I found particularly interesting the part where you refer about the relationship between the total number of Italian Americans 17 millions according to Census and the one of Italian criminals 1. As did I.
This proves how distorted things are between "real" life and Hollywood's "reel" life. And the gangster obsession isn't just limited to movies; you also see it in TV shows, newspaper articles, novels, and—if you can believe it—cartoons aimed at children. Sadly, even il bel paese has internalized this negativity. I've been a fan of Italian cinema since I was a child, and I've noticed that Italy itself is suddenly producing a high number of films about gangsters: the Camorra, N'drangheta, etc. Either Italy is now a cesspool of a nation dominated by gangsters which I don't believe or Italian filmmakers are imitating their cugini across the Atlantic, eager to exploit this genre to gullible Americans which I do believe.
Both Italians and Italian Americans don't understand the power of imagery. Is there something in the study that is not well known among the Italian American community, but still you think it's important to be told? Before "The Godfather" in , the number of gangster films was quite low, There was a more balanced approach to our community.
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With the success of that film, however, a "Berlin Wall" of stereotyping was erected, generating other movies of this kind. It has been non-stop negativity for 43 years. We've enjoyed very much the movie "Unbroken", the story of the great Louis Zamperini, which you described as "one of the few Hollywood film to feature an Italian surnamed male character in a heroic, complex, or dignified role".
We unfortunately know the too long list of movies that depicted the Italian Americans in a bad way, so let's think positive: in your opinion, which are the top 5 Hollywood movies that have been positively describing an Italian American character? Opinions on films are very subjective. There is also context—for example, early movies versus modern movies.
Certainly, "Unbroken" deserves to be on that list. And I would add a documentary like "Berkeley in the s," which shows a real-life Italian American: Mario Savio, who led the Free Speech student movement of the era. Incredibly, Savio, a Sicilian American, grew up with a stutter but became one of the greatest public speakers of his generation.
The more that Hollywood focuses on real Italian Americans like Zamperini and Savio, the less room they have to falsify us as a community. We all know about the Godfather effect. Let's play what if: what if Mario Puzo had never written the book, and then Francis Ford Coppola had never done the movie Puzo and Coppola's collaboration was a game-changer. It made anti-Italian stereotypes romantic and mythological. There still might be that perception out there that Italians are 'better' gangsters than gangsters from other ethnic groups, thanks to Al Capone's notoriety, but "The Godfather" turned journalists, academicians, and film critics against us.
Those groups of people - college educated and pro "diversity" - turn a largely deaf ear to Italian stereotypes. They, too, accept them as "real," and dismiss our concerns with derision.
Do you think that the Italian Americans should have fought more against the stereotyping against them? And, what should they do now, when sometimes it seems that America is politically correct towards everybody but them? Ironically, promoting positive images and correcting distortions WAS an early focus of the Italian American intelligentsia. But somehow, such efforts became overshadowed by hugely successful Italian American business leaders who often cared more about money and prestige and becoming "American.
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