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Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Comments

Joshua

Be, io sono degli stati uniti ma abito in italia da ormai 4 anni. Apprezzo molto il tuo articulo ma devo dire che c'e anche un'altro stereotipo prevalente nella cultura americana..quello che sempre dimostra ai cittadini del sud come ignorante ed inferiore al resto del paese. SOno della North Carolina originalmente e ne sono orgoglioso di questo fatto. Invece Hollywoodci usa, come fanno con i italiani, come un segmento del popolo che sirve per riempere tutti "roles" di personaggi di basso valore. Basta vedere il film "8Mile" che in teoria sarebbe basato in Detroit. La mamma di Eminem , kim basinger, era una alcholista, non aveva lavoro ed abitava in un trailer...e che accento aveva, nonostante il fatto che e di Detroit...un accento del sud! be, come questo ci sono mille essempi diverse. Capisco perfettamente quello che senti quando vedi la stessa essata cosa soltanto indirizzato alla tua communita e non e giusto un corno! Ti desidero un buon giorno di ringrazimento!

Chris F

The reason why it's cool to stereoptype Italians (and drunken Irishmen) in pop culture? They're white Christian Americans. So it's totally politically correct to bash them. But I still feel a thousand times safer in a guido stronghold like Seaside than in Camden.

Tommy De Seno

Joshua,

You are absolutely right. Southerners are very often represented as unintelligent alcoholics. Great point. I didn't see 8 mile but I'm going to check it our for the reason you point out.

Goffredo

Joshua,

Il tuo italiano scritto e' ottimo, complimenti. A parte di qualche errore di spelling sei riuscito a scrivere un testo quasi perfetto.

When will east coast "Italians" understand that there are 2 cultures and that they are very different: Italian and Italian-American.

It has nothing to do with being Christian and white. Just look at the religious undertones in "The Godfather" as nearly all characters are involved in activities that are anything BUT Christian in nature.

Vatican City is home to the Catholic faith but in Italy VERY few people under age 40 go to church anymore..at all !

The Godfather = Italian-American

Chicken Parmesan = Italian-American

95 Camaro with personalized
license plate = Italian-American

Grabbing of genitalia when
making a point in a conversation = Italian-American

Meatballs = Italian-American

They are not stereotyping Italians; they are stereotyping the NJ/NY/CT Italian-American. Someone who has blended both cultures together and formed an entirely unique culture that is neither Italian nor American.

Italians don't eat meatballs or chicken parmesan. They don't wear black leather coats and whistle at girls as they walk down the street, shouting, "Ooohh...heeeyyyy signorina, I got yer salsicc' right here !" Unfortunately, I know many of those guys in real-life and Hollywood certainly is fond of that representation. It sells because for the most part we think it is endearing, loyal and harmless. (Tony Danza, John Travolta, Sylvester Stallone)

The Italians who arrived on the east coast in the early 20th century suffered incredible prejudice and discrimination by white "Americans". All you need is an afternoon to pull up some newspaper articles from this period and see the outright racist caricatures.

There are dozens of professors at east coast universities who have dedicated their careers to studying the Italian-American culture. They are professors who have spoken out against the representation of the Sopranos-type shows/movies as being the standard image of Italian-Americans.

Fosco

I called my cable company and told the customer service representative to remove Viacom-owned MTV from my account. MTV is airing a new Real World series entitled “Real World Jersey Shore.” The promo for the show has the narrator billing the cast as “Some of the hottest, tannest, craziest Guidos.” This stereotype of Italian-Americans, unfortunately, does not surprise me since I've seen this depiction many times. I'm sure you are familiar with what I mean: Italian-Americans as ignorant Mafioso types. MTV, however, shamelessly crossed the line with the term “Guido.” The name "Guido" has come to represent a negative stereotype of Italian people similar to the way ignorant people refer to Jewish people as "Hymies" and Irish people as "Mics." MTV proves that this type of bigotry still exists, but it also reaffirms my belief that I must continue to teach my children the wonderful qualities of their heritage. Oddly, I can understand how a company would believe that airing this type of show would not affect its reputation and financial well being. After all, it is so common to see Italian-Americans negatively portrayed by "Hollywood” and "Madison Avenue,” that our society doesn't think twice when we see garbage such as this. I do think that it is ironic that MTV tries to portray itself as the bastion of diversity, yet it allows an ethnic slur to introduce this series, which itself is rife with stereotypical, negative portrayals. Honestly, could you imagine if MTV introduced a series about Mexican-American teenagers with the tag line of “Some of the hottest, tannest, craziest Wetbacks.” That would be pretty repulsive, yes?

