'Sopranos' Unfairly Stereotypes Italian-Americans, Says Lawmaker

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Outraged at depictions of Italian-Americans as criminals on the HBO TV series "The Sopranos," a New Jersey congresswoman intends to introduce a bill condemning unfair racial stereotyping on television shows. Rep. Marge Roukema, (R-N.J.) joined in a series of attacks against "The Sopranos," saying the show unfairly stereotypes Italian-Americans as gangsters.

Roukema, the granddaughter of Italian immigrants, wants the U.S. House of Representatives to denounce the Emmy-winning TV series. She also wants legislators to sign a resolution that praises Italian-Americans for their civic contributions.

"Marge Roukema plans to introduce a Sense of Congress Resolution next week that decries unfair stereotypes," said Steve Wilson, the congresswoman's chief of staff.

He said Roukema wants Hollywood and the entertainment industry to stop stereotyping people as they have done in "The Sopranos."

"She is against any kind of stereotypes in TV shows, and she is saying this is one them," Wilson said.

Roukema's comments have won support of an Italian-American Association. Order Sons of Italy in America (OSIA) said the initiative taken by Roukema would help eradicate false and misleading portrayals of Italian-Americans.

In a letter to Roukema, OSIA National Executive Director Phillip Piccigallo said, "The Sopranos" is an insult to the Italian culture.

Piccigallo said the series was the most insidious misrepresentation of Italian Americans currently produced in the entertainment industry. The false and damaging connection it perpetuates between Italian-Americans and organized crime has no place in our society, he said.

"We applaud your recent efforts to combat negative stereotyping of Italian Americans with a prospective resolution," he added.

According to Piccigallo, OSIA does not advocate the censorship of the show but says all Americans should be cognizant of the positive contributions hard-working, law-abiding Italians have made in this country. He said OSIA plans to work with Roukema to ensure accurate portrayal of the Italian culture.

HBO spokesman Jack Cusson said he was aware of the Roukema's attack but declined to comment further.

"We are very proud of 'The Sopranos," Cusson said.

The series is not only popular with HBO viewers, but has received some critical acclaim as well. Tom Shales, TV critic for The Washington Post, said in a recent column the series is "probably the greatest work of fiction ever to come out of cable TV."

Early last year, the National Italian American Council held protests against "The Sopranos" in Chicago. The group called for the removal of the show or "re-organization to portray Italian-Americans in a more positive manner." It alleged the show reinforces the myth that Italian-Americans are prone to violence and crime.

"The Sopranos" focuses on Tony Soprano's struggles as a family man and the head of a New Jersey crime syndicate.