Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Final Paper Abstract

For my final project, I would like to analyze evolving concepts of American identity and ethnic belonging in Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 film The Godfather: Part II. The film features chronologically-varied story arcs that explain the Corleone family's arrival to the United States, the family's integration into American society, and depictions of the "American Dream" that remain relevant in the 21st century. I argue that the film's portrayal of family dynamics and stratified ethnic lines remain pertinent almost 40 years later.

To undertake this project, I will watch the film again with an increased awareness of how the Corleone family is perceived by others, notably how the Corleones are portrayed as "dirty" money. I will also discuss how the film's multiple narratives both reinforce and challenge the Corleone family's belonging, particularly juxtaposing Vito's humble beginnings to the scorching excess of Michael in the Cuba scenes.

I will rely on scholarly texts on ethnic integration into the American fabric, immigration, national identity, as well as an interview with my History junior seminar professor. Her Ph.D. dissertation explored Italian immigration to the United States after World War II and she has studied notions of gender in ethnic studies. I would like to use her as a resource to focus on the portrayal of Italian-Americans in this film, and what elements of the film can be related to a greater societal level.

Classifying The Godfather: Part II as a "negative" or "positive" image of Italian-Americans depletes the film's of its emotional power. The Corleone family offers insights on the strained American family fabric in a way that few films have matched, and the seemingly distant world it depicts is actually much closer to home.


  1. This seems in a similar vein as the James article "Upward Mobility And Downright Lies," though that isn't saying the vessel shouldn't be tapped again.

    So what family dynamics and stratified ethnic lines are you aiming to compare the Corleones to? Your 'average' American, other immigrants, or nouveau-riche families like theirs?

    Maybe it is because I am film-buff, but I am interested in reading--and perhaps contending with--some of your findings.

  2. This is a great start, and an interesting idea, Guy. Here's my concern, though--why is it important for a reader to look at this movie from the '70s now? Remember that this is not an academic exercise; the point is to write the kind of piece that would be published in popular media today. Could you do a compare and contrast between The Godfather Part II and a more contemporary film (or several) about Italian American immigration?