The Mafia's Effect on Popular Culture (The Godfather and Goodfellas)

Published: 2021-07-30 00:30:07
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The mafia plays a prominent role in Italian cinema starting from the 1970’s to the present. It is often the first thing that comes to mind when you ask a foreigner what they think of Italy and it is a used topic in Italian film. There seems to be a never-ending desire to want to create movies surrounding the Italian mafia, from its deep-rooted family history, to how it evolved over time as mafia, and how it affects the community and people around them. Over the decades we have seen the evolution of mafia through the use of films; such as movies like The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972) which is a American crime film highlighting the highs and lows of the mafia and showing the realism of the mob and Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990) which is a modern day classic gangster movie.

One common theme among these movies is organized crime. The main purpose of organized crime is to obtain money through illegal activities from the government or individuals and its very rampant in the USA. These gang members operate on the impacts they have on society and this way they employ in gaining control of the different aspects of society. These groups use many violent tactics such as instilling fear and intimidation in order to obtain control over a country or the area they are in. The portrayal of organized crime can be seen in many of the Italian American movie mafia movies.
The Godfather trilogy released in 1972 by Francis Ford Coppola starring Don Vito Corleone (Godfather) who is the head of the most powerful mafia families in America. The story of The Godfather mainly focuses on the Corleone family, Italian-immigrants, and the Mafia. The refusal to participate in lucrative trade leads to the Corleone family being in a violent war with other mafia families. This film was a representation of the American and Italian underworlds and it showcased how the Corleone family influenced American society as a whole. This movie had a powerful impact on pop culture as it helped italicize american culture. The massive success of the movie alone speaks volumes to the impact it had. All of a sudden everyone was talking about Don Corleone and everyone was so intrigued by the concept of the mafia. An example of the impact of these gangster movies is shown in this article where it says “American law enforcement officials regularly find copies of The Godfather while searching mobsters homes. After the film was released, mafiosi began speaking like the characters” (Tierney, 1). One reason why people get so attached to this movie was because it had an authentic and sympathetic glimpse into the Italian-American experience than seen on screen before. For example in the article by Luciano Lorizzo it says “The Mafia stereotype has struck at the very body and soul of the Italian-American community. Capone and Luciano are well-known Italian American gangsters who have become associated with the Mafia in the confusion that surrounds organized crime in the popular mind (Lorizzo, 196). In this article Luciano Lorizzo exerts how popular culture idealizes and associates the mafia with italian-americans.

Another reason why this movie was a massive hit is because it was able to break stereotypes about Italian americans. Italian Americans are very sensitive about their image in movies because their representation traditionally has been so negative. For example in the article by Ben Lawton he gives his point of view on the portrayal of Italian Americans and the mafia. He says “Some films seem to glorify what is self-evidently unacceptable criminal behavior. Some suggest that organized crime is simply one means of achieving the American dream” (Lawton, 3). Lawton points out how the construction of the image of italian american in movies are connected to the mafia. He talks about the stereotypes related to Italian Americans and the mafia. However in the film the Godfather, it squashed many stereotypes directed at Italians including the stereotype that Italains were uneducated and that Italians all spoke with heavy accents. Although Michael is a gangster he still went to college and pursued an education. Instead of depicting Italians as unintelligent, this movie depicted mobsters as fully developed real human beings.

Another Mafia movie that had a massive impact on pop culture was the movie Goodfellas. Goodfellas was released in 1990 and was directed by Martin Scorsese. It’s based on a true story of former mobster Henry Hill, and Irish-Italian American who becomes involved in organized crime at a young age. This movie follows Henry Hills life and demonstrates his will to join the Mafia at the initial stage of his life. Through this movie Martin Scorsese gives the audience a bird’s eye view of what it’s truly like to live among one of New York’s deadliest crimes families. This movie connected to the audience due to the ruthlessness of mobster life which was shown very differently from other mob movies. For example when we think of the Mafia we think of people who operate under a code and are fairly low key about what they did. However in this movie we see gangsters who are very loud and expressive and not discrete at all. For example Tommy DeVito is shown as a complete psychopath who is known for being extremely loud and abusive. He is very unapologetic and doesn’t care to keep things low key. I think this film had multiple impacts made on society and popular culture. Through Goodfellas, Martin Scorsese was able to give the audience a glimpse of the highs and lows of a life of a criminal. It also painted a picture of what was really happening to the mob in the 1980’s. Overall, many people consider this as one of the most iconic mobster movies of all time due to its authenticity and power to connect with the audience.

Nevertheless, both these movies showcase violent acts that promote popular culture. Protecting your family with violence has become a theme in American popular culture due to movies like the Godfather. Nowadays when someone thinks of the Mafia they think of drugs, movies and Al capone. These movies have defined the gangster genre in the USA and acts as a benchmark for other films and have dominated the American popular culture for many years.

In North America many people love films and tv shows and books that are about the Mafia. What people do not immediately think of is the effect of the mafia related movies had on society. From iconic characters such as Don Vito Corleone to Henry Hill, real-life fictional mafiosos have captured the public imagination since the 1920’s. The fascination with the Mafia come from the idea that the Mafia is the incarnation of the American dream. To pop culture the Mafia represents men of honour. Their passion and determination is what causes fans to be so fascinated with characters such as Don Corleone and Henry Hill. Fans even today are still discussing the motivations of the characters. What keeps movies like the Godfather so relevant is because they tell a larger story about a family in small segments. The Godfather taught many life lessons and fans resonate with the story. One lesson we’ve learned from the Godfather is that its our duty to be with our family, regardless of the circumstances. This allows us to keep our priorities straight and remember that blood is thicker than water.

The Mafia played a big part in the history of America and the way americans view crime today. Movies like the ”The Godfather’ and ”GoodFellas,’ helped to reinforce stereotypes about Italian Americans. These movies have truly defined or redefined a genre for gangster movie but it’s influence goes well beyond that. The influence of these movies has been so big on popular culture that even throughout all these years the elements of these movies can be found in virtually every “organized crime film”.

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