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Ethnic Stereotyping: Going, Going, Gone
Why It Was Okay To Laugh At Little Immigrant Luigi Bosco In The 1940s, But Not So Today
Continued from page 2
by Cookie Curci
Things have changed a lot since my immigrant grandparents came here during the great migration. Their hard work and the goals they achieved were honorable and enduring. And now that they are gone. It is with a certain reverence and respect that I revere their memories and hard work. So when I see, or hear, a derogatory ethnic image or joke, I can't help but perceive it as a put down of my grandparent's and their courageous generation.
Today's TV situation comedy's still feature ethnic families, but the main focus is no longer on their ethnicity. Sit-coms like Bill Cosby's The Cosby Show was a break through comedy because the story was about a successful pediatrician and how he related to his family, not a "black" doctor and how he retailed to his "black" family. The same is true of Everybody Loves Raymond. TV viewers know from subtle inference that the Barone family is of Italian descent, but rarely is the family's ethnic background the core of the humor.
The difference between "us" and "them" isn't so easily defined anymore and I guess that's good. My grandparent's generation were Italian/Italians, my parents were Italian/Americans and I'm an American and proud of it, just as my grandparents would want me to be.
Grandma use to say, "There's a time for everything and everything in its time". If she were here, she would say that the time has come for a new and improved image of the Italian American. A time to put away those derogatory characters, ominous gangland mobsters and poor taste ethnic jokes. She would also find media's derogatory image directed against Italian Americans very strange, considering the fact that the country was named for an Italian named Amerigo Vespucci. Christopher Columbus discovered the land that is now the U.S.A. John Cabot was another famous Italian explorer who made a significant contribution to this country. The Pax Romana (the Roman Peace), the Roman governmental system that gave us the basis for our government here in the U.S. Many of the words associated with government today are also Roman in nature. Speaking of: the world's greatest inventors, painters, and writers were from the Italian Renaissance. So How did we get to be portrayed as lowly gangsters, and big haired Mafia princess bimbo types and uneducated young men that live to dance in discos on Saturday night? (Otherwise known as the "Guido" stereotype). To a large degree the media is responsible for this stereotype, but so are we as Italian Americans who allow these derogatory characters to represent us. Its time to put "Luigi" and all characters like him in their proper perspective relegated to the past where they now belong.
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