Is Godfather II Subtly Anti-Semitic?
Ron Rosenbaum has a great column up at Slate about Bernie Madoff and Jewish "respectability." Ron asks, whatever happened to the Jewish gangsters of yesteryear? It's a brilliant look at hypocrisy and stereotypes and the end of Jewish country club culture. But then there's this disturbing little throwaway line, about Godfather II:
At least Meyer Lansky--or "Hyman Roth," as they called him in the subtly anti-Semitic Godfather II--"always made money for his partners." Bernie Madoff, if the charges are to be believed, always stole money from his partners. (It should be remembered that while the perp was a Jew, oh so many of his victims were, too.)
Subtly anti-Semitic? It never struck me that way, and I've watched it 142 times. Also, I have a good nose -- so to speak -- for anti-Semitism. So I asked Ron for proof, and this is what he wrote:
Hyman Roth is the age-old stereotype of the Jewish betrayer. The prime Italian gangster values in the saga are sometimes betrayed, but a betrayal recognized as a departure from the norm, the core virtue in the saga - honor and family. The Jewish values: Nothing but money (and maybe TV dinners), the apotheosis of which is Roth's betrayal of Michael, "This is the business we've chosen."
Look at the Jews in the films, the Hollywood horse lover, Moe Green in Vegas, Roth. Any "good" Jewish gangsters we should respect as we supposedly should respect Don Vito and Michael? Even the Sopranos has the at least ambiguous Hesh, but even he stole from his black R&B singers, right? I'm not saying any of the real world crooks necessarily deserve conventional respect or emulation, but on a spectrum that includes Bernie M., who stole from sick kids' charities, I'll take Meyer Lansky.