The ever-present call for Hollywood to deliver a more diverse range of protagonists has been answered in recent years with some significant developments. Female superheroes, cops, criminals and combat soldiers are peppering modern American cinema in high-profile films such as Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins, 2017) and Captain Marvel (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, 2019). Concurrently, the #MeToo movement has increased scrutiny on casting and narrative decisions with a push for more female involvement across all media and social spheres. As a result, some areas of the science fiction and superhero genre, with their focus on non-realist or post-civilised worlds, have embraced more progressive female representation. However, in comparison, realist genres still often struggle to provide leading roles for women. Along with the Western, the American gangster film is one of the least progressive genres of the modern era in terms of female agency and representation, and as a consequence the representation of la cosa nostra (‘this thing of ours’) in cinema remains steadfastly male. This article explores the reasons behind this continued gender bias by examining the film genre’s deep-rooted connection to pure capitalism, an ideology solidified in America in the 1950s, mythologised in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972) and reinforced in countless gangster films since. It will argue that while cinema remains limited, there is hope for women gangsters in recent developments in television serials. Modern television’s more complex and expansive narratives have proven themselves equipped to break the genre’s connection to pure capitalism and able to explore the more disruptive influence of neoliberal ideologies. In consequence, this article will argue that television provides the more appropriate structure for women to establish central roles in the gangster genre.

The gangster genre is distinct from other crime films in its focus on crime as an ongoing business. As a fictional genre, Robert Warshow (1948)1 argued that the gangster film has no recourse to reality, but it is evident that its close thematic connections to the socio-economic and political landscape of modern America means it does not operate entirely in fantasy. The gangster genre, since its early developments in films such as Scarface (Howard Hawks, 1934) all the way to Goodfellas (martin Scorsese, 1990) and beyond is both a celebration and critique of American capitalism and therefore, it is evident that any representations of gender are influenced by such ideologies. Arguably, once the gangster film encountered the 1950s it found its thematic home and so, while American identity has moved on and developed, cinematic mafia men have steadfastly clung to the political ideals of immediate post-war pure capitalism and its associated connection to conservative, family values. In consequence, regardless of whether a gangster film applauds or parodies these ideals does not alter the fact that the men and women in the cinematic mafia are continuously bound by it.

It is not as simple as saying that women are not as strong, single-minded or as violent as men, the reason why women do not appear in American cinema as mob bosses is because their presence as the boss undermines the ideology upon which the romanticism of the mafia male is based. Vera Dika (2000) suggests gangster films as ‘significant white fantasies’2 While gangster films do offer attractive images for other audiences, the status and worldview the films endorse are rooted in a form of American capitalism that presupposes the hierarchy as essentially white and patriarchal. A woman boss disrupts this ideology, not only in the immediate mob family, but also in the wider criminal business community. The fantasy of the physical presence, of ‘being known’, is so central to the genre, for it is an attitude of strength defined through posture and threat. From Edward G. Robinson’s fiery temper in Little Caesar (Mervyn LeRoy, 1931) through Marlon Brando’s quiet authority in The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972) and Tony Camonte’s drug-fuelled barbarism in Scarface (Oliver Stone, 1983), the cinematic gangster has relied on physical presence and emotional strength to signify business leadership. The fact that modern business practice relies less on physical and so much more on technological and financial presence is counterintuitive to the ideologies upon which the romanticism of the gangster genre relies. In short, the genre would have to undermine its notion of self in order to accommodate this new worldview.

Nostalgia for Traditional American Values: The perpetual ideological influence of the 1950s on the gangster genre in modern cinema

The modern gangster genre is most conveniently defined as the post-Godfather era, however, realistically it includes all films from the 1950s onwards. Esther Sonnet and Peter Stanfield claim the retro gangster cycle of the 1990s operates as a “cinematic costume drama (and) constitutes a powerful articulation of ‘nostalgia’ as the vehicle for retrogressive, antifeminist, and ‘hypermasculinized’ ideologies”3  They argue the dress codes of such films are “a retrenchment into outdated gender orthodoxies”4 and highlight the continued relevance of political analysis on the gangster genre. Without a doubt, costume is a primary signifier of mafia identity in cinema and while the retro cycle of gangster films in the 1990s are significant examples, it is also evident the same sentiments of hegemonic masculinity are prevalent across all modern gangster films since The Godfather; for they all wish to rearticulate a well-defined gender hierarchy and a belief in family and business.

