Masculinity in The Godfather

posted by Eivind on October 23, 2010, at 10:58 pm

In preparation for the pending review, I just re-watched The Godfather. In terms of healthy masculinity, there is almost nothing to learn from it (though hopefully we can draw some lessons about descending from it). The Don has flashes of something resembling integrity and noble behaviour, but that’s about it. The reckless and adolescent Sonny and the dark and conniving liar that Michael turns into are just two of the grim examples of what happens when a man doesn’t accept responsibility for his actions. It’s to the Don’s credit that he feels mourning over what happened to Michael. He was supposed to be the point of light in the family.

It also struck me today that I don’t think The Godfather is great. I like it, but to me it’s not excellent. The only parts I think are excellent are the parts where the Don starts dropping into a wiser and more compassionate place towards the end of the movie. His death scene is magnificent.

It’s been so long since I last saw it that I was surprised to find a parade of pathetic and confused men, lacking in integrity, honesty and self-control. Not a single man to respect, to learn from, to admire, to look up to. Don Corleone, the closest we get to maturity in the movie, calls forth more compassion in me than admiration. For I see in him a recognition of a life path poorly chosen and the sadness that comes from it. He did not have the bravery to find meaning through generative and world building pursuits.

I have asked myself several times why Italy is such a troubled country, how they can elect a pubescent, narcissistic coward like Silvio Berlusconi and how they can give away so much power to the mafia that entire cities grind to a halt if they stop “doing their job”. I hope I can understand this better after analyzing the Godfather. I think there’s something juicy inside.