STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
The culmination of 15 years of research,
the Italic Institute of America's Film Study is an analysis of the portrayal
of Italian Americans/Italian culture in Hollywood movies
over the past century (1914-2014).
Of the 1,512 film titles that were researched,
the results reveal an overall negative attitute
toward Italian Americans and Italian culture in general (68.5%).
Images of Italians as violent criminals predominate (34.9%),
followed by images of unsavory characters (33.6%).
Images of Italians in positive, heroic, or complex roles
occur less often (31.5%).
The figures indicate an entrenched, institutionalized bias
in Hollywood against Americans of Italian descent.
The diversity of the Italian American experience has been obscured
by one-dimensional stereotypes equating Italian culture with criminality.
With the success of "The Godfather" (1972), these distorted images
gained popular acceptance on an unprecedented scale.
The Film Study was initiated in 1999 by Bill Dal Cerro,
current President of the Italic Institute and its former Media Director.
Dal Cerro served as film writer during the 1990's for Fra Noi,
an Italian American newspaper in Chicago.
In addition to Mr. Dal Cerro's encyclopaedic knowledge of film,
four of the Institute's top researchers contributed film titles
and input on a continuous basis.
Film portrayals were classified individually yet under the rubrics
of "positive" or "negative,"
depending on the images conveyed about Italisn/Italian American culture.
Since film viewing is considered a subjective experience,
borderline titles were weighed by overall image
and/or attempt at balance.
"The Godfather" has complex characters, which is a plus;
however, the overwhelming impression it leaves with the viewers
is of a culture permeated by criminality.
There is no balance; therefore, it's a "negative."
The plethora of Italian mobster films
(even the comical ones like "Oscar" or "Analyze This")
needs no explanation.
Such films merely reinforce what is already a pernicious stereotype.
The same is true for portrayals of unsavory characters.
A TYPICAL EXAMPLE
In the 1995 film, "To Die For", based on a true story, Nicole Kidman's character tricks three teens into killing her low-brow Italian husband whose family gets even by hiring a mobster
to kill her.
In real-life, however, the only Italians involved were the two State Attorneys,
Paul Maggiotto and Diane Nicolosi, who convicted the murderess to a life sentence. (Shades of Daniel Petrocelli beating O.J. Simpson at his civil trial!).
"To Die For" is a typical example of how the facts of real-life incidents are often distorted or misinterpreted to put a "negative" spin on Italian Americans.
For other examples of distortion and bias,
and its "Hollywood vs. Joe Truth" feature
Since Italian stereotypes remain a staple of popular entertainment,
the figures and percentages, though consistent,
remain in flux.
Further research of historical films or verification
of upcoming projects necessitates a fluidity in the overall
For a copy of the Institute's complete film study,
send a check for $20.00 to:
Italic Institute of America
Attn: Film Study
P.O. Box 818
Floral Park, NY 11001
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