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.
This film review of The Godfather, discusses its merits within its own time. Specifically the film was one of the highest grossing of its time which led to a resurgence of Hollywood film as there had been a great deal of foreign competition at the time. Francis Ford Coppola solidified himself as a Director despite only being a film student.
As a nearly three hour gangster film, Coppola’s reluctant project was not expected to be such a success, especially given its small budget, despite what we now know is a star packed cast, including Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, and Robert Duvall amongst others. In addition to grossing a great deal of money, the film won many Oscars, and was highly critically acclaimed.
Despite the gangster genre having been around for quite a while, The Godfather, as a film, and Coppola as a Director reinvented it. Though the film and characters are somewhat dark, the main characters are very well liked and become tragic heros. The crimes the commit are justified in some respect and the violence in this film, and many that would follow, was romanticized.
A mafia family story set in the 1940’s and 50’s, “The Godfather is an insightful sociological study of violence, power, honor and obligation, corruption, justice and crime in America.” The honorable Corleone family is an Italian-American immigrant family that is very tight knit. Don Corleone, for instance, believes strongly in family values despite what one would imagine a crime lord to value.There is a ten year span over which the film takes place and each of these is characterized by some form of family event or loss be it a death or a wedding. The Godfather, as a film, tracks the Corleone family through the death of the Don and the beginning of a new generation running the family “business.”
This encyclopedia entry on The Godfather first goes to show its universality amongst the film and popular culture worlds. It is simply defined first as a film adaptation about a mafia family which spans from 1945 to 1955, but was filmed in 1972. The entry then proceeds to be organized first by main characters and plotline, production, casting, critical acclaim, sequels, trivia, impact, quotes, games, and related works.
An extensive plot summary is provided, specifying all of the major characters, including Don Corleone and Michael, after the movie is described as one of the best ever filmed. The specifics regarding production reveal that due to speculation about the potential success of Francis Ford Coppola’s film, the small budget did not allow for production lighting, but this was ultimately a good thing as the lighting that was utilized gave the film a more realistic appearance.
There is a very short cast list, but it emphasizes how strongly Coppola felt about having Al Pacino play the part of Michael, given that he nearly quit in order to make it happen. Many other stars shot to fame as a result of this film as well. There is also a listing of awards that the film won, including Best Picture, Best Actor in a leading role, and Best Writing. The Godfather made record breaking revenues at the box office, and continues to earn through DVD sales, video game sales, and other such merchandizing tactics.
The remainder of the entry discusses the controversial video game, various quotes that became famous from the film, most specifically Don Vito’s line, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” There are also various tidbits of trivia information, regarding animal rights group protests concerning the horse head scene. But perhaps the most interesting of this trivia is how life began to imitate art in that actual mafia families began to imitate the forms of respect depicted in the movie, such as kissing the ring of the Godfather.
In defining crime, this article sites The Godfather as a film that not only was wildly successful in its own right, but one that also sparked a crime craze in terms of the manner in which violence was portrayed and consumed by the public. While it does not attempt to claim that this movie somehow created interest in crime, because this is something the article suggests if very innate to human beings, but rather questions how human beings justify their interest in violence and how definitions of crime vary between cultures. Finally, the article seeks to answer the question as to whether or not this film somehow changed beliefs about crime and violence.
In order to consider these questions, and prove The Godfather, both as a film and a novel, is representative of a new morality regarding crime, the authors proceed by comparing the structures of this film to the structures of novels and films in the past. The first aspect of the movie that is considered is the usage of the word “family,” specifically given its historical usage in Italian, which is symbolically used as a replacement for the mafia, or organized crime. The use of the word family as well as the parallel structures drawn from the Corleone family itself to that of the organized crime unit changes how one views the crime family, making it more complex that simply a group of gangsters out to commit crimes.
A second important factor in the view of crime put forth by The Godfather, is the way in which violence is romanticized and justified in the film. As the article suggests, we then understand Don Vito’s choices and become sympathetic to him as a character. As Michael understands him, we too accept his violence.
The article also discusses how a scientific and social approach to crimes had arisen, and places this as a third way in which beliefs about violence were changing. There was a movement, as depicted in this film, away from morals and religion, which were traditionally associated with crimes. Therefore, a new belief system had arisen along with new entertainment.