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Exhibit A: Examples of Media Bias
 
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Exhibit A: Examples of Media Bias

Little Caesar See our sister site Stereotype This! for the informative "Hollywood Hype vs. Joe Truth" feature that provides short critiques of films illustrating bias and distortion.

For an antidote to all the anti-Italian bias, turn to the Stereotype This! feature called "The Few, The Proud, The Positive," a listing of noteworthy films that provide a balanced and factual depiction of Italians and Italian Americans.

Twice Charmed twist on Cinderella Publicist hype claimed that the musical “Twice Charmed” written in 2005 by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner and performed for vacationing families on the Disney Magic cruise ship, offers a new “twist” to the Cinderella story.

This hack product’s chief mutilation of the beloved children’s favorite, however, is merely its replacement of the good Fairy Godmother character with an evil and malicious fairy “Godfather” named “Franco Di Fortunato”.

Italians play no other roles in the story and there was no discernable reason to give this villain an Italic name…unless we consider the more sordid connotations of the term “Godfather”, which Zachary & Weiner obviously felt confident that even the kids in the audience would understand and appreciate.

Little Shop of Horrors In the hit musical (and film) "Little Shop of Horrors", also a popular production choice among high school drama troupes, one of the characters is a violent sadist who habitually threatens and beats his timid girlfriend. The character is gratuitously given the name Italic surname “Scrivello “by writer Howard Ashman.

There is no reference to organized crime (or even to Italians) in the plot. Ashman could have just as easily named this brute “Smith" or “Finklestein", since there was absolutely nothing essential to the story that required an Italian villain...other than, perhaps, “credibility” by providing audiences with the familiar associations they've been conditioned to accept.

Batman In the original, vintage comic book version, a youthful Bruce Wayne devotes his life to fighting crime as Batman after his parents are murdered by evil but ethnically-unidentified thugs.

But when Hollywood tells the legend in Batman Begins (2005), the mafia is suddenly responsible for the ruthless killings under orders of fictitious mob boss Carmine Falcone. We can assume nobody in the audience was left with doubts as to the cold-blooded villain’s ethnic background.

Nicky Deuce Sopranos star and so-called “author” Steve Schirripa had no problem finding a publisher for both his popular “Goomba Guide” and Nicky Deuce books.

“Nick Borelli”, the title character of latter series, aimed at teenage readers, is a clean-cut, all-American kid from the suburbs… until he’s introduced to his true ethnic heritage (ala Schirripa) by his Uncle Frankie from Brooklyn. The lessons include an introduction to the mob and assorted tactics in professional criminality.

Son of the Mob Crafted for middle school-aged readers, author Gordon Korman’s Son of the Mob tells the fictional story of student Vince Luca, son of a powerful mafia boss and the predictable problems he encounters when he tries to date the daughter of an FBI agent.

Introducing a whole, new generation of kids to traditional stereotypes, Korman makes sure that all of the characters on the right side of the law are naturally non-Italic.

Ellis Island Ellis Island by children’s author Catherine Reef became a classroom staple through the 1990s. Along with the port of entry’s history and the story of immigration, Ms. Reef provides her young readers with a roster of famous people who passed through the gates to become Americans. Curiously, or perhaps not, among the many nationalities who went on to become great scientists, statesmen, and movie stars, only one Italian makes her list…none other than mobster Lucky Luciano (also the only criminal in the bunch).

Cognizant of the importance of promoting positive self-images for children, Ms. Reed has also authored numerous books on African American history and achievements. Her apparent failure to connect the dots is not a failure at all, but perfectly in keeping with the logic of modern, liberal American intelligentsia.

Ugly Betty Sensitive to complaints that ethnic and racial minorities are poorly represented on prime time TV, the networks have recognized the need to celebrate America’s diversity with such shows as Ugly Betty (ABC). The show revolves around the struggles of the fictional Betty Suarez, an intelligent, educated, high principled, but unattractive Hispanic girl as she pursues a career in the fashion world.

Betty’s already difficult life is made all the more challenging by the vicious antics of her neighbor, a promiscuous and vulgar petty criminal who habitually steals both the possessions and the boyfriends of every woman she meets. Need you speculate on the cheap tramp’s ethnicity? Of course not! She’s “Gina Gambino”, the really bad girl (and only Italic character) of the show.

