47 years ago this week, the Godfather opened to historic audience acceptance.
A society’s moral code is never solid or tangible. It is fluid, ever-changing, and selective. In Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, we meet several characters who are heinous criminals, a sampled cross-section of the Italian-American gangster sub-culture. While the mobsters go about stealing, killing, and committing other horrible acts, they seem to exude a power, and show other romantic qualities. Many people show a fascination with these violent mobsters, and this fact conveys many truths about the human mind in the way it ignores morals to follow its animal instincts.
While watching The Godfather, one can receive a feeling of romance from the actions of the mobsters. Not because these actions are violent, but because they are mighty. Characters in The Godfather have control over their lives, and the lives of others. They command armies of footsoldiers and others who will do their will for them. At their very order, lives of powerful persons can be destroyed. It is this power that intrigues us to The Godfather. We can ignore our philosophy and morals as we hoot, holler, and hurrah the Corleone family because they have ascertained something that many only dream about, power. Power is a fantasy for many, and to achieve our fantasies, we will disown our moral code, or encourage others to do the same. So, naturally, the little Jewish kid from Long Island finds great romance in Sonny, Vito, and Fredo.
As one observes an audience of The Godfather, one quickly notices that there is a clear distinction between the male perspective and the female. Many men cheer on Michael Corleone as he consolidates his power, and moves freely about his illegal world. However, the female reaction is often one of, “Who’s that guy?” Women find The Godfather boring, too violent, and pointless. This is a sign of the different moral code between men and women. Men will cheer acts of violence while women will cringe in disgust. This difference in moral code is largely due to the different ways the sexes will act on their aggressions. Men take out their aggressions externally, and as a result, want power. Women, on the other hand, take out their aggressions internally (on themselves) and therefore want security. Women do not have the inclination to attack their problems in violent ways. As a result, they will not disregard their moral code for a fantasy, and therefore will not like a movie dealing with this subject like The Godfather.
The movie takes place in America in the late 1940’s and early 50’s, and moves throughout the country from New York, to Hollywood, to Las Vegas. Even though the film was written and shot in the 1970’s, the depiction of the mafia at the height of its power is fairly accurate, and also relevant. The mafia began long ago when ______, and solidified itself when prohibition had started. The desire for Americans to drink alcohal was much greater than any law enforcement expected, and made Italian gangsters like Al Capone millionaires. This was strengthened by Mussolini’s dictatorship when he rounded up all the organized crime leaders in Italy, and deported them. Many of them found there way to America, and made a life, and a subculture all their own. In the context of the film, the great depression had ended, and young soldiers were returning home. Many of the mafia’s best and brightest were able to receive draft waivers, and were not victim to the war. Also, with the end of prohibition and the return to a normal life, the mafia was declining from its stronghold and needed a new business venture to pursue. The influx in narcotics such as marijuana, crack-cocaine, and heroine, and the government’s crackdown on it after the war made It the next logical step. As more and more crime families moved into illegal drugs, turf wars quickly broke out, and the new venture required national leadership, rather than local families and crime bosses running their own operations.