Dangerous Men, Dangerous Media: Constructing Ethnicity, Race and Media's Impact through the Gangster Image, 1959-2007

By Laura Cook Kenna

This dissertation historicizes gangster pictures and their reception, interpreting a large
range of media together with The Untouchablestelevision sequence; Frank Sinatra’s degree
persona; The Godfather and its Blaxploitation cousin, The Black Godfather; gangster rap;
and The Sopranos. in addition to media content material, I study protests opposed to the gangster
(waged by way of Italian- and African-American teams and by way of media watchdogs) in addition to
popular and scholarly efforts to interpret the gangster’s which means. additional, I study the
popular realizing of the media during which the gangster seemed (e.g., anxieties over
television’s behavioral results or estimations of rap’s “realness”).
My research makes major arguments approximately media and identification and medium and
meaning. I argue that gangster photographs operated as siteand stake within the cultural
construction of the Italian- or African-American identities they represented. instead of
survey gangster photographs for common deviation or ideological consistency, I study how
they incited struggles over the that means of ethnic or racial distinction in the USA. My paintings
relies on archival study in fraternal organizationrecords, Italian- and African-American
media retailers, renowned press, and Congressional hearings to chart how the circulate of
gangster photos provoked discussions approximately and (re)articulations of nationwide id,
masculinity, otherness, and the impression of media upon society. moment, I argue that the
popular structures of alternative mediums deeply affected the translation of gangster
images while these buildings have been formed by way of different meanings attributed to “the
gangster.” As a perennially well known photograph of masculinist, violent, capitalist boost that
also mapped that ethos onto ethnically or racially specific males, the gangster photo served
as fodder and discussion board for revisiting fears of media’s effect starting from stereotyping to the
emulation of legal habit. Gangster photographs, even though, even have been extensively
acclaimed as “authentic” expressions of culturally particular identities—from Seventies ethnic
auteurs to Nineties rappers. those competing structures of media kinds expert the
interpretation of gangster photos and encouraged the results of boycotts, govt
hearings, and different techniques for (en)countering the gangster. hence, my two-fold argument means that Americans’ understandings of media and of ethnic and racial distinction have co-informed each other within the post-WWII interval.

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Ruth Bowser, "Feet of Clay," la occasions (1886Current File), December eleven 1960, p. A50. Stack had was once equally quoted a number of months ahead of in an interview in which he additional, “if we restrict it to reality, we'd to boot visit newsreels. ” "New Untouchables," p. seventy two. seventy four Those who felt that criminal associations have been taken care of poorly within the technique of glamorizing, enhancing, and differently fictionalizing heritage didn't see the problem so easily. whereas a few observers asserted that “the television viewer doesn’t provide a hoot if the real isn’t actual,” others weighed in to argue that portraying sure fictions as historical past used to be a hazard to the general public sturdy. 136 One episode particularly struck a nerve with a Federal Prisons Bureau consultant and have become the focal point of accusations that the convey inspired a disrespect for legislation enforcement. while The Untouchables sequence created a two-part episode in accordance with the legal move of Al Capone, they tampered with some of the real occasions alongside that Atlanta to Alcatraz trip. 137 After the 1st installment of “The vast educate” aired, James V. Bennett, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, spoke out on behalf of the pursuits of the country. Bennett stressed out telegrams to 10 ABC associates assuring them that the Bureau might actively oppose the renewal in their FCC-granted broadcasting licenses should still they air the subsequent week’s concluding episode. 138 The Untouchables had switched over what have been, in actual existence, a monotonous and absolutely winning prisoner move into an occasion threatened through an break out plot and through numerous guards’ kowtowing to Capone. by means of season , The Untouchables had taken liberties with historical past numerous occasions prior to and the fictitious nature of the sequence’ story of the criminal move had even been the topic of a la occasions interview with Capone (rein)actor Neville model. 139 nonetheless, Bennett was once 136 this can be columnist Ruth Bowser’s precis of the placement as she concludes her “Feet of Clay” article. Bowser, "Feet of Clay: How television Tampers with historical past. " 137 “The tremendous teach” ran as a part of The Untouchables season on January five and 12, 1961. 138 The warned associates have been in long island, Chicago, San Francisco, la, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Miami, West Palm seashore, Orlando and Jacksonville, FL. "'Untouchables' Touches Off Feud with legal Bureau," la instances (1886-Current File), January thirteen 1961, p. A7. 139 Cecil Smith, "Big Al Takes a educate Ride," l. a. occasions (1886-Current File), January five 1961, p. A8. seventy five particularly incensed by means of a illustration of a jail shield cooperating with a plot to assist Capone. He objected asserting “to photo honorable and brave officials as venal and a public establishment just like the Atlanta penal complex as toadying to a personality like Capone is an unforgivable public disservice. ”140 Having obtained the Director’s grievance, ABC extra a statement to the top of the second one installment assuring that the denigration of the Bureau used to be now not their rationale; with this addition the realization of “The huge teach” used to be aired.

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