Netflix’s The Irishman recently scored 10 Oscar nominations, including best picture, best director, best adapted screenplay, best visual effects, and best cinematography. After watching this movie, I understand why. The Irishman tells the story of a truck driver turned hit-man, and his involvement in the mafia. As someone who’s always appreciated a good crime family movie, I thoroughly enjoyed watching this film. When I saw its many nominations, I wasn’t surprised, however, it did make me question why I, and so many others, enjoy a film that sets you up to root for the bad guys and support cheating the system.
From a young age, we’re taught to follow the rules. By doing what we’re told to do by our parents, teachers, and coaches, we are rewarded. And by breaking these rules, there is some sort of repercussion or punishment. After years of being conditioned to abide by the rules and laws, we are seemingly attracted to the idea of breaking them. Crime and mafia movies entice us to bend the rules and teach us the opposite of what most of us were raised to do.
The leaders and underdogs shown in mafia movies are usually depicted as clever, tactful, and cunning. They seem to have endless power over what goes on in their lives. These movies make us feel like we have some control over our lives, something that everyone craves. For example, when Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II, shot the head of the local mafia after what he perceived as unfair treatment of his family by others, we rejoiced at his success. He took control of his life and didn’t accept what he was given. All of us wish we had enough confidence and power to simply do what we want and become exactly who we want to be, but many of us never achieve those goals. That’s why we love living vicariously through Vito Corleone, Sam Rothstein, Tony Montana, and Henry Hill.
(Copyright June Dinias 2020)