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Feature Articles


October 2016
Do Mobsters Really Have More Fun?

      By Mike La Sorte, Professor Emeritus


Mike La Sorte is a professor emeritus (SUNY) and writes extensively on a variety of subjects.

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“In life, we try to stay as far as possible from lawless aggression, but in media and art, we never stop feasting on it.” (David Denby)

Myth and reality are not easily separated. They become one after a time. Reality in this case is crime; myth is the way it is dealt with in the mass media. There is a tension between fact and fancy. We seek to escape reality. Such a deviation is a necessity when life becomes tedious, intolerable, one of platitudes and suffering tedium. We enjoy the notion that there are people who enjoy an existence free of societal encumbrances, unshackled, who strive for the luxury of an unfettered, pillow-soft life style; they who sup at the same table; those who can reach out and easily obtain.

The gangster of myth, so fully displayed in the entertainment culture, is a portal to the pervasive daydreaming of every wannabe. He is a regular fellow, a free-wheeling guy. H laughs off the conventional work ethic, and does not respect the constraints of societal norms imposed on most of us. Guilt is not in his vocabulary, hesitation not part of his makeup, and he gives the “finger” to the “squares” that do not have it within themselves to stray from the straight and narrow. The mobster was the kid who scrounges a nickel with no intention of paying it back; the one who cheated on the exam, scoring an “A” to your honest “C”, without a hint of remorse. He curls his lip at your timidity.

It is claimed that such individuals are socialized, not in the home, but in the streets. Where they develop and share an antisocial solidarity, a strong, unbreakable buddy system that we envy. In fact there is a price to be ultimately paid. Living on the fringes of society is problematic, leaving them in a constant troubling state. The conditions of such a, you might say authoritarian solidarity, leaves them in a constant troubling state. That positioning Vis a Vis conventional society, of which they boast, can be easily compromised, because in fact, when push comes to shave, it is only skin deep. The phrase “Thick as thieves.” is an ideal, not a reality. When jammed into a corner, when things get tough, their so-called “Code of Honor,” “One for one and one for all” pledge can be l eft in the dust. Yet the myths persist. As one mobster remarked, “Who would not want to be like me. I do what I want to do and when I want to do it.” Meaning, he can and I can’t.

It would seem so in the cinematic world. He’s the guy who gets the gorgeous chorus girl. You don’t. He’s got something you dearly lack, sa-voir-faire, a knowledge of the world, its ways and usages. Within that depiction lays a certain urbane style. It appears effortless; one you cannot fake. He is not of those desperate and pitiful stage-door Johns, who waits in vain. He has about him a hint of adventure, a slight danger that thrills her. When they enter arm-in-arm over the threshold of that elegant nightclub all eyes turn to the pair. The buzz, the wagging of tongues, is unmistakable. The Waiters are especially obsequious, alert, with the expectation of the big tip. My heavens, she realizes, we are at the center of attention!

The crème del la crème, Big Shots, stroll over to the table to pay their respects. Wow, she muses, this date is much more trilling than that weirdo I went out with last week, who took me to the Automat, and me dressed to kill. The mobster’s courtly style impresses her, and, in particular, his utter assuredness. Yes, she notes, he does have a few rough edges, but they all add to his animal charm. There is also that easy way with the dollar. That fat wallet certainly cushions the impact. The mobster and mobsterette could become a team.

That’s the Hollywood Dream Factory. That’s you, right there on the silver screen. And you fall for it. What’s not to like? Deal me in.


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