Friday, October 3, 2008

Do Gangster Movies Glorify Gangsters?

On the wonderful blog called Welcome to My Soapbox today I read this post. I hadn't been aware of the "Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement," but I'm sure it's a fascinating side trip from the casino action, next time you're in Vegas. Her post explores the difference between traditional mobsters called gangsters and the modern ones called gangstas.

What we have here is a major racial and class divide. On one side we have white gangsters who are glorified in film and now their very own museum. On the other side we have people of colour who may be glorified in music and certain categories of film, but who are blamed for many of today's social ills, including high rates of violence in high schools and drive-by shootings, specifically in lower-class areas.

I have absolutely no problem with her analysis, my only complaint might be the spelling of the word "color," but I wouldn't want to quibble.

What it made me think of, though, is the long-standing debate about whether this genre of films harms the reputation of Italian-Americans. I've heard of folks who bad-mouthed Mario Puzo for having done more to hurt the standing of the great Italian people than anyone ever.

For me, the cinematic entertainment is too good to pass up. I suppose in Middle America, where there are very few ethnic people, the complaint could have some merit, but personally I don't care much. The two Godfather movies alone would make it all worth it, as I've said before.

What's your opinion? Do movies have that much power? Should they? Do Spike Lee movies glorify blacks? Do mafia films denigrate Italian-Americans?


  1. What does the term "Pimp My Ride" mean?

    Does it mean "Make my car look like it's owned by a drug dealer who abuses women"? Or is the meaning more positive?

    I do have to say that while I am entertained by films and music, there is something VERY wrong with people seeing only positive images in the culture of drugs, prostitution and violence.

    That's something that needs to change...and while there is a trend in the African-American community here, I would say race has nothing to do with it.

  2. My own feeling is that the extended family is greatly missed in our modern culture, and the whole "family before anything" mores of the mob, seem very nostalgic and romantic to us now. If we had stifling, overprotective and nosy extended families all around us, we probably wouldn't find it so romantic and in fact, I am curious if "small town people" (where everyone knows each other) enjoy the mafia shows/movies as much as those of us who feel rather anonymous in the suburbs or cities.

    I owe this analysis to southern 'paleo-conservative' writer (now deceased) Samuel Francis, who once analyzed the conversation between Michael Corleone and his mother in GODFATHER II, particularly in light of the film's final scene. Mama tells Michael "But you can never lose your family," which is in fact exactly what he does.

    And this is why we identify so strongly with him--we have too.

  3. I'd say race has something to do with it because I've seen pimps living in tar paper shacks in AFRICA with no indoor plumbing but booming stereos and spinners on their Lexus and Mercedes cars.

    Had to be said, sad as it is...I'm sure Mikeb can come up with a cultural explanation that eventually blames Hollywood and American Television....

    Go look for yourself...not on PBS...not on BBC...go to AFRICA and look for yourself. Then get back to me.

  4. Daisy, Thanks for that interesting angle about the family.

    Tom, When it comes to gangster movies, I don't want to blame anybody. I love 'em.

  5. Miller's Crossing was most excellent and I dislike the Coen Brothers' politics. It had Max Von Sydow though...