Italian-American groups upset with stereotyping want the critically acclaimed HBO series off TV.
National Italian-American groups want HBO to kill its critically acclaimed Sopranos series, charging that the show about a New Jersey Mafia boss and his family reinforces media stereotypes of Italian-Americans as "boobs" and "mobsters."
Our goal is to get The Sopranos off the air," Frank Guarini, chairman of the National Italian-American Foundation, said Thursday. "The Sopranos is a terrible stereotyping and unfair portrayal of Italian-American families."
HBO officials have been silent, but a spokesman for series creator David Chase said: "The show's cast, its writers and producers _ both Italian-American and non-Italian-American _ have dealt with these issues in the show itself. Watching the show intelligently would provide their responses to this recurring controversy."
Sopranos _ easily the most talked-about new series last season _ received 16 Emmy nominations last month, more than any other show on TV. HBO launched Sopranos in January and is replaying the show's first 13 episodes while a new season is being filmed in Kearny, N.J.
Guarini says his group may stage a public protest outside HBO's Manhattan headquarters at Sixth Avenue to "educate the public" about the effects of prejudice against Italian-Americans.
Activist the Rev. Al Sharpton said he would back the protest at HBO headquarters by national Italian-American groups. Another supporter is attorney Dominic Amorosa, who represents the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations.
"The media constantly makes Italians look like boobs or mobsters, and we've been going through this for years," said NECO chairman Bill Fugazy. "And The Sopranos does put Italians in very bad light."
In one Sopranos episode, dubbed The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti, guest star Richard Romanus _ playing the ex-husband of psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) _ remarks that when people are asked to describe Italian-Americans they "invariably reference The Godfather, Goodfellas .
. and the rest mention pizza."
He complains that "the insignificant fraction of Italian-Americans" that have been linked "to the Mafia cast such a dark shadow over the 20-million hard-working Italian-Americans in this country."
This is not the first time Guarini, a former New Jersey congressman, and members of local Italian-American advocacy groups have spoken out about Sopranos. But he said letter-writing campaigns against the show have received scant response.
"The Sopranos is ethnic defamation," said Amorosa. "The star (James Gandolfini as Anthony Soprano Sr.) is subliminally being depicted as an Italian-American everyman, and that is what upsets astute people who watch this show. It's a reinforced stereotype that Italian-Americans have had to live with a little bit too long," particularly in movies depicting Mafia tales, he said.