When will Hollywood, the entertainment and advertising industries stop negatively stereotyping Italian Americans?
When will Hollywood, the entertainment and advertising industries stop negatively stereotyping Italian Americans? That is the question many Italian Americans want answered, especially after the TV networks and Hollywood have been polluting the air with negative reality shows and continuous movies and TV shows with Mafioso themes.
Many Italian Americans feel that there may be a conspiracy by the media to discredit them while making a fortune. There seems to be a scheme in play that has caused many Italian American actors, writers, directors and producers to follow Hollywood’s marching orders and promote negative portrayals of Italian Americans, and now these individuals have a vested interest in perpetuating negative stereotypes.
Many believe that these Italian American individuals have not only prostituted their heritage for the almighty dollar, but since they are Italian Americans, they have legitimized these offensive stereotypes. These negative portrayals are now so ingrained in our subculture that Italian Americans, especially our youth, want to be like them. We must hold Hollywood and the rest of these insensitive individuals accountable for promoting this myth and glorifying these negative roles that continuously state that Italian Americans are synonymous with Mafioso, bums, buffoons, bigots, bimbos and all around low class losers.
We need to hold them accountable for not providing positive roles and producing positive films and programs.
Try to recall the last time you saw on either the big or little screen a positive main character, or even a minor, casted as an Italian American judge, teacher, nurse, doctor or lawyer.
Now there have been a few that you can count on one hand, maybe both.
We had Daniel J. Travanti as Police Chief Capt. Frances Xavier Furillo on “Hill Street Blues.” Dennis Farina played Det. Joe Fontana on “Law and Order,” which also casted Paul Sorvino as Det. Sgt. Phil Cerreta and Michael Imperioli as Det. Nick Falco. Then we had Joe Montegna in “Alice” as Joe Ruffalo. Montegna also played three other positive roles: as Will Girardi, Joan’s father, in “Joan of Arcadia”; as Justice Joseph Novelli on “First Monday”; and most recently as David Rossi in “Criminal Minds.”
Joe states, “It’s not a coincidence that my last name in ‘Alice’ was an Italian name, or that my last name on the series ‘First Monday’ was Novelli, which is my grandfather’s name. In my current series, ‘Criminal Minds,’ the character’s name is Italian, as was the character’s name in ‘Joan of Arcadia.’ For every single one of those characters, I chose the last names and I told the directors, including Woody Allen, and they went for it. I like to make them Italian Americans when they’re positive role models to balance the scales. When given the opportunity, I try to show that Italian Americans can be Supreme Court Justices, work for the FBI, or be doctors or lawyers.”
Now this is what we have been asking for years. Yet don’t you find it strange that most of them are law enforcers? I guess that’s the writer’s attempt to show balance when dealing with organized crime scripts.
As far as positive Italian American women on TV – I can find only two and they are both police detectives. On “Rizzoli and Isles,” Detective Jane Rizzoli is played by Angie Harmon and Maura Isles, played by Sasha Alexander, is a forensic pathologist. Again the Italian American is the detective and the non-Italian American a doctor. By the way, Detective Rizzoli has a younger brother, Frankie Rizzoli Jr., who tries to make his own way… you guessed it, the police force.
The second positive Italian American role was on the TV series, “Blue Bloods.” The role was for another detective named Jackie Curatola and was played by Jennifer Esposito, who has since left the show.
So when will we ever rid ourselves of this horrific cross? When will it END! It can end when Italian Americas take the necessary action speaking out with a strong united voice and demand the end of the destructive malignancy that has been destroying our good name.
We, as Italian Americans, ask only to be treated fairly. There has never been a balance. If there were, this discussion would not be necessary. If we had any pride in our heritage, we must defend it!
Italian American and organizations that are serious about defending their heritage need to join an organization like the Italian American ONE VOICE Coalition.