The 1950s is an era noted by Jerry Mosher (2008) for its celebration of the business patriarch who “controlled the family’s wealth and power and was also expected to embody it, acting as the symbolic figurehead of the family’s reputation and renown”.5 Most importantly, he notes how “the appearance of power still largely depended on the aura of physical presence”6 It is this physicality from the 1950s concept of business that has always been so prevalent in the later gangster film. Even before The Godfather, the gangster’s costume and demeanour were symbolic of his criminal status (e.g. Leo Carillo as Tony Marlow in Crime Inc. Lew Landers, 1945), but in post-Godfather films the associations between gangster activity and legitimate business practices through the symbolic demeanour of the businessman has become iconic. Therefore, Lefty Ruggiero’s (Al Pacino) assertion in Donnie Brasco (Mike Newell, 1997) that he is ‘known’; “ask anyone in the five boroughs about Lefty Ruggiero. I am known” is a prime example of the belief in physical presence and reputation in the cinematic mafia world.   This applies to Lefty’s mafia experience in the 1970s just as much as Ray Tempio’s (Christopher Walken, in The Funeral, Abel Ferrara, 1996) in the 1930s; the cinematic gangster is a static character whose strength and power relies on the acceptance of mafia mythology that was solidified in the popular imagination during the 1950s. What is most important about this image of the gangster is that it is unquestionably male.

Donnie Brasco (Mike Newell, 1997)

In short, the post-Godfather gangster genre may not always locate its narrative in the 1950s, but its thematic heart is rooted in the liberal ideologies of that era. It is where the values and beliefs of free enterprise “conceived of America […] as a perfect society because of capitalism, not in spite of it”.7 This post-war, pre-corporate, pre-RICO statute era is the psychological homeland for modern American mafia mythology. It is the era where real-life mobsters such as Frank Costello testified in the Kefauver Committee hearings and the breadth and strength of mafia business was unveiled for the first time. Cinematic mobsters ever since have been carved from such testimony that hinted at organisation, loyalties and networks, but successfully avoided explicit detail. In consequence, all proceeding gangster and mafia narratives in American cinema can be said to have no recourse to reality, because the myths are so joyously accepted. They offer a framework for understanding American business, family and social values in a less fractured and complex manner than can be found in more recent, late-capitalist eras.

The foundation of America’s national identity is embedded in a belief in the social benefits of pure capitalism and mutually beneficial trade. The fact that modern or late American capitalism is continuing to undermine the principals of pure, or neo-capitalism upon which this identity relies is a complex and under-discussed aspect of film studies, even when focused on organized crime. The belief that organised crime is the antithesis of pure capitalism is also a naïve view of its roots. As Carl Freedman argues in his study of The Godfather Trilogy (1972, 1974, 1990) “capitalist legality attempts to draw an absolute clear line between itself and the criminality to which it opposes itself, so that the legitimacy of private property and the right of contract can be grounded as securely as possible. But the attempt never quite succeeds – the line, in fact, is always a permeable membrane”.8 The American dream of equal opportunities and the belief in heteronormative family and social values animates the individual gangster as much as the mafia family. Their ethnic identities provide a link to old world traditions, while their association with capitalist enterprise endears them to the American mindset. We do not have to search far to find evidence that America remains nostalgic for the patriarchal business leader. “This would never happen in America” is Tony Soprano’s (James Gandolfini) response to an Italian female mob boss (Season 2, episode 4, 2000, The Sopranos, David Chase, 1999-2007). His attitude cannot be dismissed as an isolated anachronism when reviewed in the context of the 2106 US election and the country’s continued ambivalence towards a female ‘Commander in Chief’. The prevailing notion in America that strong leaders are always male is as dominant now as it has always been.

So, how is a woman’s role defined, or more appropriately confined in this ideological framework?  Polly Reed Meyers’ (2015) offers an interesting study of the American Boeing Company to suggest that “family metaphors have much to reveal about how labour politics have been negotiated within capitalism. While the home has been traditionally linked with morality, and business and the market with rationality, the family metaphor reflects how home and business are linked”.9 Similarly, Rosemary Hennessy (2000) argues that “it is the home and reproductive labor, which (invisibly) upholds capitalist accumulation through patriarchal relations”.10 Women, who are still associated with the labour of the home “are contradictorily positioned in capitalism as free workers and citizens, yet devalued as females”.11 These generalised, but powerful statements can be traced back to the seminal writings of Joseph Schumpter (1942) who asserts the family home as the mainspring of profit motive.12 Therefore, it is the belief that business is a practice not only for individual success, but the success of the family and the next generation that drives pure capitalism.

