The Godfather, a film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, released in 1972 is a story of an Italian American family, who has immigrated to America. It depicts the struggles in their family relationships as well as the brutality of organized crime.
Chapter three in the book Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Trilogy, is entitled, “The Representation of Ethnicity in The Godfather.” The chapter focuses on the Italian-American heritage of the Corleone family, as well as that of Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola, in the analysis of how this factored into the film as well as the novel to create a very different tale.
The chapter opens with a quotation that claims this film has changed the term “godfather” from a parental, guiding figure, to that of a ruthless Italian killer. Of course, when one actually considers the representation of Don Corleone, while he may in fact be a ruthless Italian killer, he still possess family values, and a deep sense of thoughtfulness. In many ways he still is a wise and guiding figure. Of course, the film does nothing to take away from the stereotypical image of all Italians being in the mafia.
What the chapter then seeks to discover is why, specifically, Italian criminals seem to be more attractive a topic than crime in general, although the author does not deny that violence certainly is intriguing to most people regardless of the ethnicity that is involved in a particular situation.
There is then a continued discussion about the representation of Italians in The Godfather as a specific type of Italian, and not simply Italians in general. These are specifically those, as depicted, that have strong and firm attachments to their Italian roots, heritage, culture, and traditions, but have had all of these values “corroded” by American values. It is then ultimately the fact that the characters are Italian-American wherein the trouble really begins.The chapter suggests that the image of Italians put forth here are simply what society chose to view or cared to see at the time, but there are within the story underlying, unread aspects of being Italian-American.
This article discusses the way in which Italian-Americans have been portrayed in film within the larger context of minority representation in media. It begins with a statement regarding the announcement made prior to the first showing on television of the first two Godfather films. The announcement essentially claimed that no particular ethnicity was being depicted despite the fact that the film was taking place (initially) in Sicily, the family is Sicilian, they all have Italian names, and they were speaking in Italian.
The general representation of Italians was simply that of criminals involved in organized crime through their families. The disclaimer could have been seen as trying to avoid the kind of media influence the film might have, or simply called attention to it. In either case, it becomes very clear how extensive the effects media can have on the mind and on the belief systems of people, especially regarding minorities.
Immigrant films began in the early 1900’s often focused around the symbolic Italian as the minority. “Colored” minorities were met with a very different representation than the mildly funny representations of white minorities, but eventually this changed, and the representations were not nearly as harmless as they had once been.
The crime genre started to get big around the Great Depression. Essentially, in their pursuit of the American Dream, Italian-Americans and Chinese Americans came to be the front runners in media representations.The American Dream then quickly became twisted into a search for power and money. Greed and deception, combined with crime and violence became a center for the stereotypes, particularly of Italian-Americans. It seemed as though everyone Italian had a tie to organized crime. Ultimately, who became known as victims, and who were the victimizers depended on the time during which they were being depicted.