It's not like they're out knocking off civilians for fun, y'know.
Scum? Don't you have a certain respect, admiration for the mob?
Aw, I like the mob. No, not because of their wonderful contributions to society. They afford us a "what if" look into an alternate world where problems are solved by violence as opposed to law.
A mob movie is very much like a Western. The stage is set; you know the rules on how things work. The stories play out in a universe that you're very familiar with. I don't care much for Westerns, but I do love me a good mob movie.
I agree that there is a certain level of fascination one can derive from the mob. For similar reasons, many people might watch war movies or movies depicting evil regimes or individuals. Such as the numerous depictions of Hitler out there, which seem to generate a lot of interest and viewers. I don't think it means that people actually like or admire Hitler (some people might), but the fascination exists nonetheless. It might be similar with Mob movies, too.
I also think that Mob movies have a certain attraction in that they often portray the "establishment" as being just as bad, if not worse than the Mob itself. Those who are cynical about the police or the "Powers That Be" in society might see the Mob in a somewhat heroic sense, as they were able to beat the bigshots at their own game.
There's a certain "rags to riches" element where poor immigrants are able to rise to the top through their own gumption, drive, and ambition. It fits the standard "American Dream" narrative which still inspires a lot of folks. But it's also marred and tainted to some degree as well, especially when Mob movies show their "philosophical" side, as if to imply that there's something "deeper" and more "meaningful" to what they're doing. The rise of the Mob may be a testament to the notion of "style over substance." It may be that they have a certain kind of "style" which elevates them above that of "common criminal" in many people's eyes.
I view it as presenting a "what if" scenario for our lives. What if we lived in a lawless life like this? Could we live with ourselves if we did it? What is life like as a mobster? Goodfellas does an excellent job at answering these questions.
The Hitler thing is also interesting, and it's for similar reasons. Here is pure evil (although dogs supposedly loved him), but he's hamstringed by his own stupidity. What if he hadn't made all the blunders he did - wiping out the Brits at Dunkirk; using the Jews as an educated workforce instead of exterminating them; not attacking Russia, but instead consolidating his position in Europe. One thing you have to say about the Nazis - they sure looked good in their Hugo Boss-designed unifors. PR like that goes a long way! (And yes, I'm mostly kidding there.)
There is some of that, but I don't think that's the main attraction. Obviously, we're just spouting our own opinions here, but I think the big attraction is living outside the law - doing whatever you want, and getting away with it. And yes, owning the police is nice, too.
I think what elevates the Godfather movies, at least, what makes them, "deep", "philosophical", is that they are absolutely Shakespearean in extent. They are a psychological study of these "great" men (and women, if you include GF III, which I basically don't) - their rise, their fall, their motives, their betrayal, their revenge. It's fascinating!
Another difference is that, at least with Nazism, there is/was a certain ideological and philosophical foundation to it, rooted mainly in German nationalism which rose to prominence in the 19th century. Hitler made it far more twisted and evil than it should have been, but there was at least a philosophical basis for what he was doing.
In contrast, the Mob's "philosophy" was not unlike that of a schoolyard bully shaking down little kids for their lunch money. The Mob were content to remain bottom-feeders in someone else's pond, and that's really the main difference.
one of the Mob's main "laws" is "never rat on your friends" (aka "omerta"). But why would this be the central part of their philosophy? Does this imply that, deep down, the Mob is secretly ashamed of what they're doing? This would imply that they really couldn't do whatever they wanted and often had to hide and conceal who and what they truly were.
But I can't say that I ever found their philosophy to be all that "deep." I suppose it might be related to the philosophies of capitalism and the American Dream, yet they are dark side versions of those philosophies.
But it's also anti-patriotic, disloyal, selfish, narcissistic, and purely ego-driven. It seems that it revolves more around placating, appeasing, and pacifying the egos of individual mobsters than anything else.
While they may operate outside of the law and can do virtually anything they want, they are still quite dependent upon the rule of law and the police to maintain the structure and order within society. To a large degree, they're still working "within the system" and are therefore driven to protect it. But at the same time, everything they do ultimately makes that system that much weaker and ineffective.
Well, two things. First, the mob "philosophy", such as it is, if you can believe it, is broadly similar to the Nazis - that individuals aren't important. In the mob, the mob comes first - even before your actual family. There is a corporatism at work in both, in terms of the hierarchy, the leadership.
And the mob has the same nationalism as the Nazis, just with a different nation - Sicily. As Henry describes, he and Jimmy could never be "full" members, because they weren't fully Sicilian. There is a glorification of all things Sicilian in the mob, particularly, of course, the food.
No, that's not it. I don't believe - from media depictions only, I don't know any mobsters - that mafiosos are ashamed of what they do. They not only like what they do, they relish what they do.