Equally repulsive is the statement from MTV defending the show: "The Italian-American cast takes pride in their ethnicity. We understand that this show is not intended for every audience and depicts just one aspect of youth culture." OK great, these kids are proud of their ethnic heritage. They are also teenagers who want to be on TV in the worst way. Does that give MTV the right to refer to them as “Guidos?” If you are familiar with MTV programming, you will recognize that it unabashedly takes advantage of the scientifically proven fact that the adolescent brain is not fully developed and prone to not making the best decisions. Manipulate these kids to somehow get some alcohol and sex into the show and you have a hit on your hands. This has been a very successful formula for MTV.

Goffredo

Fosco,

Brilliant analysis. I tip my hat.

Tommy De Seno

Did I just get a compliment from Goffredo?!?! I hear angels singing at this bi-partisan, handshake across the aisle moment! :-)

sal

Fosco,

I have a question -- that old commercial for Alka Seltzer. "'Attsa some-a spicy meataball!" -- do you find that a derogatory stereotype or was it endearing. As an Italian-American, I sometimes think all our problems started with this ad,even more than the Godfather, but then my friends say it was sweet. I am now on the fence. What is your opinion?

Troy

Since I tend to strongly agree with pretty much everything else you have to say, and appreciate that you say it, I hope you won’t be too bothered by this one opposing opinion, but I was a bit surprised to read this post. There are certainly many truths in your post, but the main complaint about ‘Jersey Shore’ just comes off as a bit oversensitive.

There is no doubt that shows like the ‘Sopranos’ and movies like ‘The Godfather’ depict Italian-Americans in stereotypical manner. But in the end, they’re just shows about a group of people who certainly exist – Italian-American mobsters. Can we really call such depictions “mythological stereotypes”? No one is arguing that the majority of Italian-Americans are in the mob, and no one can deny that several Italian-American mob families have existed. So, if that’s what the shows are about, is that really so bigoted? Maybe it’s just entertaining.

I will even concede that these fictional portrayals, though based on some reality, are deserving of disapproval from Italian-Americans. These shows certainly focus on a tiny (and negative) aspect of the history of Italians in America.

But shows like ‘Jersey Shore’ are different. This is a reality show – these people are real. How much can one really complain about a network gathering up a group of people and filming them, no matter how stupid the people or the concept? Although I’m sure that it will be awful programming, like most reality television, it is not stereotyping.

Stereotyping is what uneducated people do when they meet an Italian-American, or as you pointed out, act as a juror on a case concerning Italian-Americans.

Anyone who visits the Jersey Shore in the summer has probably seen their fair share of the kids portrayed on this show. These overly-tanned, tattooed, hair-gelled, muscle-bound young men are self-proclaimed “Guidos.” If that term is offensive to other Italian-Americans, take it up with the orange-skinned boys on the boardwalk.

Italian-Americans on the whole have assimilated into America. But a subculture of Italian-American youth exists and they have been coined as Guidos. Are non-Italian-Americans part of this subculture? Definitely – but it originated with Italian-Americans and they compose the majority (hence “Guido”). If one wanted to produce a reality show about the “gangsta” subculture, would you be surprised if those portrayed were black? Would that be stereotyping, or just probable? This wouldn’t imply that all black individuals wear big gold chains, sag their pants and idolize a criminal lifestyle, but many black youth do just that.

