New Jersey Pride (Part 3 of 5): In an exclusive weeklong series, we examine the best and worst of the Garden State. Stereotypes and other factors influence how the outside world views New Jersey and its residents, but pride runs deep among those Jersey-born and raised.

jersey shore cast
Cast of MTV's "Jersey Shore" (Jason Merritt, Getty Images)

The portrayal of New Jersey in the media plays a major role in how outsiders look at the Garden State and the people who live in it.

Sadly, New Jersey is essentially the laughingstock of the U.S. when it comes to television programming. While Jersey residents would describe themselves as fun-loving, kind and cool, series such as "Boardwalk Empire," "Jersey Shore," and "The Sopranos" prompt out-of-staters to think of New Jerseyans as corrupt, thuggish and over-tanned.

Aram Sinnreich, a former media professor at Rutgers University, said New Jersey's sour image on the screen is the product of its diversity. The state's melting pot qualities have shaped the stereotypes that outsiders follow today.

"That kind of vibrancy and that diversity is the strength of New Jersey, but by the same token, I think it's part of what makes the rest of America look down on us sometimes," Sinnreich said. "It makes us come off a little threatening, and the way that people deal with that is by trying to look down on us."

According to Sinnreich, television is one of the primary ways that "America learns about itself," and part of the success of MTV's "Jersey Shore" was its ability to make Americans everywhere else feel better about themselves.

"The reason that it's called reality television is to compel us to believe in a certain vision of reality that's even more fictional than the fictional worlds presented on sitcoms and television dramas," he said.

A number of New Jersey residents in Part 2 of this series expressed their frustration with "Jersey Shore," based in Seaside Heights, and its one-dimensional glance at their state.

Not all is untrue, though. Sinnreich noted there are plenty of Snookis and Tony Sopranos in the state of New Jersey.

"But it has so much else as well, and it's incumbent on the media to present a more nuanced, more diversified representation of New Jersey if it wants to get us right," he said. "And if it doesn't do that, the only logical conclusion is that the media has a vested interest in only presenting one side of our state and not the rest of it."

In Part 4 of our series, a political expert details how Gov. Chris Christie's presidential run could hurt or help New Jersey's image.

Click below to view previous stories in our “New Jersey Pride” series:

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