Everybody Hates Chris Not unlike Ugly Betty, the TV sitcom Everybody Hates Chris highlights the trials and tribulations of the title character, again a minority and this time an African American. Chris is a teenager who faces the highly precarious proposition of attending classes at the fictitious Corleone High School in what is described as a “largely Italian neighborhood”, and it isn’t long before poor Chris is being tormented by local Italic punk “ Joey Caruso”.

Despite the neighborhood’s supposedly pronounced demographics, violent young Joey is the show’s only identifiably Italic character. Fortunately for Chris, there are non-Italic and more tolerant kids at Corleone High whom he can befriend to help him through his daily challenges.

Double Dare Shows like Ugly Betty and Everybody Hates Chris might be dismissed as the products of hack writing. A plot with a working class urban setting screams for at least one Italic criminal or gum-chewing trollop, does it not?

But what are we to say when Italophobic slurs are not written in the script, but ad libbed by, let’s say, an emcee on a children’s’ game show? We’re to say “business as usual”.

Upon hearing a young contestant’s surname, Mark Summers, host of Nicklodeon’s popular kids’ game show Double Dare, once wittily remarked “Oh, you’re Italian. Do you know where Jimmy Hoffa’s buried?” As far as we’re aware, and supported by the fact that he hadn’t been fired on the spot, this was the only incidence Summers employed “ethnic humor” on his show. No black kids were ever humiliated by jocular references to welfare fraud; no Jewish youngsters ever faced a one liner about negotiating down the price. After all, as we are so often told, such stereotypes are harmful to the self esteem of (non-Italic) children

Miracle on 34th Street In the 1994 20th Century Fox remake of Miracle on 34th Street, and for no plausible reason, the devious, alcoholic sham Santa Claus character (whose ethnicity was left unidentified in the original version) is suddenly given the name " Tony Falacchi ".

There was absolutely no conceivable reason to recast this character as an Italian American, other than the fact that he was a bad guy and therefore more likely to satisfy audience expectations.

Dick Tracy Aware that his readers were mostly impressionable youngsters, Chester Gould, creator of the classic comic strip Dick Tracy, tried to avoid assigning ethnic identities to his villains.

Hollywood hacks are not troubled by such concerns. In the 1990 movie version the kingpin crook is an ugly, brutal, lecherous, hood named Big Boy Caprice.

Script writers Jim Cash and Jack Ebb clearly figured an Italic scumbag would make a more credible villain to modern viewers.

The Goonies During their quest to find a pirates’ buried treasure, a group of kids in Steven “Teach Tolerance” Spielberg’s 1985 children’s film The Goonies, find themselves in the clutches of a depraved rural family composed of an evil old crone and her three dimwitted sons.

Physically repulsive, violent, and unbelievably crude, the four characters are tailored by Spielberg to embody everything that would make his juvenile viewers recoil in their seats.

“Mr. Teach Tolerance” completes the depiction by giving the family, yes, the solidly Italic surname “Fratelli”. Typically, there was nothing whatsoever in the plot that required an Italian connection. In fact, given the backwoods rural setting, filling the script with Italic villains would even seem downright implausible. We can only guess that words “depraved” and “Italian” are in the same paragraph in Spielberg’s thesaurus. Spielberg’s studio, by the way, also gave us Shark Tale.

Mafia With mob mania pervading American pop culture for decades, mafia themed video games could only be inevitable.

Kids can pick and chose from multiple titles in any electronic entertainment store across the country. In “Mafia”, players take on the role of fictitious Italic mobster Tommy Angelo and negotiate their way through such skillful maneuvers as beating a rival’s brains out with a baseball bat.

MafiaLife Kids can also participate in a plethora of “Virtual” Mafia games on the Internet. Typically, players declare loyalty to the “Family” of their choice and vie for control of the streets…the “Families”, of course, always have fictitious…and often improbable…Italic names (“Gomezabino”???)
Mob Hits Even Italy’s incomparable musical heritage is subject to the basest defilement by the American entertainment industry. The first edition of Mob Hits, a collection of Italian songs marketed as “mafia music” was so successful that it spawned a procession of sequels, including, perversely, a Christmas edition!
Shark Tale Despite the objections of virtually every major Italian American organization in the country, the Italian American mafia sharks in the DreamWorks computer-animated film Shark Tale were presented to millions of children on both the movie screen and in the classroom (Scholastic Books rushed a book version into their catalog of suggested reading material for young students).

