It is a fact that Italians and Americans of Italian descent have been the subject of a considerable number of American movies. As Bondanella (2006: 10) points out, “The high-water mark of Italian emigration to America coincides roughly with the rise of the cinema industry in America”, and it is quite understandable why American directors have found the stories of these immigrants interesting and appealing for the purposes of cinematic representation. Throughout the years such representations have contributed to creating stereotyped images of Italian-Americans, which have been portrayed in various film genres. The ethnic characterisation of Italian-Americans in Hollywood movies is achieved at various levels, as the origins of the characters are always clearly identifiable thanks to a series of both visual and verbal elements. As far as the extra-linguistic characterisation is concerned, the cliché of Hollywood Italians presents some traits which make the identification of their ethnicity immediate for the spectators, such as the physiognomic characteristics, the clothes and accessories worn, the gestures, the shared values (importance of food, family, honour, masculinity, purity of one’s own woman, strong sense of community and brotherhood), and, also, the setting and the background music. The ethnic characterisation, however, is achieved also through an accurate use of language. It is a fact that language is an important constituent of the identity of any ethnic group. As Gumperz and Cook-Gumperz (1982:7) claim, “social identity and ethnicity are in large part established and maintained through language”. Language, therefore, becomes an important means through which ethnicity can be conveyed in audiovisual works. This is indeed true as far as Italian-American is concerned, which presents specific phonological, syntactic and lexical characteristics and is used in motion pictures “as a token of a given set of connotations and of stereotypes about the Italian-American community” (Torresi 2003: 29).

Beyond spaghetti and meatballs : Italian Americans seen through the Hollywood screen / I. Parini. ((Intervento presentato al convegno Language, culture and ideology in the history of Anglo-Italian relations tenutosi a Gargnano sul Garda nel 2009.

Beyond spaghetti and meatballs : Italian Americans seen through the Hollywood screen

I. Parini
Primo
2009

Abstract

It is a fact that Italians and Americans of Italian descent have been the subject of a considerable number of American movies. As Bondanella (2006: 10) points out, “The high-water mark of Italian emigration to America coincides roughly with the rise of the cinema industry in America”, and it is quite understandable why American directors have found the stories of these immigrants interesting and appealing for the purposes of cinematic representation. Throughout the years such representations have contributed to creating stereotyped images of Italian-Americans, which have been portrayed in various film genres. The ethnic characterisation of Italian-Americans in Hollywood movies is achieved at various levels, as the origins of the characters are always clearly identifiable thanks to a series of both visual and verbal elements. As far as the extra-linguistic characterisation is concerned, the cliché of Hollywood Italians presents some traits which make the identification of their ethnicity immediate for the spectators, such as the physiognomic characteristics, the clothes and accessories worn, the gestures, the shared values (importance of food, family, honour, masculinity, purity of one’s own woman, strong sense of community and brotherhood), and, also, the setting and the background music. The ethnic characterisation, however, is achieved also through an accurate use of language. It is a fact that language is an important constituent of the identity of any ethnic group. As Gumperz and Cook-Gumperz (1982:7) claim, “social identity and ethnicity are in large part established and maintained through language”. Language, therefore, becomes an important means through which ethnicity can be conveyed in audiovisual works. This is indeed true as far as Italian-American is concerned, which presents specific phonological, syntactic and lexical characteristics and is used in motion pictures “as a token of a given set of connotations and of stereotypes about the Italian-American community” (Torresi 2003: 29).
dubbing ; Hollywood Italian Americans ; ethnic characterisation ; linguistic characterisation ; extra-linguistic characterisation
Università di Milano
Università di Padova
Beyond spaghetti and meatballs : Italian Americans seen through the Hollywood screen / I. Parini. ((Intervento presentato al convegno Language, culture and ideology in the history of Anglo-Italian relations tenutosi a Gargnano sul Garda nel 2009.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2434/72403
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