By Laura Cook Kenna
This dissertation historicizes gangster pictures and their reception, reading a large
range of media together with The Untouchablestelevision sequence; Frank Sinatra’s level
persona; The Godfather and its Blaxploitation cousin, The Black Godfather; gangster rap;
and The Sopranos. in addition to media content material, I study protests opposed to the gangster
(waged via Italian- and African-American teams and via media watchdogs) in addition to
popular and scholarly efforts to interpret the gangster’s which means. extra, I study the
popular realizing of the media within which the gangster seemed (e.g., anxieties over
television’s behavioral results or estimations of rap’s “realness”).
My examine makes major arguments approximately media and identification and medium and
meaning. I argue that gangster pictures operated as siteand stake within the cultural
construction of the Italian- or African-American identities they represented. instead of
survey gangster photos for typical deviation or ideological consistency, I learn how
they incited struggles over the that means of ethnic or racial distinction in the USA. My paintings
relies on archival learn in fraternal organizationrecords, Italian- and African-American
media shops, well known press, and Congressional hearings to chart how the move of
gangster pictures provoked discussions approximately and (re)articulations of nationwide id,
masculinity, otherness, and the impression of media upon society. moment, I argue that the
popular buildings of other mediums deeply affected the translation of gangster
images while these buildings have been formed through different meanings attributed to “the
gangster.” As a perennially well known snapshot of masculinist, violent, capitalist strengthen that
also mapped that ethos onto ethnically or racially precise males, the gangster photograph served
as fodder and discussion board for revisiting fears of media’s impression starting from stereotyping to the
emulation of legal habit. Gangster photos, notwithstanding, even have been largely
acclaimed as “authentic” expressions of culturally exact identities—from Nineteen Seventies ethnic
auteurs to Nineteen Nineties rappers. those competing structures of media kinds knowledgeable the
interpretation of gangster photos and inspired the results of boycotts, executive
hearings, and different thoughts for (en)countering the gangster. hence, my two-fold argument means that Americans’ understandings of media and of ethnic and racial distinction have co-informed each other within the post-WWII interval.
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Extra info for Dangerous Men, Dangerous Media: Constructing Ethnicity, Race and Media's Impact through the Gangster Image, 1959-2007
Furthermore, the coincidence of the popular adoption of auteur film criticism and the popular expression of the “new” ethnicity primed audiences to relate to the ItalianAmerican gangster as a representation of national values and a national past. As Coppola’s and Scorsese’s works participated in and benefited from this shifts, Italian-American antidefamation efforts stalled, unable to find purchase in the new discursive terrain that figured the immigrant past as the common past for white America and that considered directors authoritative interpreters of their film’s meanings.
Chapter one analyzes The Untouchables television series, broadcast on ABC from 1959 until 1964. The show used 1930s Hollywood visual conventions and the names of well-known criminals of the past to construct a documentary-style presentation of Prohibition Era gangsterism. The Untouchables also frequently used Italian-American accents and last names to characterize criminals. The series’ dependence upon discernable Italian-Americanness as well as it pretense of documentary fueled public debates about how the series might affect viewers’ impressions of Italian-Americans.
10 The premise of The Untouchables series was to depict the pursuits of Eliot Ness and his squad of “untouchable” Treasury Department agents as they rooted out the vestiges of Al Capone’s gang in Prohibition Era Chicago. Now a serial, however, the storyline of the pilot imposed an interesting limitation upon the rest of the series: Al Capone was already in jail. While this premise certainly alluded to history, the storylines of the weekly episodes were largely fictional, using real-life gangsters’ and government officials’ names in dramatic situations that, for the most part, never actually happened.