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Ethnicity, masculinity, and the representation of Italian-American men in 70s Hollywood

Christodoulou, Stylianos (2021) Ethnicity, masculinity, and the representation of Italian-American men in 70s Hollywood. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86507) (KAR id:86507)


Hollywood in the 70s turned its gaze with fascination at the representation of Italian American men, who feature in some of the decade's most popular and profitable films. This thesis attempts to explain the appeal of these representations by situating them within the overlapping

discourses on ethnicity and masculinity circulating in mainstream American culture. From an incontestable privilege for most of American history, white masculinity became an increasingly problematic and guilt-ridden identity in the 70s, largely due to the growing cultural centrality of feminism and the civil rights movement. In this context, Italian-American men appeared to possess a certain advantage. The 70s ethnic revival movement reclaimed hyphenated ident it ies out of the assimilationist melting pot and advocated a guilt-free shade of whit eness for the descendants of earlier Italian immigrants. Hollywood films invested in the perceived advantages of Italian-American masculinity and used them as vehicles for satisfying the desires and appeasing the anxieties of middle class, heterosexual, WASP men. The hyphen created a fruitfully ambiguous space for simultaneously exorcizing and embra cing ethnic masculinity; for affirming the new liberal mores of WASP America, while fostering the fantasy of white masculine privilege. The thesis develops this argument through a historically informed study of the representation of Italian-American men in The Godfather, Saturday Night Fever, and Rocky. These films appropriate the familiar stereotypes of the Italian-American man as Mafioso, Palooka, and Guido to revive older masculine models, situate them within hybrid versions of the 70s, and render them plausible, believable, and appealing.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86507
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: masculinty, film studies, The Godfather, Saturday Night Fever, Rocky
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Arts
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2019 13:55 UTC
Last Modified: 13 Dec 2022 04:02 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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