Italian American Stereotypes in the Media
By Jenna Lotardo
Italian Americans vs. Media
Are Italian Americans are almost always automatically
defined by others as being mob associated or guidos? In todays
stereotyping of different cultures is seen greatly in the media.
Research has shown that Italian's are misjudged because of the Italian
American stereotypes . Media such as, MTV's reality
“Jersey Shore”, reality show "Growing up Gotti", HBO series
the “Sopranos”, reality show “Mob Wives”,
the movie “Goodfellas” and, “The Godfather” are
few of examples of why
Americans begin to stereotype or misjudge Italians. Most of these
movies and television shows are an embarassment to the Italian culutre.
The negitive traits actions of the chracters in these types of media
causes most Americans to believe that all Italians are like what they
see. Going back to when Italians first arrived to America these
stereotypical thoughts were nowhere to be found. It was not until the
movies and television shows mentioned that people starting viewing
Italians as "mobsters" or "guidos". Most gang and mobster movies begin
to portray Italians in the wrong way that most would like to be seen.
The mafia and mob association is a big part of how the media stereotype
Italian American. Stereotyping in the media of Italian American is most
of the time negitive, but there are some positive stereotypes that the
media presents. Being an Italian American myself I am often being
judged because on the fact that I am Italian.
What, Why, & How?
stereotypes are almost sometimes inevitable in
the advertising, entertainment and news industries, because it helps
the viewers to understand easier. Stereotypes are false accusations for
a common understanding of a person or group of people usually
relating, ethnicity or race, or gender. More often, the groups being
stereotyped have little to say about how they are represented.
Stereotypes can cause conflict and may make you judge people before you
know them. Most
stereotypes relating to Italians are negitive. Examples of what
Americans may say is Italians are “ overly interested in
“hot tempered and violent”, “talk with their
hands”, they are
”associated with the mob”,"overly tan", "steroid users",
and "loud and
obnoxious". Just because the Italian American characters are seen as
the way they are in the media, it does not define the whole Italian
Italian American Mobsters & the Media
Italians arrived to America
beginning with Christopher Columbus is 1492. Italians migrated to the
United States because there was plenty of work for them and land was
cheap. By 1923 there had been over 3 million Italian immigrants in the
United States. Most agree that Italian Americans started of with
a bad reputation because of small Italian mafia associated groups
and gangs that have migrated from Palermo, Italy to the United States.
Americans interest, of the Italians small association with the mob and
mafia led to the making of films and television shows about the
lifes of those associated. Famous Italian mobsters such as Al Capone
and John Gotti lifes are commonly mirrored in movies and t.v. series
due to the high interest and ratings. Because of media Italian
Americans began to the be seen as being “ overly interested in food”,
“hot tempered and violent”, “talk with their hands”, and
”associated with the mob”. The Godfather was
one of the first movies to come out about Italian American's being
associated with he mob. The Characters in the film gave definition to
Italians being highly associated with food,violience and family. The artical The Godfather:Stereotype or Reality? says "Those
who do not have any associations with Italian Americans might
stereotype this group as only eating pasta and not other types of food.
Family plays a major role in The Godfather. The men are part of the
family business, whereas the women are preoccupied with their roles as
housewives. Lastly, violence also is stereotyped to Italian Americans
through being associated with organized crime." After researching what
the crime rate of Italian Americans were I have found that “An
earlier poll by the Princeton-based Response Analysis Corporation
revealed that 74% of adult Americans believe most Italian Americans
have some connection to organized crime.” The problem with the
portrayal of Italian Americans in the media is that Italian men are
being seen as uneducated dishonest or violent after seeing movies
associated with the mob. In the HBO series “The Sopranos”
men are portrayed as leaders of the house and have the upper hand
because they have so much power because of the involvment wth gangs and
mobs. People watching this show see what an everyday household of these
mobsters is like and is assumed that every Italian American is like
that. The women in these shows are often over weight and take on that
basic Italian mother like housewife catering to her husbands every need
as if he was a god. Even mafia themed advertisements always
portray mobsters as an Italian American. The article What do you know about Reality? says“The U.S. Department of
Justice estimates that less than .0025 percent of the 26 million
Americans of Italian descent are involved in organized crime.”;
indicating that most violence occurring in the U.S. is not even close
to being highly involved with Italian Americans.”The Godfather
Francis Ford Coppola's epic trilogy will forever be the cinematic
experience that cemented the image of the Italian mobster in the
American psyche.” “New Jersey's 1.5 million
Italian-Americans – the highest number in the US outside New York
– are already bruised by what they see as their negative
portrayal on TV in The Sopranos. "We do not say 'fuhgeddabouddit' nor
are we in waste management," fumed Linda Stasi.” Because this
show is a common entertaining television show people tend to believe
these stereotypes ten times more because it tends to be more
believable. Many other movies and
t.v. shows were produced setting false accusations of Italian
Americans, such as Goodfellas, A Bronx Tale, and many more.
