February 15, 2008

"You have a trifecta — gangsters, Italian-Americans, New Jersey — wedded in the popular American imagination."

Justice Samuel Alito opines about "The Sopranos" and the dynamics of prejudice.

34 comments:

EnigmatiCore said...

Sounds reasonable, as long as he isn't hinting that the Court should do something about it.

rhhardin said...

Doesn't Italian organized crime get regarded fondly, in this prejudice, however?

It's the honor among thieves, the understatement of death, and all that.

Imus has a regular Don Corleone figure trading on it.

The serious consequence is that people are unable to recognize organized crime when they actually see it, for example as practiced by politicians.

Organized crime in Japan has hit a scandal when they accidently killed somebody other than another organized crime figure, horrifying both sides. Rules are rules.

Politicans will wipe out anybody without remorse, which is probably how they escape notice.

rhhardin said...

Organized crime parodied (you tube) when straight talk is demanded.

Middle Class Guy said...

rhhardin,
The URL contained a malformed video ID.

rhhardin said...

Rats, I even tried it out first from preview. Wonder what happened.

again

now I am previewing..

works okay.

Try it. Webb Look The Henchman, if it doesn't work.

George said...

Until Tony Soprano, like Frankenstein, returns, there's always The Riches, a white-trash trifecta of Irish traveller con artists, real estate shysters, and pill-head housewives, all set in Louisiana. Eddie Izzard, Minnie Driver...on FX...

Bissage said...

But of course Justice Alito would complain "The Sopranos" perpetuates invidious stereotypes.

He works for Hyman Roth.

MadisonMan said...

And I would ask the Justice: So what?

It's hardly the end of American Civilization as we know it (or American Civility) if exaggerated traits are used to entertain.

I think he'd have more cause to complain if a crooked high-ranking Italian-born judge had been portrayed on the show.

Ron said...

So...Justice Alito...nice little court you've got here...sure be a shame if something happened to it...

corporate law drudge said...

So the five families, the Bonannos, Colombos, Gambinos, Genoveses and Luccheses, they were like what? Eskimos?

P. Rich said...

rhhardin: "Doesn't Italian organized crime get regarded fondly..."

Yes, at least in some quarters.

madisonman: "...exaggerated traits..."

Maybe not so exaggerated. How many of these types do you know personally?

MadisonMan said...

p. rich: The midwest is not exactly a hotbed of anything stereotypically New Jersey-an. For which I will say all midwesterners are grateful

ricpic said...

The added plus is that you live in a Mafia neighborhood like Bayridge, Brooklyn, you're supersafe.

Kirby Olson said...

I live about two hours from the area where the Sopranos live and there's a few Italian Americans who've moved up here from the city. They claim the Sopranos gets it exactly, and they knew all those guys, and that not one bit of it is made up, but it is airbrushed somewhat. It's more like Goodfellas than like Sopranos, I'm told by insiders.

But in the Sopranos there are some Italian Americans who didn't go that way, and lots don't. You get a choice at some point. And then they leave you alone from that point forward, unless you ask for their help. Tony's shrink and her family, represent a group that chose not to be in the life.

I think all Catholic communities have gangs, as it mirrors the corruption of their church. How's that for piling one stereotype on top of another?

Freder Frederson said...

The added plus is that you live in a Mafia neighborhood like Bayridge, Brooklyn, you're supersafe.

Unless of course you refuse to pay your protection money, buy the supplies for your small business from the wrong people, or witness a crime and decide to call the police and testify.

Freder Frederson said...

The midwest is not exactly a hotbed of anything stereotypically New Jersey-an.

You apparently have never been to Chicago, where the history of the Italian mob was as long and illustrious as that as New York--although it is much weaker now. Kansas City was also a big mob town.

Middle Class Guy said...

Kansas City was also a big mob town.


Run by an Irishman named Predergast, who put Harry Truman in Office.

shadow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chip Ahoy said...

^^^wrong thread, but your point is taken.

Middle Class Guy said...

I think he'd have more cause to complain if a crooked high-ranking Italian-born judge had been portrayed on the show.



Actually, when a movie portrayed a crooked, hillbilly President in a bad light, there was a firestorm. Even a US Senator, who sits on the FCC licensing ommittee, sent a threatening letter to Disney. Of course we cannot taint Saint Bill and Harry Reid can do what he wants.

Double Standards are wonderful, arn't they.

B said...

Every Mafia-type organized crime member I've met has been an Italian-American form New Jersey.

I'm just sayin'.

hdhouse said...

Errrrrrr Dear Judge A:

Sopranos are now off the air. If you are watching the re-runs and ANE you might notice that Tony's choice of language has softened and probably you won't find it as offensive.

That his name has a vowel ending (like yours) should give you pride. Also as a Jerseyite you should be thankful that someone other than Bill Bradley (well a "y" is something of a vowel) has made good.

The gangster part, well I prefer to think of them as sanitation engineers with a hobby. Kinda like judges with political agendas....

Yours truly

HDH

Blake said...

Are there shows centered around more recent gang types with protected ethnicities like Hispanics and blacks?

If not, is it racism, or just that they don't dress as well?

Kirby Olson said...

Scarface was Hispanic, but the fun of the Italian gangsters is that they had more class than most. Tony Soprano golfs, for instance, and his daughter goes to Columbia. In Godfather III the big hit takes place on the steps of the Palermo Opera when the Corleone family is denied entry into the highest society by the big corporation Immobiliare. You get a sense in the Mafia dynasties that they had worked out a rationale that if the Catholic church is corrupt, and big business is corrupt, then you're stupid if you don't join in. So you get low-life and high-life mixed together, and this packs more cognitive wallop than most organized crime literature, as it turns the whole of society into a brazenly corrupt stacked card game.

