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Italian Americans are Under Attack!

First let me apologise for my plagiarism, as I have unashamedly stolen the title of this post from the NIAF newsletter I got only this morning.

When I saw the title I just had to read more.  I wanted to know just who was attacking Italian Americans, why, and, more importantly, what weapons were being used.

As a matter of interest, do you know how many Italian Americans there are?  Well, if you did not know, there are apparently nearly 18 million of them.  That’s quite a large army to set one’s sights on, is it not?

Singer Madonna is An Italian American
Singer Madonna is An Italian American

Upon reading the NIAF email, with its ‘call to arms’ title, I wondered whether events in Italy itself may have provoked this attack on Italian Americans.  Could, I asked myself, the recent, and widely reported, antics of one well known Italian Italian, have had a damaging effect on the image of his ex-countrymen?  Many of whom seem to be proud of their Italian origins.

First, though, why Italian Americans think they are being attacked.

Here is an except from the contents of the NAIF newsletter:

In the last week alone, these networks aired programs inaccurately depicting Italian Americans as uneducated buffoons, promiscuous party-goers, vain youth completely lacking self-respect, violent criminals and members of the mafia. Sadly, these depictions remain socially acceptable, even after members of the media have become sensitive to negative stereotypes of other ethnicities.

Taking these depictions one at a time:

Uneducated Buffoons

It was interesting to hear that Italian Americans are being seen as uneducated buffoons, especially when one bears in mind the action of one genuine Italian who managed to get himself scolded by the Queen of England.

Videos of the incident, plus quite a number of other videos of other incidents, did not create a great impression of the person concerned, and may have elicited utterances such as ‘uneducated buffoon’.

Promiscuous Party-Goers

‘Promiscuous party-goers’?  Uh oh.  This sounds a little familiar too.

Someone who is trying to sell his enormous pad in Sardinia – most likely to help fund his divorce settlement – appears to like a good party.  Certain photographs of one such knees-up also made it onto the world wide web – and did not do too many favours for Italy’s image in the eyes of the world.  Then again, maybe that someone was acting perfectly normally – for an Italian, that is.

Vain Youth Completely Lacking Self-Respect

As for the ‘vain youth completely lacking self-respect’ depiction, no, this cannot be applied to super you know who – seeing as he is in his 70s.

Are young Italians vain in Italy itself? Yes, some are.  There is even a word for it in Italian ‘fighetto’.

Usually a ‘fighetto’ comes from a well-heeled family and tends to do his best to show off his wealth – flashy car, expensive clothes, and impressive looking watch – read Rolex.  I guess this behaviour is a form of vanity.  Yes, ‘fighetti’ do exist, but other young Italians don’t appear to be that vain to me and even the ‘fighetti’ are not really ‘in your face’ as the vernacular goes.  There is a female version of the word, but it appears to be much more vulgar than ‘fighetto’.

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It sounds as though there may well be the Italian American versions of ‘fighetti’.  As is often the case, the actions of the vociferous and brash few tend to reflect badly upon the majority.

Violent Criminals and Members of the Mafia

Last, but by no means least we come to ‘violent criminals and members of the mafia’.  This is an old chestnut.

When people think ‘Italy’ they think ‘mafia’.  The roaring worldwide success of the Godfather trilogy also helped instil the impression that many Italians, or anyone with Italian origins for that matter, are members of the mafia.   The mafia commit violent crimes, so, by definition, Italians have to be violent criminals.

Rumours that the person who runs Italy has ‘connections’, or is, possibly, the great Godfather himself, have been all over Italy for years.  Now, thanks in part to the publicity someone has earned for himself, those same rumours have spread afresh throughout the world.  As a result, possibly, everybody has started thinking that all Italo-American’s belong to the mafia.

At the end of the day, it could be argued perhaps that the antics and example set by one very famous Italian, who has captured the attention of the media all over the world, has cast something of a dark shadow on Italians well beyond Italy’s shores.

The Weapon of Choice

As for the weapon of choice being used to attack Italian Americans, the main one is the television, and certain TV shows which have Italian American characters in them, or feature Italian Americans.

Ironic really, as the Italian Italian alluded to in this post likes to use television as a form of club too.

Italian American’s On Film

Here are some examples of how America’s media has been portraying Italian Americans or ‘guidos’, as some young Italian Americans seem to like to be known.

  • CLICK HERE to view Saturday Night Live’s Gossip Girl: Staten Island (Video cannot be seen from outside the United States)
  • CLICK HERE to view MTV’s Jersey Shore (I watched some of this)
  • CLICK HERE to view ABC’s Desperate Housewives (Video cannot be seen from outside the United States)

Are the young Italian Americans in Jersey Shore like Italian Italians?  Maybe some, but not too many, I would say – well they are not like this up here in northern Italy!

Then again, I am a little on the old side to be hanging around with 20-somethings, to be honest!  I would, however, be very interested to hear whether others living in Italy think the Jersey Shore bunch resemble any young Italians they know.

What do you think dear readers?  Is it possible that Berlusconi’s recent ‘popularity’ may have fired up renewed resentment against Italians around the world?  Or do you think Berlusconi’s media presence has nothing to do with it?

A little bird of Italian origins tells me that the NIAF leans towards the right – not sure if this means they support Berlusconi though.

Some links which might interest you:

NIAF – National Italian American Foundation – Wikipedia

NIAF Website

Entry about Italian Americans on Wikipedia

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