Do Mafia movies and television shows such as the Sopranos affect the image of Italian Americans?

The Study below was done during the showing of “The Sopranos” years ago. Now with the introducing of the many realities shows and the increase in negative stereotypic shows and movies do you think if this study was done today would the results be different.   Read the results to the Final Exam questions in “The Mafia and the Movies: The Construction of the Image of Italians and Italian Americans in the Movies” (Ben Lawton, Chair Italian Studies; Chair, Film Studies, Purdue University).   They surveyed 40 students in their respective organizations, in some cases where they lived, and they came up with some amusing replies when questioning about Italian Americans. They surveyed a fraternity, sorority, and a co-op. It broke down like this.

  • Males: 50% Italian: 15% – this includes any amount of Italian in the student surveyed
  • Females: 50% Italian: 20% Italians (Total): 18% Non-Italians (Total): 82%
  • Have you seen any T.V. shows or movies containing the Mafia? 98% Yes 2% No

Some of the most prominent Mafia movies/shows replied were: 

  • 56% Godfather
  • 15% Sopranos
  • 10% Goodfellas
  • 13% Casino
  • 5% Bronx Tale
  • 1% Godfather III

Name the first famous Italian off the top of your head.

  • Italians replied with:
    • 43% Mussolini
    • 29% Michelangelo
    • 14% Al Pacino
    • 14% Giuseppe Verdi
  • Non-Italians replied:
    • 3% Mario (Video Game)
    • 3% Luigi (Video Game)
    • 3% Gotti
    • 3% Mussolini
    • 6% Al Capone
    • 6% Rocky
    • 9% Tony Soprano
    • 12% Al Pacino
    • 15% Godfather (movie character)
    • 16% Joe Pesci
    • 24% Robert De Niro

Are you fascinated by the Mafia lifestyle?

  •  Males: 90% Yes
  • Females: 35% Yes

Are Americans fascinated? 

  • Yes: 98%
  • No: 2%

The Sopranos and HBO are being sued by an Italian-American organization for defaming Italian-Americans in their show, is this right? 

  • Italians:
    • Agree: 14%
    • Disagree: 86%
  • Non-Italians:
    • Agree: 0%
    • Disagree: 91%
    • Un-sure: 9%

Name three things that come to mind when thinking of Italian-Americans.  Italians replied with: 

  • smooth
  • good food
  • intelligent
  • charming
  • easy to get along with
  • interesting
  • good-looking
  • cultured

Non-Italians said:

  • Mafia
  • Sopranos
  • greedy
  • sneaky
  • good food
  • New York
  • violence
  • accents
  • suits
  • hairy
  • dark
  • nice cars
  • whacking
  • hot guys
  • guns
  • mean
  • greased hair
  • Dago
  • wine
  • Frank Sinatra
  • pasta
  • cappuccino
  • violin case

Said more than once Some catch phrases we thought were worth noting during the survey:

  • Hell yeah
  • I wanna be in the Mafia Who doesn’t?
  • Who doesn’t like watching Goodfellas
  • Can your dad hook me up?

Group O  2.) What percentage of Italian Americans are “made” members of the Mafia according to the FBI? 

Express this figure both as a percentage and arithmetically. I.e., 10 % = 10 out of 100. In the height of Mafia involvement There were allegedly 5,000 Italian Americans who were “made” to be members of the Mafia, out of 15 million Italian Americans, this means that the maximum is: —- 0.03% of Italian Americans were in the Mafia or 3 out of every 10,000. —–

In present times There are allegedly 1,500 Italian Americans who are “made” to be members of the Mafia, out of 20 million Italian Americans, this means that the present percentage is: —- 0.0075% of Italian Americans are in the Mafia or 3 out of every 40,000

Another interesting fact Out of the 500,000 members of organized crime in America today, Italian Americans only have 1,500 members which means: —- 0.3% of organized crime members are Italian Americans or 3 out of every 1,000

2a) Why is it essential to know and understand these figures? It is essential to understand these figures because the majority of stereotypes of Italian Americans are unfairly based on these few individuals that make up the Mafia. The problem is that, as the numbers show, these individuals of the Mafia make up an unbelievably minute portion of the Italian American population and it is unthinkable to base views and images of all Italian Americans based on the alleged actions and ways of 0.0075% of their population.

That would be like singling out a small group of Americans, like WWF and WCW professional wrestlers, and applying all the stereotypes of that group to all Americans. Professional wrestlers wear tights, large boots, capes, masks, and wear underwear on the outside of their clothes, which greatly differs from the garb of the vast majority of Americans. The wrestlers also assign themselves nicknames like “Booker T”, “Undertaker”, “the Rock”, “the Million Dollar Man”, and “Stone Cold” and have a certain loud theme song to be played whenever they are introduced.

If all Americans only responded to their self-made cool nicknames and blared a theme song when entering their place of business, life would be much more exciting but this is not the case. The point is that an image of a whole group cannot be taken from 3 of its 40,000 members (proportionally). Another problem is that a large number of organized crime films have the focus on Italian Americans, which leads the public to stereotype that most organized crime is done by Italian Americans. Once again this is unfair to the group of Italian Americans because only 0.3% of the members of organized crime are Italian. To be proportional, only 1 out of 1,000 movies about organized crime should be about Italians, which is clearly not the case.

Again I ask you, with the introducing of the many realities shows and the increase in negative stereotypic shows and movies do you think if this study was done today would the results be any different better or worse?” Manny Alfano