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RE: “What Would Your Dead Italian Immigrant Father Say to The World According to Tony Soprano?”by Daniela Gioseffi
I say hurray for your bold and principled stance on this issue. I myself have written something about “The Sopranos”– but I certainly hope that no one would consider my essay an attempt to “gain attention” from an article analyzing the show, nor do I wish to “patronize writers and actors involved with it.” You’re right, though, that the whole Soprano “thing” is an extraordinary and disturbing phenomenon, at least from an Italian-American perspective and, one would hope, from other points of view as well.
I wish you the best.
Sandra M(ortola) Gilbert
Keep it up. I support you all the way. Here is the message I sent to Mayor Bloomberg of New York City:
Mayor, I was extremely disappointed by your decision to invite members of
“The Sopranos” cast to march with you in the Columbus Day parade
[2002.] To say that they are your friends is no excuse. You must have known,
like everyone else in this town and in this country, that members of that show
were dis-invited last year as well, because that show defames and denigrates
Italian Americans. Yet, knowing that, you decided to invite, without consulting
the organizers of the parade, some cast members of a show which has been
condemned by every Italian American organization in the country. That shows, at
the very least, a gross and insulting insensitivity to the Italian American
Pr. Luigi Bonaffini
Brooklyn College of the City University of NY
Congratulations!!! Your Editorial was SUPERB!!!
May I have permission to make it one of my “Annotico Reports”, with full complimentary credits to you as an accomplished author. I will do a follow up on the Web Site !!!
Richard Annotico of the Annotico Reports
I read your article in the NY Times Chat Room, 2001, now on your website
Your passionate condemnation puts into words what many of us feel but don’t have the time to write concerning The Sopranos. You may not be aware that Congressman Alfred E. Santangelo (Democrat, NY), one of the pioneer Italian American members of Congress in the 1950s and 60s, was a leader in the fight to stop discrimination against Italian Americans. A State Senator and US Congressman from 1948 to 1962, he started Americans of Italian Descent, and published a newspaper The Challenge for many years. His story is told in The Biography of Congressman Alfred E. Santangelo and The Rise of Italian Americans in Politics. (On sale at Barnes and Noble bookstores nationwide) Congressman Santangelo successfully fought “The Untouchables” television show, forcing the producers to sharply restrict the use of Italian American names as gangsters. He was instrumental in the naming of the Verazzano Bridge after the great Italian explorer, and helped gain the appointment of the first Italian American member of the US Cabinet, Anthony Cellebrezze.
Columnist, Chicago Daily Herald
September 20, 2002
“The Sopranos. Bums. Bigots. Buffoons and Bimbos. A Boring Bust. ” This succinct critique of the new “The Sopranos” series on cable comes from Manny Alfano of Bloomfield, N.J.
Mr. Alfano is a bit prejudiced, because he is a crusader against defamation of Americans of Italian descent. But he’s right on as far as this viewer is concerned. Last season we got tired of this gangster soap opera that demeans Italian-Americans. We dutifully tuned in last Sunday to see if the new season is better. It was worse. I defer to Manny Alfano’s opinion. No more wasted hour on Sunday nights. (Or we’ll waste it on some other program.) Copyright (C) 2002, Jack Mabley Daily Herald, Chicago
Herald: Suburban Chicago’s Information Source http://www.dailyherald.com/oped/col_mabley.asp]
Dear Mr. Mabley:
[I have just read] your column which ran today that takes to task “The Sopranos” not only for its denigration of Italian Americans but also for its presentation of sex, violence, profanity, and crime as “entertainment.”
True, “Tthe Sopranos” is not the first to appeal to the baser instincts of human nature to make a buck. What amazes us here at the Sons of Italy is the enthusiastic endorsement this series is enjoying from television critics, radio talk shows, and even some circles of academia. [Currently at least five universities are offering courses on “The Sopranos”!] The Sons of Italy, the largest and oldest national organization for men and women of Italian heritage, is dismayed and appalled by the manner in which this country has embraced a program that is the television equivalent of a peep show. I thought you might like to see the kind of research we are doing that we hope will serve as an antidote to what the US entertainment industry is doing to the reputation of an estimated 26 million Americans of Italian descent – the nation’s fifth largest ethnic group….
Thank you again, Mr. Mabley. Your powerful voice is much appreciated.