Organized crime doesn't seem to exist in Protestant societies.

Kirby Olson said...

One of the funniest things about Protestant society (Finland is 90% Lutheran) is that when I lived there there just wasn't any crime. If someone even stole a pencil it was a huge surprise to everybody and would end up on TV.

At the university where I worked there was an enormous lobby where students hung up their coats (out in the open! with their purses!), and left them there for the day and no one bothered anything.

There were thousands of nice coats there for the taking, and no one took so much as a button.

Crime is a Catholic phenomenon. Something like the Corleone family is unthinkable in Finland, Sweden, or Norway.

And the satisfaction of life there is as a result much higher than in Italy or in crummy New Jersey where the mobsters control daily life and do crummy things like dump dead bodies and garbage in marshes.

Hooray for Lutheranism!

Revenant said...

Unless of course you refuse to pay your protection money, buy the supplies for your small business from the wrong people, or witness a crime and decide to call the police and testify.

Well that's a risk you run anywhere. What ricpic meant, I think, is that run-of-the-mill criminals (burglars, muggers, etc) generally avoid victimizing people who live in neighborhoods that have a lot of mobsters living in them.

After all, mug an investment banker's aunt and you'll probably get a few months in jail. Mug a mafioso's aunt and they'll never find your body.

Middle Class Guy said...

hdhouse said…
The gangster part, well I prefer to think of them as sanitation engineers with a hobby.

Now that is funny.

Kirby Olson said…
Organized crime doesn't seem to exist in Protestant societies.

Crime is a Catholic phenomenon. Something like the Corleone family is unthinkable in Finland, Sweden, or Norway.


Ah, a Catholic basher are we? Boyo, ever hear of the Kray brothers? I will save you the time Googling them. They ran organized crime in London. England is a Protestant country. There were others, of course, but the Kray brothers ran the largest outfit. Then we have the Yakuza, Japanese. How about the Chinese triads? These are not Catholic. Of course we have the relative new comers, the atheistic Russians. Germany is a protestant country and has a tight knit organized crime community.

It is evident that you are a great expert on organized crime as it relates to Catholicism, as you have made an extensive study of it. So, pray, tell me, how do you explain all of the major Jewish gangsters who are threaded through the history of organized crime? I do hope none of the Jewish posters are around when you try to explain that one.

Expat-Italian said...

Crime is a Catholic phenomenon. Something like the Corleone family is unthinkable in Finland, Sweden, or Norway.

This is ridiculous. Something like the Corleone family is unthinkable even in super-catholic places like Austria or Bavaria. Besides, even if we just consider Italy, mafia-like phenomena were born and developed in particular areas of the country. This is not to say that, for example, Sicily is less civilized than other areas of Italy. Simply, the rotten (which exists in every society, catholic , lutheran or belonging to any other denomination) takes the form of a mob-like phenomenon in southern Italy and other forms in other parts of Italy, in Sweden, in Finland. Verona is not less Catholic than Palermo but where are the mafia families coming from Verona?
Regarding northern Europe, I'm not so sure that Copenhagen or Malmö are safer than Milan.
And, when it comes to Finland, maybe they don't steal coats there, but this is famously a hard place to live if you are a foreigner, especially if your complexion is darker than the average finnish, but, unlike you, I don't think this is a byproduct of Lutheranism...

Full disclosure: I am an Italian living in Sweden.

Elliott A said...

Take a look at the NJ state representatives sometime. Especially the northern half. Many Italians. When you live there, the mob becomes part of the woodwork. You learn the types you don't mess with.

Revenant said...

Of course we have the relative new comers, the atheistic Russians. Germany is a protestant country and has a tight knit organized crime community.

Actually Russia is an Orthodox country, historically at least (although I believe it is largely atheistic these days).

The most obvious counter-example to the "crime = Catholic" equation, though, is that many of the leading organized crime figures in the United States were Jews. Bugsy Siegel, anyone?

joewxman said...

Somebody once asked me as an italian whether i was offended by what i saw on the sopranos. My response was that i am far more offended that the olive garden trys to pass itself off as authentic italian food then anything that i ever saw done on the sopranos.

Zeb Quinn said...

Also as a Jerseyite you should be thankful that someone other than Bill Bradley (well a "y" is something of a vowel) has made good.

Bill Bradley is from Missouri. At least originally. Martha Stewart is from Joisy.

From Inwood said...

Kirby

Joining the trolls are we?

Leave Joisy & it's Mayberry RFD, ya think?

Unless there's an RC Church in town I guess.

Joining the trolls are we?

Hey, I think that, way back, Jane Fonda's family was Italian. She's gonna do a new play called: The Mafia Monologues (Or maybe it's The Montague Monologues - not about Brooklyn Heights. methinks).

PS Add Walking Tall to your anti-Mayberry DVD list. That’s “anti” not “auntie”

Kirby Olson said...

I forgot about this thread.

Yeah, I was having fun with the Lutheran comment. It's fun to be bigoted on religious questions, since nobody seems to care very much, and within Christianity at least, people seem to turn the other cheek for some reason.

But the ex-pat Italian in Sweden is right about Finland. It's a brutal place to live as a foreigner. I was there for five years, and verbally assaulted almost every day, and there were several attempted physical assaults (I outran the drunks in question).

Finns don't steal, though. They will beat you half to death, but leave your wallet in your pocket.

That's something that you can appreciate, as it helps the hospital to identify your nearest of kin.