart.”
There are scenes with adults talking about their pasts selling drugs and being incarcerated on Rikers Island. Another clip shows Mr. Patterson visiting his father in prison.
Other scenes show a brick that was thrown through someone’s car window and people engaged in a fight that is broken up by the police. There are plenty of bleeped obscenities in the five-minute clip and clichéd organized crime references, such as when Mr. Patterson says, “On Staten Island, we’re raised to believe that loyalty and respect mean everything.”
The online petition that seeks the show’s cancellation or for Staten Island to be removed from its title was signed by nearly 7,500 people as of Saturday afternoon. Ms. Gravano said she found the criticism to be premature considering that the show has yet to air.
“This show is anything but promoting crime,” she said on Saturday. “I’m not out here asking kids to commit crime to be on a reality show.”
“This age right now is where you can make wrong decisions that can affect the rest of your life forever or you can get on the right track,” she continued. “That’s kind of what we are zeroing in on. We are promoting kids to do better.”
One of Ms. Gravano’s most memorable scenes from “Mob Wives” is when she flipped a table and attacked another woman, grabbing her hair. While growing up she thought that “crime paid,” she said, and reaped the benefits, such as nice homes and expensive cars.
She said her father and Mr. Gotti were once praised. “It was cool to be a gangster,” Ms. Gravano said.
But Ms. Seabrook and her friends have seen the downside of that lifestyle.
“She grew up from a young age visiting family members in prison, and that’s why she’s so adamant about wanting to take a different direction,” Ms. Gravano said of her daughter and others on the show. “We are showing the raw reality of what messing your life up does.”