If someone is concerned about how television portrays Italian-Americans from New Jersey, they should probably take offense to such shows as ‘Real Housewives of New Jersey.’ This show doesn’t attempt to make women (including Italian-American women) from New Jersey look like course, shallow women, but it succeeds in doing just that. Sometimes real people can be more embarrassing than their counterparts on a fictional program. It doesn’t represent the majority of people, but it represents a real group.

Stereotypes may indeed impede assimilation, as you said. But at the same time, groups of people do it to themselves.

I agree that it is backwards to blame Don Imus and not point a finger at hip-hop music for the same crime. Is it okay for a black rapper to call black women “hos” but not okay for a white man to say it? No – both are wrong. While Don Imus must take responsibility for insensitive comments directed at a specific group of young girls, the black hip-hop community must realize it isolates the black community from the rest of America when it continues to use the N-word, for instance.

The very term “Italian-American” impedes assimilation. There is no problem with being proud of one’s heritage and ancestry. But at a certain point, outside of certain organizations/clubs and the like, Italian-Americans need to become just American. Not all groups who have immigrated to the colonies or the United States have clung so strongly to their background. I don’t encounter too many people who readily identify themselves as German-American or French-American. Even Irish-American’s seem to emerge mostly on St. Patrick’s day. If you’re an Italian in New Jersey, I hope you enjoy your visit. Otherwise, you’re American. So don’t take offense when a small group of American’s are isolated for the subculture they take part in just because they happen to have the same heritage as you. If the majority of the self-proclaimed Guido’s are of Italian descent, then that’s a fact, not a stereotype. And the real complaints should be directed towards them and their Italian-American parents.


By the way, Tesla invented the radio ;)

Bruno the Italian Dog, Vivisection Wing, Brown Medical School or c/o Dolomite Social Club, Providence RI

Personally, I have always enjoyed a gangster saga like The Godfather. They're like Westerns, but with manicott'! What could be bad about that?

Vinnie

Mr De Seno, I agree in part with Troy. Since each and every one of the soldiers, capos and bosses of the five LCN families are of Italian descent, this is a fact, not a stereotype and your complaints regarding the Godfather and Sopranos et al should be directed to them, not to Hollywood. Hollywood only goes where stories are.

I think a hard hitting, courageous online journalist like yourself should call out these criminals within the Italian-American community, suggest that they be shunned in their neighborhoods for their brazen criminality, the poor example you feel they set for youth, and for the shame that you feel they bring upon the Italian culture as a whole. Name names. You know who they are. You are rightly outraged and why should they not taste your wrath?


I will set my stop watch and await with great anticipation your broadside.

Goffredo

Troy,

Marconi DID invent the radio telegraph, not the radio as we know it. Tommy is spot-on.

Marconi was born in the area now known as Sasso Marconi, which is about 20 minutes southwest outside of Bologna. I'm from Gaggio Montano, further up the mountainside, almost directly on top of "La Linea Gotica".

Marconi preferred to speak in only one of two languages: the dialect of Latin that is still spoken today in that region (Bolognese dialect) or in English. He abhorred standard Italian.

His only defect was that he was close friends with Mussolini, most likely painting him as an outcast with his contemporaries given the political nature of Bologna and the surrounding rural areas. Those areas produced many Italian partisans who killed German occupiers and fellow Italians who belonged to a Fascist party.

Troy

Goffredo,

I thought my comment concerning Tesla might be disputed, but I wrong about the reason...

You are totally correct in your clarification. Somehow I totally missed the "telegraph" after the "radio" in the original post. My mistake!

I appreciate you bringing my attention to my oversight and for the additional information on Marconi - very interesting! Although now that I know he was friends with Mussolini, my preference for Tesla will only grow stronger! :)

Thanks.

Joe Di Maggio

This is a joke. You guys talking about the finer points of these these European Italian scientists. The subject is guidos, boys! You demonstrate the whole problem right here. No self esteem.

Goffredo

No self-esteem? What are you talking about?