During production, its creator Jeffrey Katzenberg crowed that Shark Tale would be an amalgam of "...everything from The Untouchables to Some Like It Hot to all three Godfather films."

DreamWorks, of course, is the production company of Steven “Teach Tolerance” Spielberg.

Goodfeathers Among the assorted characters of the long running Animaniacs cartoon series (another Spielberg creation) are the “Goodfeathers”…Italian mobsters in pigeon form.
Fat Tony The character “Fat Tony”, a violent mobster, is a regular on the Simpsons cartoon series. The show’s writers never fail to stress the Italian ancestry of Tony and his assorted henchmen.

Apologists point out that the "no holds barred" nature of the show makes room for satirical depictions of several racial or ethnic groups. Their argument is weakened by the fact that the show's writers take obvious pains to avoid heavy handed characterizations of all groups but Italian Americans. The several African American characters that are featured, for instance, are racially distinguished only by skin color and not by speech or stereotypical behavior.

Another character, a decadent clown, is depicted Jewish, while a convenience store owner is depicted as Pakistani. Yet virtually all are unaccompanied by dialogue or mannerisms which evoke the crudely negative (criminality and violence) stereotypes as those heaped on Fat Tony and his gang, proving that the writers of the show are not nearly as bold and daring as they'd like us to believe.

Jersey Shore MTV group photo Originally titled "Guido", this 2009 "reality show" changed its name to "Jersey Shore" once UNICO, a national Italian American organization, began making media protests; however, this minor concession didn't stop MTV from further aggrandizement. The station--and their self-deluded "stars"--rode the show's anti-Italian subtext (buffoons/low-lives) into a wave of temporary high ratings and numerous personal appearances.

As with "The Sopranos," people who love the show claim to recognize that "it's not really about Italians" or that they "don't believe all Italian Americans are like that." Yet the ubiquitous and mean-spirited spoofs of "Jersey Shore," whether on Chelsea Lately or on Craig Ferguson's TV talk show, clearly identify the characters as "typical" Italians.

Imagine a similar "reality show" about Jewish American kids behaving badly during their summer retreats in the Catskills, or of gay men partying in nightclubs and in bathhouses. You'll actually have to imagine it, of course, because no such shows would ever be allowed to air. What is "poor taste" or "promoting stereotypes" for everyone else is "fun" for Italians.

Boardwalk Empire To some Italian American activists, the cast of characters and storyline of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire offered relief and even cause for celebration. Not because of an absence of Italian mobsters in this Prohibition Era melodrama…the show has plenty of them. The “good news”, pitifully enough, is that the series doesn’t restrict criminality and corruption to Italians. Thugs, crooks, and assorted shady characters of other ethnicities, mostly Irish and Jewish, are also prominently shown. So in this instance, at least, the usual “All the bad guys are Italian, therefore all Italians are bad guys” deduction cannot be applied. Hooray! Right?

Well, not exactly, since in this series, the WORST of all of the bad guys are Italian.

Of all the characters weaving their way in and out of each episode, none are as violent and brutal. The evil deeds of everyone else are at least tempered by occasional demonstrations of human decency.

Corrupt Irish political bosses, for instance, are sharply contrasted by the insightful and moral behavior of Irishwoman Margaret Schroeder (Kelly MacDonald) who proudly makes unchallenged references to the enlightened superiority of her native land.

The actions of James Darmody (Michael Pitt),a young Irish veteran wavering between honesty and a life of violent crime, are more often guided by an obvious sense of justice and decency. It takes Darmody’s superior Irish intelligence, by the way, to figure out that the uncommunicative behavior of Al Capone’s son is not due to mental retardation as the famous mobster has concluded (mean-spirited Capone is heard dismissing the boy as a “little dummy” as he kicks him aside), but actually to the child’s deafness.