Dona De Sanctis, Ph.D, at The Sons of Italy
My name is Lou Faiel-Dattilo and I live in Austin Texas. I took the liberty of forwarding your superb essay about “The Sopranos” to Terry Gross, in care of NPR’s “Fresh Air”. I did this in light of today’s re-run of her interviews with Soprano’s actors from a couple of years ago. I was sure you would not mind and I’d love to hear her interview you. I prefaced it with this massage:
I have been a dedicated fan of your program for many years. I have always admired your fairness, insight and incomparable interviewing skill. I just heard the interviews with “The Sopranos” actors on NPR, Friday 13, 02.
May I prevail upon you to read this article with your characteristic open mind and intelligence. This program came at a most terrible time for me. Just last Tuesday a co-worker who I liked very much told me that the stereotypes promoted by the Sopranos were richly justified, that Italian-Americans deserved it, that we alone are responsible for the many gangsters and Mafiosi amongst us , that we (Italians) had to clean up our own act and that he was tired of all the “whining” that Italian-Americans do with regard to this show.
In light of this, I trust that anybody can see that “The Sopranos” is not the benign phenomenon that the producers and actors connected with that show would lead the public to believe. I am a fifty four year old Italian-American gentleman who has spent his entire adult life in public service, a civil rights supporter and activist, and an AIDS activist practically from the time the syndrome was first identified. My grandparents came to this country and lived impeccably honest lives of hard work and effort as did my parents and this is the thanks we get.
After my coworker told me this I went home with tears of rage and hurt in my eyes and I lit candles before my grandparents pictures on my altar and thanked them for giving me this good life and for passing on their honesty and integrity. The hurt still lingers.
A Quote from Newsday
to the Annotico Report from Pat Gabriel and IAOV,Manny Alfano, Founder from Newsday
columnist, Marie Cocco, 09/17/2002,
…you can love “The Sopranos” and still loathe the way legitimate gripes about Italian – American stereotyping are dismissed. They’re cast aside by everyone associated with the smash HBO show. By its legions of Italian – American fans – some of whom log on to HBO’s chat rooms to wax nostalgic about such topics as those bygone Sunday dinners. They are disregarded by the mainstream media, which scoff at complaints about ubiquitous portrayals of Italian- Americans as scheming gangsters and serial adulterers.
“Overblown” and “unjustified,” sniffed The New York Times. “An old chestnut (or should I say castagna vecchia),” declared The Wall Street Journal. If you do not believe it is still acceptable to malign Italian-Americans, try to imagine critics for such publications casting aside, with open contempt, the concerns of other ethnic groups. Bet you can’t.
Yet when the National Italian – American Foundation polled teenagers two years ago about images of ethnic groups in the entertainment media, the stereotypes the youth associated with Italian-Americans were worse than those conjured up for any others – except Arab-Americans. “Crime bosses, gang members, restaurant workers,” the teenagers said they expected as roles for Italian – American characters. Among Italian – American teens, about half said they agreed this image of their ethnic heritage is accurate. Nearly a third said they were proud of it.
“Realistically, we’re not going to change programming,” said John B. Salamone, executive director of the foundation. “If they canceled that program because of Italian-Americans, we’d probably have more enemies,” Salamone said of “The Sopranos.”
Copyright (C) 2002 by Newsday columnist, Marie Cocco, 09/17/2002
Helen Barolini, American Book Award winning author of The Dream Book; Italian American Women’s Writings, and Umbertina, Chiaroscuro, More Italian Hours–a triptych of Italian-America culture evolving through the 20th century.”
I was finally able to access your piece and found it strong and forceful. You mention several authors as alternative views to the gangster theme and this put me in mind of a recent piece about I/A literature that appeared in the Christian Science Monitor on April 15, 2002.
Also, I think the strong argument you make against stereotyping Italian Americans gets muddled when you bring in Italians like Enrico Fermi, Toscanini, Mazzei and Grazia Deledda.
from all of us for taking a stand!
I have long been an admirer of your poetry and have purchased most of your books.I first read your editorial in the Forum One Voice website and I send you BRAVAS on all you said. Your eloquence, sincerity and insights are matched only by the pain we all experience 24/7 seeing ourselves reduced to clowns, dupes, gluttons, murderers, and thugs. Not a night goes by on TV, or an attendance at some film that some gangster, or hoodlum, or miscreant is not given an Italian name in drama or comedy. You make reference to Robert Viscusi. I know him well. My husband and he taught at the same college. I get the monthly newsletter from his IAWA and generally find his comments well stated and to the point. This month however I was utterlly dismayed to find a capitulation to the persecution we all experience with “The Sopranos.” I would like to think I have misread him, but I doubt it.
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All letters and quotations Copyright © 2002 by their authors. All rights reserved.