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C. LaFemme

I think that the concern over Italian-American stereotyping is very much a generational one. I am a 30-something, 100% It-Am woman who was raised in a bit of an Italian-American ghetto but now lives in an area with relatively few It-Ams, and I can confidently say that my ethnic heritage has never been any sort of a handicap for me in life. For my father, however, who was the son of Italian immigrants and who grew up in NYC in the 1930's-40's, that was absolutely not the case. He had to really had to fight very, very hard to avoid being put on the vocational track in high school instead of the college preparation track, even though it was obvious to all of this teachers that he was very well suited for the latter but not for the former. He was also very sensitive about the existence of the Mafia because he had had it thrown into his face for all of his life; there were any number of people who were quick to dismiss his accomplishments in life as due to mob connections rather than intelligence and hard work. I think he was also sensitive about the Mafia because he did know a number of prominent Italian-Americans who did have mob ties, so he knew that those suspicions were not necessarily baseless, although they were in his own case. I don't think the discrimination that he faced was the same as that faced by a Black or a Jew, but it was discrimination nonetheless, and it gave him a pretty good-sized chip that he carried around on his shoulder for his whole life. I think that the people in the It-Am organizations who protest the Sopranos are those of my dad's generation or the one after him; people my age, who have had different life experiences, tend to embrace the show.

That said, I myself am rather ambivalent about the show (of which I have only ever watched one episode.) On the one hand, it's obviously great television; on the other hand, it really is a bit tiresome that Italian-Americans are still so closely identified with the Mafia. Perhaps I am sensitive about this because I did know some real Mafiosi when I was growing up, and those men were really the scum of the earth. I had a friend whose father was a made man, and I was terrified of him (the father); I hated to look directly into his eyes, because they were completely dead. As you can imagine, he was a terrible man to have as a father, despite his family-man persona. Frankly, in this day and age, you don't go into the Mafia unless you are too stupid to do anything else or are a sociopath (or both). So I do wonder if portraying a mobster as someone even a bit complex is immoral or, at best, overly generous. But it doesn't matter enough to me to want to protest the show.

BTW, when I was growing up, a guido was a very specific sub-set of male Italian-Americans who exhibited a specific set of behaviors (hair, dress, speech, etc.). They were sort of an American perversion of the Italian urge to fare una bella figura, and were viewed with a mixture of fondness and scorn. Buttafuoco always struck me as a particularly inept guido.

Sorry this is so long, but I find the subject very interesting and was emboldened by the fact that no else has commented yet. I am feeling a bit sheepish that I delurked over a post about Italian-Americans and not one about feminism, though.

C. LaFemme

Yikes, my "generational" comment seems to dismiss the experiences of your grandfather and father, but only because I forgot to mention that I suspect the fact that your family came to American fairly early in the Italian immigrant wave and established yourself pretty quickly (college in the 1920's? wow!) made a difference in their experience of discrimination. I also suspect that other variations in experience are due to class, education, and where in Italy one's family came from. The part of my family who came from Northern Italy seems to have had a much easier time of it than the part that came from the South.

I will shut up now, really.

The Happy Feminist

No, I really appreciate it! I think you're right on point about the generational difference-- I am certain that my grandfather would not have taken kindly to "The Sopranos" and I think he was fairly upset by "The Godfather" movies as well.

And Buttafuoco most certainly did not cut una bella figura, even slightly, though perhaps not for want of trying!

The Happy Feminist

Oh, I wrote about my Italian side's immigration and assimilation here:

http://happyfeminist.typepad.com/happyfeminist/2006/01/so_laurens_post.html

(Sorry I've forgotten how to do a link but you can cut and paste this into your browser.)

They certainly had some advantages in terms of immigrating early (1901) and being Protestant.

C. LaFemme

Thanks for the link! I can't believe I missed that fascinating post. It sounds to me like your grandfather very shrewdly anticipated and then did everything he could to avoid the traps that his ethnicity might have set for him. He must have been an extraordinary man.

Your mention of "The Godfather" reminded me of how much of a rallying point the Godfather movies have been for Italian-Americans. The genius of Coppola was that he made the Mafia seem so appealing despite its evilness that it became a source of pride to Italian-Americans, rather than (or perhaps in addition to?) a source of shame. I don't think I've ever been to an Italian-American wedding that didn't play the theme from the Godfather--it's become a part of our culture, whether or not we really understand the implications of its being so. I sincerely doubt that the Mafia would have remained such an identifying characteristic of Italian-Americans without those movies, and of course the Sopranos wouldn't exist if they hadn't been made. That's actually another reason why I don't mind the Sopranos all that much; it seems like it is much more of an elaboration of Coppola's world than it is of the real Mafia. Although, confusingly, the real Mafia were very much influenced by the Godfather movies as well, so it's all a bit circular. It's really amazing how much of an effect art can sometimes have on the real world.

chipmunk

The concerns raised over the Sopranos are not new. The same arguments were made when the first Godfather movie was released. When televised for the first time, disclaimers ran at the end of every commercial. It's an old argument with no basis in reality. As with people from other hyphenated ethnic groups, Italian-Americans have risen to the top of society in all fields of endeavor, whether it's the arts, entertainment, sports, science, politics, etc. Hollywood has learned long ago that people like movies involving portrayals of criminals. It could be the old ganster movies, which portrayed white males of no particular ethnic background, the mafia movies, movies about chinese gangs, movies about black gangs, etc. They all sell. If it tells us anything, the criminal element crosses all ethnic lines. To make generalizations based on a movie, however, causes one to miss the larger picture of how individuals and groups actually behave in society.

Scott Lemieux

Actually, I've had proscuitto wrapped around a breadstick--pretty tasty, actually. :)

nmoney

I am a half italian american 25 year old girl from northern nj, around the same age as meadow, on the sopranos. i, too, never felt any discimination from anyone for being italain but i sure as hell have encountered stupid stereotypes. i went to a private, competitive college in manhattan and everyone, from diff. parts of the nation and world, had something to say about my ethnicity and being from new jersey. it was there, in the intellectual/artistic world that i really encountered it. one girl told me i was the first italian-american from jersey that she had ever met that she liked, meaning she found me cultured and not cheesy. it was kind of funny but not. the truth of the matter is that most italians are educated, cultured, professinals in my patch of bergen county so it's weird to hear someone say this. admittedly, i tend to like indie music and am also half south american and don't dress like the Sopranos but it is a very big part of my heritage. there is more to it than marinara and hot (or hot-tempered) guys and girls. furthermore, people have such opinions on what italians look like. we are all different! i happen to be a brown-eyed brunette but i am also tall and have no butt and have a bob and decidely non-flashy clothes, all things people consider not italian at all. people always think it's cool that i'm italian or theyll tell me to my face something entirely diff. my ex-bf's sister, who is my age, said she thought italian people were fat, ugly, hairy, and big-nosed!? it was funny but a. not true b. comp. racist. if someone said that about a black person, everyone would be up in arms but because it's about italians, it's funny. i have mixed feelings about it.

500gb externe festplatte

Why would anyone with intelligence involve themselves in behavior like this? Do they think so little of themselves that they half to settle for this? What's the payoff? Pity? Money? Success? What the hell do you label success? Being able to take a punch and remain standing? That's going to make you look soooo appealing..
Don't be another brick in the wall.


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