While Arnold Rothstein is coldblooded and calculating, he is at the same time smooth, polished, well dressed, and coolly sophisticated, continually correcting the poor, obscenity laced grammar (and reining in the hot headed behavior) of his Italian protégé Lucky Luciano. On the other hand, every other word out of the mouth of Johnny Torio, Rothstein’s Italian counterpart, is a crude expletive. The show’s other Italian characters, the fictional D’Allesio Brothers, are almost subhuman in their primitively reactive behavior, low intelligence, and unlimited propensity for violent criminality. And they’re the show’s star racists to boot, literally lynching rival African American bootleggers, who they (and only they) call “niggers” and “coons”.

That a show like this is cause for celebration among Italian American anti-defamation activists only demonstrates how painfully and pitifully low our expectations have dropped.

UPDATE: Not content to leave well enough alone, the writer for "Boardwalk Empire," Terence Winter, futher underscored the brutality of Italian American thugs on the show by introducing a completely fictitious character during the late 2012 season: Gyp Rosetti, played by the Italian/Cuban actor Bobby Cannevale. A former writer for another HBO mob show, "The Sopranos," Winter makes no secret of his contempt for Italian Americans, even admitting in an interview on Slate.com that he invented the psychotic Rosetti in order to "symbolize" the truly depraved nature of some Prohibition-era gangsters.

But Prohibition-era gangsters were of many different ethnic and religious backgrounds, a point which "Boardwalk Empire" proudly trumpets via its fidelity in referencing real-life thugs of the period. That hollow pride, however, is exposed by the creation of Rosetti who, unlike the other Italic gangsters on the show, has no basis in reality (and even the real ones, like Al Capone and Johnny Torrio, are likewise portrayed as brutal, over-the-top Neanderthals). Winter's creativity isn't creativity at all, merely a well-worn form of bigotry.


The Playboy Club NBC Series The new NBC series "The Playboy Club," an homage to magazine mogul Hugh Hefner's legendary Chicago watering hole, features a fictional lawyer (Eddie Cibrian) trying to cut his ties to a ruthless (and fictional) Italian American gang "family" named Bianchi. Naturally, given the Italian surname, it doesn't take long before a thug tries to rape one of the Bunny waitresses. This modern damsel-in-distress uses one of her stiletto heels to defend herself against the ugly attack.

In his autobiography, Hefner states that a lone Chicago Outfit gambler, Marshall Caifano, did approach him about being a potential investor in the club but that he and his associates flatly turned Caifano down. Hefner went on to live a long, healthy, financially successful life, giving lie to the show's portrayal of Italian criminals as being innately sociopathic.


Strauss-Khan Franco Nero The 2011 season premiere episode of "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" features a character based on Dominique Strauss-Kahn, left, the French politician and managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In early 2011, Strauss-Kahn dominated the international headlines when a hotel maid in New York accused him of raping her.

On "Law and Order," however, the very French Strauss-Kahn suddenly metamorphosed into an Italian diplomat, played by veteran Italian actor Franco Nero, right. Italy's former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, may love the ladies a little bit too much but he has never, ever been accused--even remotely-- of using physical violence against them. Ever.

The writers of "Law and Order," like the writers of "The Playboy Club" (see above), clearly view the Italian male as the lowest form of humanity, a modern-day Neanderthal. Once again, anti-Italian prejudice is passed off as "entertainment."


CBS' Person of Interest In CBS's new crime drama "Person of Interest," a computer genius (Jim Caviezal) often has to rely on a corrupt and incompetent Italian American detective named Fusco for assistance in solving crimes. And in a recent episode, viewers were subjected to a classic--but oh, so predictable--"bait-and-switch": the killing of Russian mobsters in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, was eventually traced to a mild-mannered school-teacher named Elias---real name: Moretti. As it turns out, Elias/Moretti is the son of a New York crime boss whose taking down of Russian mobsters is meant to restore the "Five Families" to their former pre-eminence as America's most powerful scumbags.

The casual viewer, tossing aside his or her remote, goes to bed yet again with the comforting image of Italian culture as intrinsically evil. What he or she barely considers, however, is that this recent episode of "Person Without Interest" manages to smudge together--and taint--achievements of Italian Americans both in teaching and in law enforcement. For example, principal Leonard Covello founded one of the first multi-cultural high schools in the U.S, and professor Anna Anastasi discovered biases against minority students in national standardized testing. And two of America's greatest police officers were Italian Americans: Lt. Joe Petrosino, the only U.S. police officer to die overseas while on duty (turn-of-the-century) and Frank Serpico, who exposed widespread racism and corruption in the New York City Police Department (the 1970s). But hey, it's only a TV show, right?


