New Jersey and You: Branding Together

My home state has opened up to its public the opportunity to brand the state with a new motto, and you can imagine what fun is being had on that front. Of course, there are the predictable Bada Bing references and references to us being frustrated not-yet-ready to be New Yorkers and are therefore churlish thugs, from “New Jersey: It Always Smells Like This” to “New Jersey: You Got a Problem With That?”

But here’s the thing. How odd is it that we Garden Staters are about the biggest proponents of the unpleasant stereotyopes about our home? Especially when any of us who grew up there know that the images of the oil refineries off the Turnpike represent a small percentage of the actual geography, and that much of it is quite beautiful. The Delaware Watergap, The Pine Barrens, Cape May, Princeton, Sandy Hook, Island Beach State Park, much of the rural south part of the state, are all gorgeous. And much of the south half of the state is rural. Not to mention, NJ has in recent years done a lot to preserve farmland and maintain the character of its farming communities.

But we continue to make fun of our state. Sometimes, I think, without intending to. Like when Tom Kean was our governer and our slogan was “New Jersey and You: Perfect Together” and was accompanied by a pink and white plush mascot that looked not unlike a popular cold medicine at the time and was called the “Perfy.” Or when Christine Whitman was our governor and our slogan was the oh-so-ambiguous “New Jersey: What a Difference a State Makes,” thus leaving open the possibility that we meant, “there’s a reason you only pay tolls to get out of Jersey to the neighboring states, and not to get back in.”

And then, there are the very intentional barbs. Such as the song, “I’m from New Jersey” with classic lyrics such as

“There are girls from New Jersey, Who have that great big hair
They’re found in shopping malls, I will take you there”

And yet, I’m as guilty as any other Jerseyan of this self-mockery. I mean, I can’t but help hoping that they adopt the slogan choice “Most of Our Elected Officials Have Not Been Indicted.” Because, well, you gotta admit that’s damn funny.

Perhaps it’s something similar to what someone once told me about how Iceland was named such, even though it’s beautiful, to discourage other people from moving there, and Greenland name thus as something of a ruse. I mean, we are already the most densely populated state, and frankly, we don’t need no stinkin’ outlanders moving in and eating all the good pizza and taking space up on our excellent beaches.

Nevermind everything I just said. Everyone else, Jersey sucks. Don’t go there. Those of us who are from there can deal.