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Portrayal of Mafia in The Sopranos and The Godfather

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The Mafia is an organized crime network that has evolved over time in Sicily. The Mafia has gangs all over Italy and the United States. Initially the Mafia had no criminal connotations and was simply a group that was formed to carry out their own justices. “By the 19th century, some of these groups emerged as private armies, or “mafie,” who extorted protection money from landowners and eventually became the violent criminal organization known today as the Sicilian Mafia.” The mafia is an Italian originated gang that has since originated into organized crime groups that are prevalent in the United States and are often depicted in American television for their true group values. “The American Mafia, which rose to power in the 1920s, is a separate entity from the Mafia in Italy, although they share traditions as omerta, a code of conduct and loyalty.” The Mafia organization has been depicted in many different American television shows and movies for centuries. Some of the most famous Mafia portrayals are “The Godfather” and “The Sopranos”.

In the beginning days of the Mafia, the gang was composed of elite farmers, who tended to great estates of land on behalf of the owners who were absent. The farmers were invested in the land that they tended too. The farmers wanted armed protection for their land and families. The Mafia then formed to offer them this protection. “The members were typically small merchants, while the use of violence was delegated to gangs of youths who gained status and advancement in a society that held very little opportunity for a young poor man.” The Mafia was weakened overtime by Fascism. Mussolini had many of the lower level mobsters thrown into jail to further prove that the violence of the Mafia would not be tolerated under his authority. “However, much of the Mafia, and especially its more powerful elements, were able to adapt to the regime and camouflage themselves within it, often joining the Fascist National Party.” 

The Godfather is an American gangster film that took place in the 1940s. The movie revolves around the Corleone’s, which is a fictional New York Mafia family. “It opens inside the dark office of the family patriarch, Don Vito Corleone (also known as the Godfather and played by Brando), on the wedding day of his daughter, Connie. Vito’s youngest son, Michael, who has distanced himself from the family business, attends the festivities with his non-Italian girlfriend, Kay.” Shortly after all of the wedding festivities, Vito was nearly killed by a gunman that was sent by a rival Mafia family. While Vito was recovering in the hospital the gunman attempted to attack Vito again and Kevin managed to save him from the gunman. Michael then took it upon himself, to bring justice to his father’s name. In this case, bringing justice to his father’s name included murdering a corrupt police captain and the man who ordered the hit on his father.

After Michael murdered the corrupt police man and the man who ordered a hit on his father Michael fled the country to Sicily. Upon fleeing to Sicily a gang war breaks out and Vito’s oldest son Sonny is shot and killed. The violence eventually makes its way to Michael when Michael’s Sicilian wife is gunned down during an attempt on his life. Upon the death of his wife, Michael moves back to New York and marries his former girlfriend Kay. Vito also makes peace with the rival Mafia families. Eventually, Michael succeeds his father’s legacy as Don, and manages to bring peace and prosperity to his family. Michael then launches a plan to strategically wipe out all of the people who have every attacked the Corleone’s.

The Sopranos is known as one of the greatest television shows of all time. The Sopranos is an American based crime drama which was widely liked for its impressive writing, fancy cast and styling, and for incorporating themes such as: violence, gender roles, and Italian-American family culture in a television friendly manner. The seven seasons television series follows the daily life of Tony Soprano who is the Mafia boss. The television series follows along with the day to day life of Tony through his therapist whom he started having sessions with after he began having panic attacks which caused him to begin having black out spells. Tony’s infidelity in his marriage and his violent way of life in the Mafia has caused rather dysfunctional relationships with his family.

“The character of Tony Soprano is said to have been inspired by DeCavalcante crime family boss, John ‘The Eagle’ Riggi – as detailed in an episode of the American Greed series, titled ‘Mob Money’. The DeCavalcante family made their fortune by racketeering. They controlled a powerful division of the Laborers International Union in North America. Their control over the union allowed them to push millions into mob coffers. Riggi served time in prison for racketeering and murder where he was released from in 2012. Riggi later went on to pass away at the impressive age of 90 in 2015. The Sopranos had some factual truth that was placed behind the show unlike The Godfather which was solely for entertainment purposes.

The Italian-America Mafia has managed to make its way into American history due to its interesting rules and gang connotations. Today, the Mafia isn’t what is used to be. It is harder to find crooked cops, or political figures who are greatly influenced by the Mafia. “But the FBI maintains that La Cosa Nostra – the sprawling group originally steered by Sicilian immigrants that we hear about most often – is the “foremost organized criminal threat to American society”.” As times change the prevalence of the Mafia in America had died down and other groups of organized crime have taken the place of the Mafia. “The feds estimate that various Italian Mafia groups have more than 3,000 members scattered throughout the country, with their largest presence in New York, Philadelphia and southern New Jersey.” While the Mafia has slowly declined over the years, it’s still has had a drastic impact on Italian and American culture. In a way the Mafia helped the Italian people feel some sense of strong family connection. Although, the Mafia is an organized crime gang, they took care of their gang members as if they were their family, which most of the time they actually are family.

Works Cited:

  • Bauer, Patricia. “The Godfather.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.,
  • Ferranti, Seth. “What Happened to the American Mafia?” Vice, 13 July 2015,
  • Hardiman, Jess. “The Real-Life Gangsters That Hit Series ‘The Sopranos’ Was Based On.” LAD Bible , 19 Mar. 2018,
  • Editors. “Origins of the Mafia.”, A&E Television Networks, 29 Oct. 2009,
  • Ott, Serena, ed. Italian Culture and Society: Coursepack. Buford, GA: LAD Custom Publishing, 2012. (P. 293-298) 

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