The Mob Doctor A heroic female (and non-Italian) doctor at a Chicago hospital, Grace Devlin (Jordana Spiro), finds her integrity compromised via an unsavory part-time job---doing surgery and other favors for brutal mobsters, as a way of working off her brother's debts to them. Aside from its idiotic premise, "Mob Doctor" actually distorts, and renders invisible, the historic achievements of many Italian American doctors in our nation.

Via the Windy City: Dr. Antonio Ligorio founded the Pasteur Institute in Chicago in 1890; Dr. Italo Frederick Volini headed the School of Medicine at Loyola University from 1929 until his death in 1950; and Dr. Leonard Cerullo founded the nationally recognized Chicago Institute for Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch in the 1980s. Chicago also boasts Dr. Joe Amato, one of the top heart surgeons in the nation, as well as a born-in-Chicago doctor with a Hollywood pedigree: Dr. Gary Annunziata, personal physician to the late, legendary performer Bob Hope, who lived well over 100 years old. (Talk about good medicine!) .

Nationally, Dr. Marianne Bertola, an early feminist, helped victims of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Dr. Henry Viscardi advocated for people with disabilities for decades, working with every president from FDR to Bill Clinton. And the doctor who saved President Reagan's life after his 1981 assassination attempt was Dr. Joe Giordano.


Vegas "Vegas": The media can no longer stereotype WASPs as outlaws or Native Americans as savages so now they do the next best thing: they substitute Italic villains. Dennis Quaid stars as the real-life lawman Ralph Lamb, a horse-riding cowboy credited with cleaning up crime in 1960s and 1970s Las Vegas. His nemesis on the show, naturally, is a ficitonal mobster named Vincent Savino (Michael Chilkis), allegedly based on Marshall Caifano and other Italic gamblers and thugs who once roamed Sin City.

In real-life, however, Lamb's only real "run-in" with a mobster was with Johnny Roselli, whom he publicly pushed around in a casino in the early 1960s. That is all. And Lamb's show of force was enough to make Italic low-lives keep their distance and remain in the shadows. They didn't tangle with Lamb via the simplistic good vs. evil concept of the show.

Two other points about "Vegas": 1) Gambling kings/mobsters of other ethnic backgrounds are significantly omitted, leaving viewers with the notion that "the mafia" built and controlled the entire city (note: "the mafia" is actually a terrorist group in Sicily, but the American media has long co-opted that term to mean "anyone with an Italian surname"); 2) the show was conceived by writer Nick "Casino and Goodfellas" Pileggi, yet another Italian American writer raking in tons of pelf at the expense of Italic culture.

The late writer Nora Ephron was Pileggi's wife---she considered "marrying an Italian" one of the best things that ever happened to her. Sadly, the love which Pileggi showered on Ms. Ephron is nowhere to be seen when it comes to members of his own ethnic community.


Nicky Deuce Steve Schirripa, a former bit player on HBO's "The Sopranos" and author of two tasteless books promoting Italian-slob stereotypes, has created a new childrens' show for NICKELODEON called "Nicky Deuce." The show is about Nicky Borrelli, a twelve-year-old, all-American kid from the suburbs who visits his relatives in Brooklyn one summer and learns what being "Italian" is really all about (mob movies, petty theft, etc.).

Continuing the assault on Italian American (and other) children via 2004's animated cartoon "Shark Tale," Schirripa's program will also feature many of his fellow cast members from "The Sopranos" to add authenticity to his vision. "Nicky Deuce" is the television equivalent of dirty old men in trench coats hanging around a school yard, and clearly would not be tolerated if it featured gross, negative stereotypes of any other racial or religious group.


Gary Sinise A recent episode of "CSI: New York" called "In Vino Veritas" has a scene in which a detective, before he opens a bottle of French wine, utter the words, "As the Italians say, in order to live a little, you have to cheat a little." Puzzled by this expression, which has no basis in fact in the Italian, or even English, language, our Institute contacted the producer and writer of the show for clarification. We have yet to receive a response.