Perhaps you haven't had your daily serving of spaghetti and meatballs, eggplant parmesan or lasagne buried in tasteless meat sauce.

Grab your leather jacket and your gold chains and call your mother.

If I had hair gel I'd throw it at you.

Sal

Interesting that De Seno, who deplores The Sopranos, knows the last name -- Moltisanti -- of one of the subsidiary characters.

Actually, it's not, it's kind of boring. Like this whole Italian-American anti-def thing.

Vincent and Ruth Di _______

When will it end? It was with an overwhelming feeling of despair and demoralization that we read that this very week Entertainment Weekly names The Sopranos, that abominable giambotta of Italian-American (as opposed to Italian) stereotyping, as the Number 2 greatest entertainment of the entire past decade, right behind Harry Potter at Number 1 and way head of "Lost" and even Beyonce!

Meanwhile, "Bigga Banga -- The Enrico Fermi Story" wasn't even mentioned.

Jim

"Grab your leather jacket and your gold chains and call your mother.

If I had hair gel I'd throw it at you."


Hilarious, Goffredo. I just laughed out loud in my office. Really good points on this thread. Normally I get annoyed with racism/sterotyping conversations because I think a lot of people in our society are preaching to the choir (meaning, real racists are becoming a smaller and smaller minority). But I've really appreciated the comments aimed at Hollywood, both toward their questionable motives, as well as their lack of originality and talent (400 Italian gangster movies since 1970!?!).

Good post, good comments.

Bruno the Italian Dog, Brown University Medical School or c/o Dolomite Social Club, Providence RI

Jim,

You're questioning the motives of Hollywood? Finally, an original thinker.

As far as talent goes, you and the other insulted and defamed Italian-Americans and their supporters (Al Sharpton, for example. That's right, hysterical isn't it? Look it up.) could set aside five minutes, take the pizza out of your mouths, and consider and/or discuss for once just why it is that these gangster sagas have such staying power, why they are beloved by audiences around the world, including the majority of Italian Americans. Is it possible you're missing something? Is it just about shooting and cursing? You can get that lots of other movies. It couldn't be that when these stories are well done, people for some reason feel a relevance to their own lives, their own family experience, their own immigrant story, could it? Nah.

By the way, let us never forget that the whole Italian-American anti-defamation movement was started by Joseph Columbo, head of the Columbo crime family, who was fatally wounded in a mob shooting at one of the Italian-American anti-defamation rallies!

Priceless. Clowns like you and De Seno do Hollywood's work for it.

Tommy De Seno

Hey Bruno the Italian Dog,

Al Jolson's black face routines were very popular. As was "Step n Fetchit, Two Dancin' Fools From Dixie." If popularity of a show makes stereotyping OK, are you going to lobby MTV for remakes of those shows?

If you wouldn't, I'm sure you see the double standard.

Remember too - this is just a "sticks and stones...names will never hurt me" when it comes to these Italian stereotypes. Go through my column again and contemplate what is happening to Italian Americas in Courtrooms because of the stereotype.

Please give great consideration to that case where the prosecution planted fake nicknames in quotes into the names of any defendant who had an Italian name, and stuck that right into the indictment to sway the jury.

That might not be so funny or entertaining if it were to happen to you or your mother, father, son or daughter.

Bruno the Italian Dog, Brown University Medical School or c/o Dolomite Social Club, Providence RI

You can chose to avoid addressing the two central points in my post by re-telling your tale of Italian-American martyrdom in American courts but it was a one time thing that happened how long ago? 20 years? Like the infamous conversation you snooped on in the diner? It was a miscarriage of justice to be sure but it's not news to anyone that there are racist, corrupt, venal and incompetent prosecutors. They prey on Italian-Americans and all Americans.

