Saturday, October 28, 2006

Mafia T-Shirt

The other day I saw a boy too young to be choosing or buying his own clothes wearing a black t-shirt with the word "MAFIA" silkscreened in big, bright letters across the front.

What gives?

Why is the suggestion of organized crime and a willingness to protect one's financial dominance with violence the kind of thing a parent would want to emblazon on the chest of their eight-year old?

It's almost as bad (as in irrational and dangerous to the child's psychological development) as wearing a t-shirt displaying a national flag.

I'm no expert on the subject, but I suppose organized crime's star began rising in the pop culture with dramatic films (and to a lesser extent books) that dealt with archetypal human relationships in the context of mafia violence and related misdeeds.

I take no issue with films like The Godfather (or even the substantially lesser quality soap opera The Sopranos) if observers are able to effectively understand and critique them. One doesn't need to admire the anti-heroes played by the likes of Pacino and DeNiro in order to admire their abilities as actors, or to comprehend the world their characters inhabit, or to appreciate the skill with which writers, directors, editors and cinematographers tell those characters' stories.

Hollywood does not seek from viewers understanding and critique. It wants to move product. It works hand-in-pocket with its ugly sister The Fashion Industry and myriad other "product"-producing relatives. It has also (and less dramatically) made the image of reckless soldiers engaged in the act of murder (for personal or national honor) a positive one. Ditto for filthy, gunslinging, genocidal cowboys, playboy secret agents, and go-it-alone cops who blow up as much as possible before personally bringing the bad guys to justice.

I want to know how it comes to be that people are pleased to accept the values of valueless and escapist entertainment as their own.

I know: wearing a mafia t-shirt or buying yourself the same car that James Bond drives doesn't necessarily mean that you favor organized crime or having sex-crazed, alcohol-drenched spies undermining impossibly evil plots around the globe. But the planet is full of real-life, non-celluloid organized crime, violence, and simple thuggery. It takes an enormous amount of what is truly criminal activity to keep a relative handful of people driving BMW's, or the masses clothed in the products of sweatshop labor.

Not everyone is going to watch a Hollywood film and immediately dissect it from a left perspective. But one might think twice before dressing children in clothes more suitable for the political and corporate mafiosi treating the planet like a disputed streetcorner in gangland.

Wouldn't that be refreshing: if the cutthroat psychopaths running the planet traded in their power suits for t-shirts accurately emblazoned with descriptive words like "mafioso", "gang leader", "hitman" and "dick" . . . ?


Estie said...

Maybe, it has already been thought of and done........Maybe the kids parents and /or grandparents are MAFIA.
Also maybe the filmmakers are just doing their "ART" and expressing some anger, violence, corruption,and many other behaviors DARK and Dirty done on this planet earth.
You some musicians express sometimes!

Anonymous said...

Kids are subjected to more garbage than ever before. People used to protect their kids from the poison but no more. I am scared of a future where people are no longer shocked by violence because they have seen it so much that it no longer affects them.

Posted by David from Louisville KY

Keir said...

Estie I'm not suggesting that certain of the better mafia films aren't as powerful comments on human relationships as those made by Dostoevsky or Shakespeare or Homer. An expression in art of nasty human activity is just fine if the culture is able to comprehend and critique it.

David thanks for stopping by and commenting (from MZ's, right?). I am not so much scared of such a future of violence assimilated as I am of this stinking murderous present. Kids can be desensitized, but yeah: it is so-called adults who thought up, invested it, produced, ordered, shipped, retailed, and purchased the t-shirt before any 8-year-old was wearing it.