Sadly, the star of "CSI: New York" is himself an Italian American: Gary Sinise, founder of Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater and an Oscar nominee for "Forrest Gump." Our efforts to reach both Sinise and his p.r. rep are on-going

When "CSI" was being cast back in 2000, Sinise's character was originally named "Carlucci," prompting Sinise to remark that he "doesn't feel like a Carlucci." He then changed his character's name to the more Anglo (and less "negative"?) Mac Taylor.

Never mind that Frank Carlucci served as President Ronald Reagan's Defense Secretary in the 1980s, or that 1950s jazz pianist Joe Carlucci (aka Joe Carter) wowed 1950s audiences with his talents. Sinise, like many other actors of Italic background, has obviously internalized the media's message that being Italian is something to either be embarrassed about, ashamed of, or unworthy of being taken seriously.

We can only hope that he begins to borrow a page from his fellow Chicago actor Joe Mantegna, who, as of late, has actively pursued playing Italian surnamed characters who radiate dignity and integrity---in short, positive, regular Americans, which is what we are.


Mike and Molly CBS show On a May 13th, 2013 episode of CBS's sitcom "Mike and Molly," one of the supporting characters, Vince (played by Louis Mostillo), trades insults with a farmer, the latter of whom gets in the last--and winning--word: "wop." When we approached CBS about having the offensive word removed, so that it wouldn't be rebroadcast for future viewings, we were told (again, as we also were told about the "cheating Italians" comment in another CBS show, "CSI"), that our concerns were duly relayed to the writers.

If the character on "Mike and Molly" had used "spic," "nigger," "chink," or "kike," we're fairly certain the offensive word would have been deleted ASAP (and rightly so). Once more, the media's double standard is laid bare.


Elementary On "Elementary," an updated version of the Sherlock Holmes story starring Johnny Lee Miller as Holmes and Chinese American actress Lucy Liu as Watson, a recent episode featured a New York contractor named Pistone who turned out to be a murderer and blackmailer. The 1996 film "Donnie Brasco" also featured a character named Pistone: Joe Pistone, an undercover FBI agent who brought down a nefarious New York criminal gang, putting his own life on the line to do so.

With depressing regularity, the media once again refuses to recognize the real-life heroism of Italian Americans in law enforcement, choosing to reinforce the pernicious perception that people with Italian surnames are innately criminal and/or scummy.


Sons of Anarchy The cable series "Sons of Anarchy" features the exploits of a California motorcycle gang as they fight, fornicate, free-base, and free associate with a variety of similar scuzzy gangs, among them the Italian American "Cucuzza" family, which sells guns to the bikers.

To the show's credit, the white-trash motorcycle outlaws also cross paths with Hispanic, Asian, and African American criminal gangs. They even do business with an American off-shoot of the IRA! (Irish Republican Army). But the addition of the "Cucuzza" family---the word is Italian for "Squash"---sounds more fictional, and comical, than real, especially when you notice the name of an Italian American writer-producer in the cast of credits. No doubt, he probably felt that he needed to pay "homage" to the low-lives in his community, too. Such is the twisted logic of TV hacks.


Chazz Palminteri On a January 22nd, 2014 episode of the show, "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit," the rape of a young runaway is eventually traced (naturally) to a pair of Italian American sleazes: a strip club owner named Cannavaro (Chazz "Bronx Tale" Palminteri) and a corrupt Hudson County district attorney named Mascioni. In addition to exploiting young women, Cannavaro and Mascioni also (naturally) blackmail prominent non-Italian judges who frequent their strip clubs. To underscore the characters' ethnicity, a Hispanic cop, when grilling Palminteri, even mispronounces the word "omerta'" (the alleged shroud of secrecy which envelopes Italian criminals, though pretty much every criminal group in the history of the world never encouraged snitching).

In real life, the great majority of sex trafficking cases in the U.S. flow out of Asia and Eastern Europe. But television reality is often distorted in "Law and Order: SVU," thanks to producer Dick Wolf. In a 2011 episode, for example, the sleazy French-Jewish head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was magically transformed into an Italian diplomat (scroll above to previous example). "Law and Order" doesn't so much "rip stories from today's headlines" so much as carefully massage and manipulate them.


