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'Mob Wives Chicago' gets Italians all wrong

Chicago Sun-Times Editorial, April 5, 2012
(Editorial Board, led by Tom McNamee.)

Yo.

You know all this tired stereotyping of Italian Americans? Can we give it a rest?

Sure, we liked the "Godfather" movies, too, and we're not big on political correctness. The average stand-up comic would be left speechless if he had to worry too much about ruffling the feathers of every race, ethnicity and sexual persuasion. Every group gets its turn in the barrel.

But in our entirely subjective opinion, this stuff being hard to measure objectively, Italian Americans have been in the barrel way too long. The pop culture portrayal of Italian Americans as big-haired bimbos, dim-witted guidos and vicious mobsters is old, relentless and all played out. It is Hollywood at its laziest. Take this new reality TV show "Mob Wives Chicago."

Seriously take it. Ship it back to Los Angeles or New York or wherever it is that people think family fun consists of presenting cartoonish buffoons with an ethnic twist so the rest of us can sit back and laugh and feel superior.

Among Italian-Americans in Chicago, there's a growing backlash, as there should be. When the producers of "Mob Wives Chicago" asked to film at Gene & Georgetti's steakhouse downtown, the restaurant's owner vowed to personally show them the door if they dared to walk in. Good for him. And the Italian-American Human Relations Foundation of Chicago has asked every other business in town to do the same turn their backs on these latest purveyors of a worn-out stereotype of a hard-working and decent people.

What worries Louis Rago, a leader of the foundation, is that the constant negative portrayals shape not only how others see Italian Americans, but how Italian Amerians see themselves. Life imitates art. "Now we have Italian-American kids, they grow up seeing this stuff," Rago said, "and they stand on street corners grabbing their crotches and saying, 'Hey, how ya doin'."

Enrico Tonti This Monday, by the way, is the 330th anniversary of the day Enrico Tonti, a native of Gaeta, Italy, sailed through what is now Chicago. He was among the most accomplished early European explorers of the American interior.

But because Enrico Tonti didn't end up in a trunk, we're guessing the makers of "Mob Wives Chicago" never heard of him.

 
 
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