Italian-American group blasts Spike Lee over 'Django Unchained' Tweet

Jan 10, 2013 2071

Calling Spike Lee "the most anti-Italian director of all time," a N.J.-based national Italian-American anti-defamation organization has inducted the award-winning film director to its "Hall of Shame."

Andre DiMino, president of the Italian American ONE VOICE Coalition, details in a release today Lee's "notorious track record of vile and negative portrayals of Italian Americans" in his films. "One wonders if Spike Lee is indeed a racist who hates Italians and why he harbors a grudge," said DiMino.

ONE VOICE, which calls itself "a nationwide army of anti-bias activists that fight discrimination and defend Italian American heritage," was moved to action after Lee used his Twitter account to criticize Italian-American film maker Quentin Tarantino's new movie, "Django Unchained."

"Django Unchained" is a violent Western about a freed slave who joins a bounty hunter in order to find the slave owners who captured his wife. In December, Lee criticized the film for its portrayal of slavery. He said at the time that he had not seen the film.

On Dec. 22, Lee posted on his Twitter account, "American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It Was A Holocaust.My Ancestors Are Slaves.Stolen From Africa.I Will Honor Them."

For ONE VOICE, it's a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

DiMino said Lee's films represent a "notorious track record of vile and negative portrayals of Italian Americans." He called the film Summer of Sam, "perhaps the most horrific portrayal of Italian Americans in modern cinema," citing its portrayals of Italian Americans as "mobsters, drug dealers, drug addicts, racists, deviants, buffoons, bimbos, and sex-crazed fiends."

Lee's "Do The Right Thing," "Jungle Fever," "She Hate Me," and "Inside Man" all contain characters that are negative portrayals of Italian Americans, according to DiMino.

"When it comes to Italian Americans, Spike Lee has never done the right thing," DiMino said.

"We just want him to stop stereotyping us. There's a lot more to Italian Americans than the disgraceful portrayals he always puts in his films," DiMino said.

Italian Americans seem to be the last ethnicity that it's okay to bash continuously, said DiMino, pointing to "the plethora of reality shows" with Italian American characters that are bimbos and buffoons or mobsters and Mafiosos. "It's just not fair," he said.

Past inductees into ONE VOICE's Hall of Shame include David Chase, the creator of "The Sopranos" and SallyAnne Salsano, executive producer of "Jersey Shore"— "that train wreck of a TV show," said DiMino. Noting Salsano's ethnicity, DiMino said, "Even Italian Americans profit from stereotyping their own. I challenge you to find positive portrayals of Italian Americans in modern media."

Manny Albano, anti-bias chair of the Italian-American service organization UNICO who started ONE VOICE in the early 1990's, did have one good thing to say about Lee.

"He's one guy who speaks up for his heritage," Albano said. "We don't have any guys (in the film and TV industry) that will do that. They have a vested interest in the stereotyping because it makes money for them. They don't want to kill the goose."

Albano did not leave the director of "Django Unchained" off the hook. "I'm not a Tarantino fan," he said, "for what he does to Italian Americans." But for Lee to criticize Tarantino is just wrong, he said.

Asked what he expected Lee to do in response to being named to the Hall of Shame Albano said, "He's not going to do anything."

DiMino said that boycotting Lee's films would be "good way to get the message across," but he wouldn't go so far as to call for Lee to be censored.

"I don't believe in censorship," DiMino said. "I'm a proud American."

by Warren Cooper/NJN Publishing

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