CBS Blue Bloods On a January 2nd, 2015 episode of CBS's cop series "Blue Bloods," starring Tom Selleck, a shady character named Miller turned out to be using that generic name as an alias. His real name? Di Carlo. Even worse, the man turned out to be cop killer in hiding for over 30 years.

During the recent national riots over alleged police brutality in Ferguson, MO and Manhattan, NY, one of the first police officers to speak out publicly (via an Op Ed in the New York Daily News) was Frank Serpico, the heroic officer who combated racism and corruption in the 1970s. Indeed, Serpico has spent the last forty years advocating for better police training and for a greater respect for minority rights. An episode like the one in "Blue Bloods" is a supreme insult not only to great cops like Serpico, but to the hundreds of thousands of honest, hard-working Italian American police officers in every city, state, suburb, county, and small town in America.

Rizzoli and Isle On a recent (June, 2016) episode of the female-detective show "Rizzoli & Isles," detective Rizzoli attends a fencing match and remarks that the only thing she knows about fencing is "buying hot stereos and TVs from two guys named Luigi." And, in past episodes, actor Chazz Palminteri made appearances as Rizzoli's father, a dysfunctional, unfeeling, blue-collar cad who alienates his family members. Clearly, as both the 'fencing' remark and Palminteri's performances indicate, the writers of "Rizzoli & Isles" have no compunction perpetuating stereotypes of Italian men as either shady or brutish.
The Accountant In the 2016 film, "The Accountant," Ben Affleck plays an autistic numbers-cruncher who, on the side, "cooks the books" for a variety of unsavory criminal organizations. But, although we see fuzzy photos in the film of his character meeting up with the likes of Muslim terrorists and Hispanic drug cartel bosses, the only live interaction his character has with any thugs are, of course, members of New York's "Gambino Crime Family" (i.e., lawbreakers with Italian surnames, and fictionalized, as usual).

In keeping with the Hollywood practice of treating American racial, religious, and ethnic groups (other than Italian Americans) with respect and sensitivity, we see no scenes in the film of any bombings or beheadings, both of which Muslim and Hispanic criminal groups engage in regularly.

Instead, it is the Italian surnamed criminals who are shown blow-torching a man's face and driving nails into his hands. And it is the actions of these Italian scumbags, naturally, which unleash the Affleck character's brutality.

Nothing new here. As viewers may recall, the most recent James Bond film "Spectre" opened with an Italian terrorist creating havoc in Mexico. (Repeat: An Italian terrorist in Mexico?) And the recent Melissa McCarthy film "Spy" featured an evil Italian American crime boss named DeLuca as its main bad guy---while also making fun of the Italians by having a Roman police chief, McCarthy's fellow professional, act like a sexual pervert.

Azix Ansari On a January 21st, 2017 episode of NBC's "Saturday Night Live," Indian/Muslim American comic Aziz Ansari appeared in a sketch in which his character is verbally and physically abused by two uncouth, loud-mouthed New York cops named Santagelli (male) and DeMarco (female). Such crude caricatures, once again, underscore the notion that Italian Americans in law enforcement are no better than violent Italian American criminals---although, in the U.S., Italian American police superintendents, police chiefs, and police officers outnumber so-called "mobsters" literally by the hundreds of thousands.

Two points:

  1. One of the most honest, uncorrupt American cops who ever lived was Frank Serpico who, in the 1970s, courageously exposed the sort of racism and brutality in the New York Police Department exhibited by the fictional cops in the Saturday Night Live sketch. (Indeed, after the 2014 riots in Ferguson, MO, Serpico, still alive, wrote a national Op-Ed calling for continuing police reform.)

  2. In the recent, high-profile cases of alleged police brutality, you'd be hard-pressed to note any Italian-surnamed cops.

Another quick point: In the same show, during his opening monologue, Ansari spoke out against "demonizing" people---a noble attitude which he and the SNL writers and actors were all-too-happy to hypocritically drop once it came to portraying Italian Americans.

Copyright © 2007 Italic Institute of America, P.O. Box 818, Floral Park, NY 11001     Last updated February 2017