Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Italian American Identity

The Italian-American identity is one full of both tragedy and triumph - the struggle of proud, religious, life-loving, (not to mention attractive) people stained by an unjust curse of criminality--invariably perpetuated today by crime writers, TV shows (both reality and fictional) and movies.

My dad Vincent, a very proud Italian American, banned The Sopranos from our home--rightfully so. We also never watched The Godfather, or Goodfellas.

Of course, curiosity eventually killed the proverbial gatto, and I snuck Tony, Carmella and the entire Corleone clan (yes--even Sophia) into my bedroom's cheap Target dvd player.

Sitting in my bedroom, full of guilt and fear of being caught by dad, I saw the appeal: the glamour and the family ties. The rules, passion, tragedy, and ruthlessness.  And the blood; all that blood. I understand that this combination is very...compelling.

What I still do not understand: why it is always Italian? Can't we write screenplays about some other race of people picking up the racketeering slack?  In reality, Italians are not dominating the American mob scene--although no one seems to believe otherwise.

Despite our successes in academia, government, entertainment and industry, one survey showed that 78% of teens and 74% of adults in America still identify Italians with blue-collar jobs or organized crime; the U.S. Justice Department says 67% are white collar workers and executives, and only .075% are mobsters.

Let's see this statistic again: .075!

And yet, the fascination with the Italian mafia lives on, and the Italian American identity continues to suffer. Last week, VH1 premiered Mob Wives--yet another show that indirectly perpetuates this stigma. A rep from UNICO National (an Italian-American interest group) said about the VH1 reality tv show, "we were mobsters and mafiosos with 'The Sopranos,' bimbos and buffoons with 'Jersey Shore,' and now we're back where we started. It's a disgrace."

I'll admit it, I saw the first episode of Mob Wives. Did you? Like most trash reality television, it was horribly, atrociously, appalling compelling. Although I was fascinated by the train-wreck lives these women are leading, I'm not going to let myself watch it again. I'm taking a stand--Vinnie Festino style--and staging a one-woman protest.  Join me, won't you?

The one part of Mob Wives that I am not ignoring is the fantastic theme song...sang, ironically enough, by a band called Rock Mafia.

Sidenote: do you know where the word Mafia comes from? Some sources say it is an acroynm coined during a time when Italy was at war with France: Morte Alla Francia Italia Anela! (Death to France, cries Italy!)


  1. Hey Dfest, Never watched & never will an episode of that trash "Soprano's". It bothers me the way they portray Italians. I am proud to be an Italian American! - A.Nancy

  2. I'm with you both (and Vinnie). I don't watch any of that trash. Italian Americans are unjustly stereotyped and I refuse to support any of it by watching those types of shows!I guess that makes me a proud Italian American too!! <3
    Auntie Angela