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CSJ Denounces Movie: Jane Austen's Mafia

CSJ Denounces Touchstone Pictures New Film, Jane Austen's Mafia and Poster Advertisement for Defamatory Portrayals

Contact: Diane E. Crespy, (202) 547-2900

Washington, D.C., July 23, 1998 - The Commission for Social Justice®, the anti-defamation arm of the Order Sons of Italy in America®, the longest established and largest organization representing Italian Americans, has harshly denounced Touchstone Pictures for its soon-to-be-released motion picture Jane Austen's Mafia and a poster advertisement, which are offensive to Americans of Italian heritage.

A division of The Walt Disney Company, Touchstone's new film is a comedy spoof that stereotypically portrays Italian-Americans as organized crime figures and buffoons and demeans women. The film is equally defamatory toward the handicapped, disfigured persons, and the Catholic Church. A poster advertising the movie features spaghetti, meatballs, and a gun.

Though conceding that the CSJ "can not prevent the company from producing motion pictures which negligently portray Italian Americans," CSJ President Angelo R. Bianchi focused on the defamatory poster and the company's departure from the family-oriented films for which Disney is known in a letter sent July 14 to Terry Curtin, Touchstone's senior vice president of publicity.

". . . The poster that is used to advertise this motion picture is objectionable in that it shows spaghetti and meatballs and a gun, clearly sending forth a message that all Italian Americans are criminals," Bianchi said. "The CSJ denounces the entire marketing of this film and requests that this poster be taken down immediately and be replaced by one which does not stereotype Italian Americans."

Bianchi also expressed shock and dismay that the Disney corporation, formerly known for clean, wholesome motion pictures, would make such a film. In his letter to Curtin, Bianchi asked, "What message does Disney believe this portrayal and your poster will convey to young people of impressionable minds about Italian Americans? The only answer I can come up with is that you don't care that future young Italian Americans will be looked upon by their playmates as offspring of criminals."

Bianchi's letter was sent before the film was previewed. Since its preview, Bianchi said "It is now quite apparent that Disney is attempting to indoctrinate this country's youngsters with a mind set that Italians and Italian Americans are less than human and should be the subject of derision and ostracism. Doing this to the most impressionable portion of our society is abominable and un-American, and all right-thinking people should forever boycott Disney and its products."