It has zero to do with the fact that the Italian-American anti-defamation movement was birthed by a Brooklyn Cosa Nostra boss nor does it respond to my challenge to you and" thinkers" of your ilk, i.e. the perpetual victim, that the Italian-American gangster saga might be, if you were seriously interested in knowledge-- which you aren't -- subjected to scholarly critical analysis to explore its enduring appeal to millions of people, including Italian Americans. To call these films a Neapolitan minstrel show is to only reveal your own ethnic self-loathing and self-denigration.

Here's another idea for use of Unico and other Italian-American pride group funds -- sponsor screenwriting fellowships for Italian American film students, creative writing students, whoever, with the stipulation that what they create depict "positive" aspects of Italian American life, family, history, culture, etc. and that they not touch upon organized crime. If these screenplays are entertaining, some wiil be produced. If Martin Scorcese could make "Mean Streets" some other young film maker can make "Nice Streets" or "Collegiatefellas" or "My Godfather Taught Algebra".

It won't happen. All you people want to do is wallow and complain. You're weak. You're self-pitying.

Tommy De Seno

Bruno the Dog,

The incident with the prosection in NJ was about 2 years ago.

I notice you won't use your real name, perhaps for fear of the stereotype insults it may bring your way, while you assert that the stereotyping of others are "no big deal."

Your point about the 5 families is useless. There are Russian families, Chinese families, and on and on in organize crime.

Why hollywood picks just he Italians to make over 400 feature films about is not worthy of academic study as you suggest becuase we have the answer - stereotyping Italians is simply acceptable, even though it shouldn't be.

Bruno the Italian Dog, Brown University Medical School or c/o Dolomite Social Club, Providence RI

Again you are either dishonest or dumb. Probably both. We're all well aware there are criminals in other ethnic groups. The whole point is -- why do the Italians fascinate in fiction more than the others? The fact that this question doesn't even interest you shows either your total lack of intellectual curiosity as a human being or your vested interest in remaining the injured party and flying the PC flag, something you disdain when others do it. Again, probably both.

What makes it "acceptable" to stereotype Italians? Nothing. You keep repeating this claim that it's easy. Madonn', you people bellyache about stereotyping like nobody in the nation. If the rest of the country doesn't give a shit, perhaps you should ask yourselves why. It might be because we Italian Americans are neither deserving of nor in need of pity.

Anyway, again no response to the hypocritical comedic jewel of the Italian American Anti-Defamation Organization being organized by organized crime in the 70's? You're missing out on a good joke. Not surprising. Remember that story Grandpa used to tell in your family about the suitcase that was mistakenly left on the dock back in Calabria? Well, not only were the vinegar peppers in there, the family sense of humor was left on the planks too.

I'm not the least bit concerned that members of my family might be given fake middle names by racist win-crazy prosecutors. I'm more concerned that my children think imbeciles and hypocrites like yourself represent Italian Americans as a whole.

About sponsoring young Italian American screenwriters: nothing there either, eh? As predicted.

One other pepperoni for you to to chew on -- Rudy Giuliani, one of our hero, cited by you as such, was an admirer of The Sopranos and in fact presented the show with awards when he was mayor of New York. Look it up. Then again, what would Rudolf Giuliani know about organized crime? And what would he have to say about how it's portrayed and whether it should be portrayed?

Here's the real joke and something you and the guys at Unico or Macaronico or whatever will never learn -- your gift to Hollywood. The bigger the stink you make , the more you help to draw viewers to the things that ruin your day. Ha, ha, and ha. These movies, these shows are NEVER going away. And HBO and Paramount thank you for assisting them in saving advertising and marketing dollars. That stuff is expensive!

So keep up the good work!

As far as my name goes, that IS my real name and I'm proud of it! Better to be an Italian dog than an Italian-American cur, howling at cartoons.

Bruno the Italian Dog, Brown University Medical School or c/o Dolomite Social Club, Providence RI

I take it back, calling you an imbecile. I apologize. What I should have said it that I'm worried that my children might think that sloppy thinkers and incurious plodders like yourself represent Italian Americans.

Goffredo

Brown University? There are some great original manuscripts of Vittorio Alfieri's correspondence, or attempted correspondence, with George Washington.

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