Mafia II is a third-person action-adventure video-game following the fictional story of a man of Sicilian descent who joins an Italian crime family in the period around 1950, a time when Italian crime families were near the height of their power and influence. It’s a familiar theme, having been portrayed in books, games, movies and television for decades.
UNICO National, the largest Italian American service organisation in the USA who have never seen or played the game, nor apparently been in contact with anyone who has (because at the time of their complaint, it had not been released) are calling it “a pile of racist nonsense” and demanding that the game not be released until all Italians and Italian-Americans are removed from it.
It strikes me that this would result in a rather substandard story.
Something like this:
World War II Veteran Vito Scaletta, the son of Sicilian immigrants, returns home from the war to find his family deep in debt, and doesn’t get involved in anything Italian to become a made man, because there are no Italians in the game at all. Or perhaps Scaletta himself doesn’t exist, if UNICO would like him taken out also, on the grounds of being a blood-relative of Sicilians.
Never mind that it would be pretty peculiar to have an American city with no Italian presence, I’m guessing that the story might lack a little impact in and of itself; being that it is, you know, a story about an Italian crime family. It’d make for a lot of empty suits. Literally.
UNICO thinks it’s racist because it’s about a 1950s crime family who are Italian. They ask, “Why would [Take-Two] foist a game on their targeted audience of young people wherein they will indoctrinate a new generation into directly associating Italians and Italian Americans with violent, murderous organized crime, to the exclusion of all of the other ‘mafias’ run by other ethnic and racial groups?” (emphasis: mine)
“Take-Two is directly, blatantly and unfairly discriminating and demeaning one group to the exclusion of all others. We are demanding they halt release of the game and cleanse it of all references to Italians and Italian Americans.” (emphasis: still mine)
So… wait… what?
UNICO’s happy if the game gets released (for example) with Chinese/Chinese-American Tongs, or the Russian Bratva, or any other racial group, because they only feel like the story is racist if the mobsters of the 1950’s America are portrayed as Italian/Italian-American?
Way to go on the double-standards there.
Or does the crime-family have to be one of those egalitarian and multi-racial crime-families that happened all the time in 1940s and 1950s? Maybe they can all join hands and talk about their feelings during quiet times, like all of the most interesting criminal syndicates traditionally have.
As for the “targeted audience of young people”, I’m guessing they mean the audience of 17-45 year olds who form the primary target market for the game.
There’s a number of films in a similar vein in production and pre-production at the moment. Why not try to stop those as well – or at least try to prevent any Italian or Italian-American portrayals in them?
Let me now draw your attention to 2006, and Rainbow Six: Las Vegas; a story about an fictional elite anti-terrorist team who battle against fictional terrorists who stage a series of fictional attacks in a fictional story primarily set in and around Las Vegas.
Las Vegas Mayor, Oscar Goodman, who wanted to take legal action against the game to get it stopped, on the grounds that the fictional story was “based on a false premise” and that Las Vegas actually a very safe place to be, as if he believed that people (other than himself, of course) had trouble discerning the difference between reality and fiction.
Concerned that a fictional story featuring terrorism in Las Vegas would damage the city economically, Goodman urged the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to scour the game for any item of copyright or trademark or indeed anything with which to form the legal basis of a case to get the game stopped, apparently feeling that the game might not be subject to First Amendment protection, because he didn’t approve of it.
At the end of the day, I’m actually more concerned about the unhealthy attitudes of the people and organisations who are trying to get these games stopped, than I am about the games themselves (or, for that matter, the books, the television programmes, and the movies).