The Gangster Genre The Mob Boss and Necrophilia: A discussion on Gothic themes present within Italian organized crime media
This is a crash course on the study of Gothic themes: The Gothic template stems from the biblical fall of man. There are two important characters within the Gothic set up: The savior, “light,” or heavenly character The “dark,” earthly or doomed character, that is lifted to a more heavenly status through the savior, but in turn, drags the savior down to earthly levels
Women are more commonly portrayed as the “savior” character. Men are almost always the earthly characters. In most cases they are described as a “Byronic hero,” in that they are seriously flawed heroes. In rare instances, women may be considered the dark character. in which she plays a “femme fatale” or sexual temptress.
Godfather Trailer Michael Corleone
The Gangster Genre Lets look at the Gangster genre and how they fit into this Gothic set up so far. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll use the Godfather trilogy. The Dark, Earthly Characters? Michael Corleone, Vito Corleone, Apollonia The Savior? Kay Adams
Why is that? There are a few reasons why Michael and Vito Corleone fit into this Byronic hero scheme. • Specifically in the second film, we see how Vito has risen against the vile organized crime he had immigrated into and has become the hero of the Italian ghetto in New York. • Michael Corleone states that he is trying desperately hard to create a legitimate business out of his father’s organized crime business. • Family and religion are extremely important to both characters.
What makes them “Byronic?” • Michael Corleone fails to ever create a safe and entirely legitimate enterprise out of his father’s legacy, a failure that ultimately costs him two marriages and two children. • Both Vito and Michael gain power by violent, illegal and morally corrupt means.
So what does this mean? The Corleones present a common theme within organized crime movies and TV shows. There is a strong sense of moral ambiguity, another crucial aspect to the Gothic template: The viewer feels inclined to show empathy for the mob boss, and also feels strongly against their means of achieving social status, and ultimate costs on the family and moral and religious values.
But what about Kay? Kay is the savior character against the Corleones: • She is soft-spoken, understanding and eventually becomes an unintended victim due to her marriage to Michael. • She encourages Michael to create a legitimate business, in addition to becoming godfather to his nephew.
The Savior Kay presents the typical savior in most gangster films in TV shows. In Goodfellas: Karen Hill Comes from a reputable Jewish family. In the end, is putting up with Henry’s extramarital affairs, and is hiding cocaine in the toilet and guns in her underwear. In The Sopranos: Carmela Soprano: Consistently tormented by her children, husband’s infidelity and lifestyle, but decides to put up with it in exchange for material gain.
Apollonia In other films and TV shows, this character may be a mistress, rather than first wife. She is a dark character or femme fatale because: She is presented in many instances in a very natural or origin-like setting: an old town in Italy She is described as a tempter to men and a most desired woman throughout Sicily. While she is only in the series for no more than 30 minutes, she is the only woman to show frontal nudity.
You mentioned necrophilia earlier… Apollonia may seem minor to the plot of the movie, but is important from a Gothic standpoint. Gothic characters seem to continuously run into instances of necrophilia, intentionally or not. In this case, Michael’s first wife is killed due an assassination attempt on his life.
Throughout the entire trilogy, Michael is haunted by their marriage, in which he continually thinks about her and her death, and thus fantasies of sex with his dead wife. This is also true for TV’s gangster on General Hospital: Sonny is so consumed with the murder of his first wife, he continues to search for women with similar physical features and repeatedly has romantic fantasies of his former wife.
And Finally Gangster films and TV series rely on mystery and suspense, usually around mortality, as plot development. The entire premise of each Godfather film, except perhaps the final installment, is based on the fear that someone is plotting the godfather’s death. This is also true for both for Goodfellas and Sopranos. This fear becomes an obsession and soon is their entire existence. This is what makes a gangster film or TV series gothic; it’s how their lifestyle of violence becomes rational and morally ambiguous.