Goodfellas: Maintaining Masculinity

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  • Topic: Goodfellas, Man, Gender
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  • Published : May 2, 2011
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GoodFellas: Maintaining Masculinity
Martin Scorsese’s film GoodFellas (1990) not only provides an unparalleled glimpse into the gangster lifestyle of New York’s Italian mafia. Scorsese separates his classic gangster film from other works by following the character progression from teenagers to middle-aged men. The film constantly reinforces the image of masculinity from domestic affairs down the each character’s clothing. Each aspect of the gangsters’ lives centers around asserting their masculinity. Scorsese helps GoodFellas secure its place as a classic film without romanticizing the violence, but by using masculinity as the driving force behind each main character.

Henry, one of the main characters, constantly narrates the film and helps provide a more intimate look into the lifestyles of the gangsters. Typically, gangster films focus on one main aspect of the main character’s lifestyle. Often it has to do with the violent aspect of the film, but Scorsese takes a step away with his focus on the day-to-day lifestyle of the mafia families. His emphasis on the personal lives is only reinforced by the real-life personas depicted on the screen. From the very beginning of the story, masculinity provides the reasoning behind each male’s action. The scene where Henry’s father beats him and he reports it back to Paul Cicero, the role of masculinity overtakes Henry’s teenage life. Henry’s relationship with his father is typical of teenage conflicts with one’s male role model. The difference is that instead of taking a normal punishment, Henry falls back on the older, more masculine Cicero. Cicero exerts his male dominance by threatening the postman regarding delivering letters from Henry’s school to his parents’ home. The film truly begins to take shape when Henry witnesses the way violence and showing one’s masculinity can help bypass the system to obtaining what you want.

The lifestyle represented by Cicero’s gang centers on absolute loyalty...
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