The NATIONAL ITALIAN AMERICAN FOUNDATION

Press Releases – 2001 Westchester Gala

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:   Elissa Ruffino (NIAF) 202/939-3106 or elissa@niaf.org


 

ITALIAN AMERICANS CHALLENGE STEREOTYPES IN 

“THE SOPRANOS”

    (Washington, DC – February 27, 2001) The unflattering stereotypes of Italian Americans as poorly educated and criminally inclined that dominate the HBO series, “The Sopranos” fly in the face of statistical evidence about Italian Americans, according to the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), a leading advocacy group for the nation’s estimated 20 million Americans of Italian descent.

    “Our research clearly proves that programs like “The Sopranos,” which present Italian Americans as under-educated people who are either criminals or in blue-collar jobs, bear no resemblance to the average Italian American who is a law-abiding citizen working in a white-collar position,” said Frank J. Guarini, NIAF chairman and a former U.S. congressman from New Jersey.

    Using information from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the 1990 U.S. Census the NIAF found that :

    Italian Americans have constituted little more than five percent of the fugitives on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Most Wanted List over the past 50 years.

    According to FBI records, only 5.6 percent or 26 of the 458 fugitives whose names have appeared so far on the FBI’s famous list have been of Italian descent. No Italian Americans are currently on the list.

    Two-thirds of the Italian Americans in the U.S. labor force are employed in white-collar positions compared to only one-third in blue-collar jobs, according to the 1990 U.S. Census.

    Of the six million working people who identified themselves as Italian American in the 1990 U.S. Census, four million were professionals (physicians, attorneys, educators, etc.) as well as managers, and technical, sales, or administrative workers.

    Two million Italian Americans were employed in “blue collar” jobs, which included police officers, farmers, mechanics and construction workers, according to Census Bureau classifications.

”    The U.S. entertainment industry’s persistent stereotyping of Italian Americans as goons or buffoons has increased dramatically over the past 25 years, despite the growing climate of “political correctness” in the media and American society,” Guarini said.

    Guarini cited a study last year from the Italic Studies Institute in Floral Park, New York that reviewed all Hollywood films that featured Italian or Italian American characters from 1928 to the beginning of the year 2000.

    “Of the 1,078 films that fit this description, an overwhelming 73 percent portray Italians in a negative light,” he said. “Of the negative Italian American characters, 33 percent were boors, bigots or bimbos. Characters that were involved in organized crime accounted for 40 percent. But of the films Hollywood has made of Italian American criminals, only 14 percent were based on the lives of actual people. The remaining 86 percent of the films featured entirely fictional Italian American characters,” Guarini said.