The Essential Sopranos Reader

By David Lavery; Douglas L. Howard et al. | Go to book overview

The Price of Stereotype
The Representation of the Mafia in Italy
and the United States in The Sopranos

Antonio Ingroia

It must be understood that the Mafia phenomenon is not merely criminal but has cultural and social roots. In our society, so deeply influenced by mass media and stereotypes that are carried by a televisual culture, any autoreferential attitude of conceit would be disastrous. This is why, to an anti-Mafia prosecutor, studying Mafia representation is of great importance. This study is essential and deserved also because it concerns the complex relationship of the public and users of the justice system.

An example of this is the well-known paradox that in Italy the most popular and successful Mafia movies are the roughest trivializations, certain gruesome stories, the fakest costume farces. This is especially true in Sicily, where people might be expected to grasp the difference between fiction and reality. This paradox can be explained by the fact that the average spectator perceives and appreciates the movies as fiction: myths and fantastic stories that, even if inspired by the crudest facts, emanate fascination.

So, it happened, happens, and will happen that, despite the best intentions of their authors, certain representations propagate a negative fascination with the evil hero. Mafia characters are highly appreciated by spectators who recognize on the screen people and situations they know so well from reality. This is how the Sicilian sees the mafiosi celebrated on the screen. It is in this manner that one can see the paradox of a somewhat topsy-turvy regionalist pride that can lead the average

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