The First Circles
The First Circles
Here we go again! Italian-Americans cannot read popular culture's lips
By Dom Serafini. At the outset let me be perfectly clear: Italian-American ethnic slurs don’t bother me. First of all, I’m proud of what many believe is a slur –– “WOP” often written as “W.O.P.” or Work Out of Passage.
I’m sure that some of my relatives who were unable to pay for the trans-Atlantic voyage, were resourceful enough to exchange the ship fare for working onboard, and were not ashamed to wear that tag.
Secondly, I’m proud that Italian culture –– music, visual arts, food, fashion, architecture, education, furniture, literature, cars, cinema and natural attractions –– is popular everywhere.
Thirdly, I’m proud that Hollywood makes money with all that is Italian. Let’s face it, Italians are amusing, entertaining, fun to be with, unique and very charismatic. It’s only normal that Hollywood would be exploiting all these features. I cannot picture Hollywood making money exploiting Canadians, Germans, Russians or even the French.
Naturally, Hollywood also loves drama and there is nothing more dramatic that the Mafia world. Movies about the malfeasances of the CIA or Wall Street could come only in second and third.
Now, should I be offended by Mafia subjects in movies or TV shows? Of course not! After all it’s a part of Italian life, albeit the dark side of Italian life.
I feel that I’m mature enough to withstand this kind of portrayal, like Germans are unconcerned how Hollywood depicts them, especially in WWII movies (their dark side), or British and Russian are always being the bad guys.
Recently, in the United States (but not in Italy), a controversy erupted over the depiction of “guido” as a type of an Italian-American male (“guidette” is the female version). While some people were offended by this portrayal, I’m not. Why? Because I’m not a “guido”. Would I be offended if I were to be called “Mafioso?” Of course not. Once again because I’m not. Would I be offended if I were to called fat? But I’m not, so why should I?
“Guido” is an expression popularized in 1978 by Saturday Night Live by the character of Father Guido Sarducci, a priest who liked to smoke and wear chains around his neck. Recently, “guidos” and “guidette” became the subject of Jersey Shore, a reality series on MTV. Did I watch the show? Not really. I prefer watching Antique Road Show or C-Span. Does it upset me knowing that MTV makes fun of a bunch of tattooed, chain-smoking, unsophisticated Italian-Americans with heavy gold necklaces visible from their open shirts? Of course not! They’re light-years away from the real Italian-Americans and have nothing to do with me. However, the fact that some Italian-Americans have the need to defend the image of a “guido” is a bit troublesome. What are these Italian-Americans defending? The guidos loves being guidos and Hollywood is, once again, monetizing the fact that they’re part of the Italian-American spectrum. After all, Italians are amusing at any socio-economical level and Hollywood is smart enough to recognize it.