This video is exactly how films like The Godfather define Italian Americans behavior.
"Reality" Italian American Stereotypes
Reality television shows are the best at
destroying cultures, because they seem to be more believable to the
audience. Daughter of head mobster John Gotti, Victoria Gotti's
Reality t.v. show Growing Up Gotti involving
her three sons, has reinforced more negative stereotypes to Italian
Americans. Victoria Gotti's three sons John, Carmine, and Frankie have
brought Italian Americans to be judged as disrespectful , obnoxious,
and unmoral. These three boys have also started the trend of Italian
Americans stereotypical appearance to be overly tan and males to overly
gel there hair. The MTV's new high rated reality television Show Jersey Shore
contains characters with such names of “Snooki”, “JWow”, “Mike the
Situation”, “Pauly D”, ”Sammy Sweetheart”, Ronnie, Deana, and Vinny.
This show is an embarrassment to the Italian culture. Often people
watch this disgusting show because it is hilarious how these characters
act. These people were randomly put together during the summer in a
Jersey Shore (Seaside Heights, New Jersey) beach house. They are known
for their fake tans, loud foul mouths, and constantly looking for sex,
which encouraged more negitive stereotypes on Italian Americans. In
their words they would call themselves “Guidos” and “Guidettes”.
A “guido” is a slang word for “urban class –working Italians”.
MTV said they had gathered the "hottest, tannest, craziest
guidos" to Seaside Heights. Residents from “Jersey Shore” also
known as Seaside Heights were calling the town complaining about this
show because it is bringing a bad image to there town.
Even though there are
many negitive stereotypes of Italians Americans in the media, there is
also a few positive stereotypes. Even though stereotypes are
misinterpretations, Italians have some good stereotypical traits. It is
often seen the Italian men are the most romantic and family
orientated. The movie “A Bronx Tale” does a good job
of showing that not every Italian American is a mobster and that is
often dangerous to get involved with such a thing. This movie
shows the bond of an Italian American father that is non-stereotypical
an how caring he is about his family and his only son. Italian
Americans are also positively known on there good food. The media
advertises the stereotypical Italian old women as a good cook, it is
shown in T.V. commercial such as the “Ragu” commercial featuring an
elderly Italian women stirring the sauce. Italian Americans are also
known for their great legendary songs by such people like Italian
American singer Frank Sinatra.
Stereotyping Will Never End
Stereotypes of many cultures often are
seen in every day media. Italian Americans are mostly judged negatively
in the media. It is hard for other Americans not to believe false
attributes that is being described in the common movies, t.v. shows,
and commercials that are shown. As most have seen the media is
encouraging Americans to misjudge Italians more and more by the
increase of T.V. shows like MTV’s “Jersey Shore” and movies like “The
Godfather”. Because the ratings are so high on these types of media
they sadly will not begin to discontinue these types of movies and
reality T.V. shows. It shows that mostly after watching these T.V.
shows and movies viewers begin to start stereotyping Italian Americans
through this media giving viewers false assumptions of reality. Even
though Italian Americans are most commonly known for there negitive
stereotypes they also have a few positive stereotypes, that some people
wouldn't mind being misjudged on.
Primary Source: Cavallero, Jonathan J. "Gangsters, Fessos, Tricksters, And Sopranos."
Journal Of Popular Film & Television 32.2 (2004): 50-63.
Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 8 Dec. 2011.
"The Godfather: Stereotype or Reality?." . N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Dec 2011. <http://www.umich.edu/~themafia/stereotypes.html>.
Marche, Stephen. "How Jersey Shore Transformed America." Esquire. 14
April 2010: n. page. Web. 8 Dec. 2011.
Wallace, David J. "Interacting At The
Jersey Shore." Advertising Age 65.20 (1994): 19. Communication &
Mass Media Complete. Web. 8 Dec. 2011.
Tomsula, Dean. "Italian Americans Against Media Stereotypes." . N.p.,
April 19, 2006. Web. 8 Dec 2011.
Mass media vs. the Italian Americans
by Caso, Adolph .
The urban villagers : group and class in the life of Italian-Americans
by Gans, Herbert J .