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Shark Tale: The Complete Story

"It's only a movie" (variations: "It's only entertainment" and "lighten up")

Those who chant the "it's only a movie" mantra (a chant directed almost exclusively, by the way, at offended Italians), or who doubt that pop culture's pro forma debasement of the Italian American image is leaching into real life are either inexcusably ignorant of, or attempting to deliberately deny (for whatever motive), the immense power of mass media.

No reasonably intelligent person should be naive enough to believe that a constant theme hammered out regularly and consistently in mass media format does not influence people's thoughts and perceptions. Joseph Goebbels understood that. And corporate America does, too, spending millions for a few seconds of airtime to promote its products.

Study after study has shown that children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable in absorbing media images and transposing them to reality. That's why, from an Italian American perspective, the emergence of Shark Tale is particularly alarming.

Especially in consideration of the 2002 Center for Media and Public Affairs study entitled "TV's Impact on Ethnic Images" which finds that more than any other racial or ethnic category, fictional Italian characters are rated as most typical of their real-life counterparts by both Italian and non-Italian high school students.

Similarly, new polls cited in the October 12th, 2003 edition of Parade Magazine indicate that 78% of teens "associate Italians with blue collar jobs or the mob".

The validity of our concerns should be obvious at the most cursory glance, but since our detractors are either incapable or unwilling to make the distinction, let's briefly transpose Shark Tale to other ethnic or racial contexts (strictly for illustrative purposes, of course, we are NOT promoting or endorsing these stereotypes). It would never be permitted to happen, of course, but imagine that someone was undaunted enough to create an animated film - targeted for children, mind you- that featured:

  • villainous and corrupt Jewish financiers
  • bomb-planting Islamic terrorists
  • African American welfare queens
  • Hispanic drug dealers.
Take your pick. Suddenly, what was "only a movie" most assuredly would be condemned as an intolerable vehicle for anti-Semitism or racism.



back to the summary . . .
 
 

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