Why Us, Oh Lord?

One of the hallmarks of a democracy is that propaganda is decentralized. It’s in the hands of corporations (via Madison Avenue and lobbyists), the elite (via the news Media), and the mythmakers (via Hollywood).  So, if you think “big government” or the “deep state” is responsible for the shape of society, you are quite mistaken.

I come to this conclusion having spent four decades wondering why the Mafia defines Italian American culture. As much as we try to ignore this fact, society continues to remind us.  Call it the Eternal Mafia, because it never dies.  It lives and thrives within the breasts of all it touches.  The legends of Robin Hood, Jesse James, or B.D. Cooper pale in comparison to the Eternal Mafia.

As I write, John Travolta is pedaling his homage to guttersnipe John Gotti, in a movie named for the thug. Every critic in America has panned it, but Americans will nevertheless consume it in some form to sate their Mafia hunger.  Chazz Palminteri’s musical, A Bronx Tale, about his Mafia-riddled youth continues to be a Broadway destination.  Chazz, the original one-trick pony, has parlayed his Tale for some twenty years from stage to screen and back to stage.  Mafia guru Martin Scorsese is shooting his latest work of art, The Irishman, which like GoodFellas, purports to be about an Irish hood but is Italian to its core.  And, if you haven’t heard, Mafia-pusher David Chase is preparing his prequel to The Sopranos, to feed the Mafia monkey on America’s back.

This endless loop of media works, dating back to the 1970s, created giants among Italian American storytellers and actors. Pacino, Travolta, De Niro, Coppola, Scorsese, Chase, Aiello, Sorvino, and Palminteri would have no fortunes or futures were it not for the Sacred Mafia and the perversion of our Italian American culture.  With them came a gaggle of neighborhood extras – guidos and goombahs, as they identify themselves – to authenticate their portraits of the Italian gutter, a sort of perverse Neapolitan nativity scene.

These are neither artists nor gentlemen.  Some of us saw first-hand the sort of real life cavemen our community has produced from this Mafia culture during last week’s nationally televised Tony Awards.  “Bobby” De Niro, our one-quarter Italian matinee idol, ventured into political polemics on stage with repeated calls to “Fuck Trump!”  His scatological oratory prompted his celebrity audience to give him a standing ovation (no doubt Russian hackers manipulating their emotions).

De Niro may not be a pureblood but he does represent the dirt we come from. With a penchant for African American ladies and an aversion to the art of conversation, Mr. Admiral (his mother’s maiden name) once told a reporter that Italian American leaders were “shits,” because we objected to the Italian government giving him honorary Italian citizenship.  Understand that this good fellow never supported Italic studies, or our community, in any way.

The same is true for all the other gentlemen who made their fame and fortune on gutterizing Italian American culture.  Scorsese is on his fifth wife but uses his mom on-screen to project Italian family values.  His childhood in Manhattan’s Little Italy included staging gang fights for tour buses – always an Italian showman!  An Italian American without a Mob story to relate is not the genuine article, it seems.  Even the former Broadway show Jersey Boys included a scene tying the group to Mob night clubs?  Lead vocalist Frankie Valli also played a mobster on The Sopranos.

These destroyers of a culture have become paragons of our community. Many weak-minded paesani take their cue from media elites who adore larger-than-life Italian murderers and thieves, since those characters turn the spotlight from other ethnic criminals.

But why us?  Where are the protections of our multicultural democracy where every group finds a platform to protest – except us?  But who is ultimately to blame, really?  -JLM

4 thoughts on “Why Us, Oh Lord?”

  1. We’re to blame all right! So many Italic Americans enjoy the mafia genre because to them it’s a vicarious mystique that portrays power, strength, loyalty, and influence, which they idolize. Consequently, in a twisted sense they feel proud and exceptional. With such a popular audience any Italic leader who attempts to fight for the eradication of the stereotype is knowingly swimming against this tide. Ideally we really have to concentrate on changing the Italic mindset above before we attempt the subsequent eradication.

  2. I think we as a community should publicly challenge Scorsese and Coppola to make a movie about a positive Italian American. There are many to choose from but A.P.Giannini, Oriana Fallaci and Fiorello LaGuardia come to mind immediately. We should make it public so if they have decency, they will feel bad and perhaps act on it or at the very least give them something to think about.

    1. Coppola is probably too busy running his winery, which he founded with ill-gotten gains from Godfather 1-3. Scorsese would no doubt give a mob twist even to the story of St. Frances Cabrini.

  3. Maybe DeNiro suffered brain damage while preparing for his role in “Raging Bull”. However, my assessment is that he is simply an ethically challenged charlatan – a common condition of his ilk. Consider that DeNiro, who now apparently wants to be seen as the moral conscience of the country, played the lead role in “Shark Tale”, which extended the mob genre into a children’s movie (with “Zootopia” being the latest entry). He said he was very proud of his work in Shark Tale, and wanted his children to see it.

    Mob-genre films have taken on a life of their own, and will not soon disappear – regardless of how much the IA community protests. Our best hope is that we can counter some of the negative effect of these films by positive films like “Unbroken”. However, this would take leadership – which there is not a lot of in the IA community. The major IA organizations did not take a leadership role in sponsoring and shaping the content of the PBS series on Italian Americans. The result is that each episode opened up with a guy stirring a large pot of spaghetti sauce with a big stick (like in Ole Napoli, as Dean Martin used to sing) to promote the product of the single sponsor and, far worse, we got a series that viewed the IA experience largely through the prism of the mafia. Shame on us.

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