You are miscontruing or misapplying omerta. Omerta is the protection of the organization as a whole, not the protection of themselves individually. True, they are not supposed to discuss mafia business with outsiders. But "outsiders" has a very flexible meaning. Obviously, law enforcement were the key outsiders. But you sure could discuss it with your wife, your mother, and others who were imporant to you, if the Sopranos is to be believed. (Again, my only sources of "information" on the mob are just what I've seen in the movies and TV.)
I agree; I'm just discussing the scope of the story presented in The Godfather. There is no inherent, interesting "philosophy" that the mob presents other than that bullies are powerful and can get what they want. I just meant that the stories themselves within that universe are compelling.
No, I disagree. Sure, it's anti-patriotic (look at how upset they all were when Michael joins the Marines), but disloyal? Nuh-uh. If anything, the mob is all about loyalty. That is what the hierarchy, what omerta is all about. You give your entire loyalty to the mob, and the mob takes care of you. And while, hell yes, it is narcissistic and ego-driven, it is not driven mostly by those things. It is driven by pacifying the egos of those above you in the hierarchy, and it is driven by pleasure-seeking, but it is also driven - to my mind, primarily - by rule-breaking. By being a separate society outside of polite society's rules.
Yes, and that is the point. The control of that other system, so that their system can operate to its highest level possible. I wouldn't say that they work within the system so much as they work to control "that other system" while still staying firmly within their own.
I never really understood it that way, especially since the inner workings of the Mob tended towards treachery and duplicity. They'll turn against their own boss or even their friends if it meant more money and a higher position. It may be similar in Corporate America, where people will stab each other in the back to get up the corporate ladder. Even the Nazis had a good deal of infighting and backstabbing as they tried to move up their own ladder to the top.
Yes, but we're talking about an organization where the only effective way of rising to the top is by killing those who are already at the top. That's where the disloyalty comes from, since they'll turn on each other. After the Castellammarese War, Luciano set up a board of directors, but it wasn't like a single corporation - more like a guild or a cartel. And there would be rivalries, backstabbing, infighting, intrigue. They have to be ever vigilant, because they never know if someone might be out there gunning for them. They're not worried about the police, but about other mobsters who may not be as loyal to the organization as they are to themselves.
I don't know if what you describe is actual nationalism or more a matter of ethnic pride and a milder form of tribalism.
I don't know if they're actually Sicilian nationalists or what, as they don't seem to support any independence or national political movements to speak of. I think Henry was saying that they needed to check a person's entire genealogy and family history, and they could only do that if they were from Sicily. I think the Mob also accepted some from southern Italy as well, as Naples and Sicily were unified for quite some time.
I agree that the stories are compelling. I don't think they're so much stories about the Mob but about America itself. They have made their mark on history and on the society at large. Of course, the same could be said about the KKK, who also had an interesting "philosophy," to say the least.
The point I was getting at is that they really couldn't do whatever they wanted, even if they were living outside the law. But it's not as if they're anarchists, who might live outside the law based solely on principle. For the Mob, they live outside the law or hide behind the law - whichever is more convenient for the circumstances.
I can see what you're saying, but from what it looks like, they're arch criminals who simultaneously want to be feared and respected, but also appearing as ordinary "legitimate businessmen" in the eyes of the law and the general public. This was touched upon a bit in The Godfather Part II when Michael says to Senator Geary: "Senator, we're both part of the same hypocrisy." The image of wanting to appear as "legitimate" was also something important to Michael.
All the "philosophy" is simply a smokescreen to cover raw ambition and lust for power no matter what the cost may be. That's nothing new in the human experience, I suppose, but in the end, all anyone will look at are the results of a given endeavor.
Right, and I agree, they work both within AND without the system. They are all part of the same hypocrisy. Geary does it with a pen; Micahel does it with a gun.
But the fascinating thing these mob movies present is an alternative lifestyle - what if I made the choice to live like that? What if society actually accepted, tolerated the mafia - as it used to do (and who knows, still does?) in Sicily? What if I went down that road?
My father's no different than any other powerful man --
(then, after Kay laughs)
-- Any man who's responsible for other people. Like a senator or a president.
You know how naive you sound?
Senators and presidents don't have men killed...
Oh -- who's being naïve, Kay?
A small story to prove my point. I, of course, do have morals, do not commit crimes, never even think of committing crimes, and have always lived and played by the rules. I was on jury duty for the trial of the murder of one drug dealer by another drug dealer - 15 years earlier. The witnesses were all drug dealers - former drug dealers, who had now grown up and moved on with their lives. As shown in any such depiction (The Wire springs to mind), these guys would go out and "go to work" just like any normal citizen - except their "work" was committing felony after felony, dozens of felonies, every single day, for years. Literally THOUSANDS of felonies.
Think about it - here you are, in your nice cozy way of life, not committing a felony, not once, not EVER. And here they are, in an alternate life, just a couple of miles away from where I live, and their life is all about committing felonies, ALL THE TIME. Felony, felony, felony, as if it were no different than breathing. Whoa. What is that life like?