The Godfather: Never go against the family

Posted: January 8, 2013 by John C. Kwasny, Ph.D. in Action, Drama
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GodfatherMaybe it’s because I’m part Italian.  Maybe it’s because I was raised on the south side of Chicago.  Or maybe my father just indoctrinated me at an early age.  Whatever the reason, I’ve had a deep fascination of the mafia for as long as I can remember.  The Godfather. Parts I and II have been my top two favorite movies since high school (It’s a Wonderful Life is a close third–I know, an ironic juxtaposition).  So, over the Christmas holidays, I passed on my love for these movies to my eldest daughters–at their request, of course.  As Don Corleone always says: “Never go against the family!”

When I preview Gangster Squad this coming Thursday, I will address the issue of viewing violent, gun-centric movies in this time of increased calls for gun control.  Films about the mafia can certainly glorify some pretty bad guys and romanticize a particular period of American history.  Much of the time, it’s virtually impossible to discern who’s “good” and who’s “bad” in these stories, as corruption typically runs rampant across the board.  The Godfather clearly attempts to justify the misdeeds and violence done by the Corleone family; yet at the same time, it depicts the depressing futility of their lives.

If you have never taken the opportunity to watch these Academy Award winning films, you have probably heard some of the now famous quotes:  “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”  “It’s not personal, it’s strictly business.”  “Someday–and that day may never come–I’ll call upon you to do a service for me.” “He taught me: Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” “We don’t discuss business at the table.”  And, my personal favorite: “A man that doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.”

The Godfather really is all about family.  At the very beginning of the first movie, Michael Corleone tells his girlfriend Kay some of the seedy parts of the family business.  He proclaims very self-righteously: “Kay, that’s my family, not me.”  Michael worked hard to keep his distance from the family, pursuing a legitimate career rather than follow in his father’s footsteps.  His father, Vito, also wanted Michael to stay clean and out of the family business.  This all changed when Don Vito Corleone was nearly assassinated.  In a touching scene  next to his father’s hospital bed (yes, even mobsters can be touching), Michael declares that his is now fully “in” the family and “with” his father.

Godfather2Michael quickly rises to power just as his family descends into total chaos.  His oldest brother Sonny is murdered by another mobster family.  His sister Connie is regularly abused  by her husband.  His first wife is murdered in Sicily.  His father dies.  In Part II, Michael, now the Godfather, has his brother-in-law killed, as well as his wimpy, turncoat brother Fredo.  His wife aborts her child and then leaves him along with his other two children.  In one particularly poignant scene, Michael asks his mother if it is possible to work so hard for your family and end up losing them in the end.  This is exactly what happened to the most powerful head of the family.  Even though he thought he had committed his life to holding his family together, he was actually the main culprit in its total destruction.

Now, you probably aren’t part of a mafia family (I hope).  But does that mean you would never do anything to tear apart your family?  I think it’s safe to say that we all desire our families to be close and for members to love one other.  And yet, ever since Cain killed his brother Abel, we are all susceptible to the anger, pride, envy, jealousy, and overall lust for power that turns family member against family member.  Any one of us can become a Michael Corleone, justifying our vengeful actions against those we love the most.  We may never murder another sibling, but we can speak and act in such ways that bring about severe division and destruction.

Like other mafia “families,” the Corleones extended past their biological connections to include their entire business organization.  When one of the Corleones’ hitmen testified before a Senate committee, he informed the members that the Corleones were not a criminal organization, but a “family.”  In a similar way (yet without all the guns), Christians are a part of a much bigger family than their biological unit.  Thankfully, we are children of God, not of a Godfather.  And we are connected to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

So my closing question is: How do you treat others as a member of God’s family?  Do you emulate God the Father, showing grace, mercy and love to His children?  Or, are you often more like the Godfather, operating out of anger, power, passion, and revenge?  May God give us the grace to love one another as Christ, our elder brother, loves us!

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  1. […] Godfather: Never Go Against the Family […]

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