American Exceptionalism in the Italian American Experience. In my previous journals on American Exceptionalism, I discussed how Italian Americans were largely unable to assimilate themselves into the exceptionalist imagei. Yet, within Francis Ford Coppola’s film The Godfather and based off of Ferraro‘s Blood in the Marketplace, one can see a situation in which Italian Americans were able to assimilate into American Exceptionalism; through the Mafia. This argument may seem paradoxical upon a first consideration because nothing about being in a gang seems exceptional, yet the reason this is a prime example of Italian American assimilation is because of their essential presence in the capitalist system.
In his writing on ethnic narratives, Ferraro stated, “Any social consciousness of Italo—Americans within ‘Little Italies’ appertains primarily to sharing and adhering to the family tradition as the main motif of their philosophy of life“.
The retention of this cultural ‘basis’ is essentially the source of their retarded adjustment” I believe that this statement helps to summarize a lot of what we have learned about the Italian American experience in this class thus far yet.
The Godfather manages to find a way to maintain the importance of the family unit in Italian life while also finding a way to assimilate themselves as Americans. Within this film, family life is combined with business, thus giving Italian Americans a place within the American capitalist system. Capitalism is an integral aspect of American Exceptionalism, thus while it may be through dishonest means, Italian Americans become more American than they ever have been through the Mafia Previously, the adherence to family had prevented Italians from reaching their full potential in America, yet.
The Godfather proves that this doesn‘t necessarily have to be the case. Puzo depicted a way of life in which the family is business and business is the family. The strength of family bonds increases the strength of the Mafia. This is the first time that an essential aspect of Italian identity, loyalty to family, combined well with an aspect of the American Exceptionalist identity, capitalism, so as to create a strong Italian American identity.