The impersonal nature of modern business practices that no longer rely on familial structures is at odds with the gangster genre’s reliance on ‘gravitas and dignity’13 as a measure of its mafia leaders. In this context, it is easy to see how films may use the rhetoric of family connections in business as a reactionary strategy to reassert stability in an increasingly complex environment. To show how this affects real-world business as well as popular culture, Meyers notes how a long-standing American company such as Boeing maintains the internal promotion of family values as a defence against the impersonal nature of contemporary business practices; it promotes “familialism, in particular the loyalty to company and concern for its welfare that familialism implie[s] to navigate the unpredictability of the market and workforce structures and the challenges of changing social orders based on race, gender and sexuality”.14 In short, the more unpredictable and complex the real world becomes, the more forceful is the company rhetoric in order to uphold the ‘old world order’ on which its mythology is defined; this nostalgic attitude exists in various aspects of contemporary American business culture and is therefore also unsurprisingly reflected on screen. To quote Tony Soprano again in Season 1, Episode 11 of The Sopranos; “Out there it’s the 1990s, but in this house it’s 1954.”

It’s All About Family: Negotiating the Domestic Sphere to Move Beyond the “Periphery”

While female characters can be found in every gangster film, somewhere within the diegesis, from the classical period in Hollywood through today, they have yet to be central protagonists. Film theorist Vera Dika once wrote that women in gangster films are often at the “periphery” and their characters are often not fleshed out. The possible explanations for the marginalization of female characters can be attributed to the genre’s reliance on heteronormativity, conservative patriarchal capitalist ideologies, and the stabilization of familialism. While one could look at the women in gangster films in a somewhat blanketed and simplistic way, with the women serving as nothing more than wives, daughters, and mothers, it can also be argued that a few gangster films do allow the female characters to negotiate with their position in male-dominated and domesticated spaces, but it is always within the prevailing ideological constraints of hegemonic masculinity and never in a way that completely overturns the traditional gender hierarchy that underpins the gangster genre as a whole.

Director Jonathon Demme’s hybrid screwball comedy/family melodrama/gangster film Married to The Mob (1988) is a film that is largely driven by the desires of the female characters. For example, in the first scene to feature the wives in the film, the women are shown getting their hair and nails done at a salon, while they ardently talk about food and gossip. The two lead female characters in Married to the Mob are able to negotiate a more central place in the narrative and are given agency beyond the trivialities of domestic life or gossip about their husbands. Angela (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Connie (Mercedes Ruehl) are given extensive storylines and character development over the course of the narrative. In the first scene that features Angela, she is arguing with her husband Frank “The Cucumber” (Alec Baldwin) in the kitchen about not wanting to spend time with the other wives as he frantically searches for his revolver. The fight escalates when their pre-teen son Joey (Anthony J. Nici) finds the gun in a cabinet and carelessly waves it around. This prompts Angela to confront Frank about not earning an “honest” living and she expresses her growing discomfort with how they live their lives by saying everything that they own “has blood on it,” thereby challenging his worldview and the mafia lifestyle. Conversely, Connie is happily married to the Mafia Boss Tony “The Tiger” Russo (Dean Stockwell), and she actively embraces his life of crime as her own, but she does not remain passive in the home like many of her counterparts in the genre before here. Connie constantly challenges her husband and questions him about his infidelities and lying, and she is the one person he “actively fears”. By focusing on Angela and Connie’s desires and concerns then, the film pushes back against the hypermasculinization and hegemonic masculinity that dominates the gangster genre and suggests that women can transgress beyond the domestic sphere to regain some independence and agency in how their lives are lived, but they still have yet to fully operate outside of the traditional gender orthodoxies due in part to the genre’s insistence on reinforcing nostalgic ideals around gender and family values.

Married to the Mob (Demme, 1988)

The wives have a significant impact on the narrative in The Funeral and push beyond the traditional limits of the gangster genre. However, once again, their roles are simply to lament their limited positions rather than to push for significant change. Jean Tempio (Annabella Sciorra) is completely aware of her situation as a mob wife and mother of sons. In fact, she asserts they should throw a party for Helen (Gretchen Mol) to celebrate the fact that her boyfriend Johnny (Vincent Gallo) died before Helen could also become such a wife. This scene also reveals Jean’s own adolescent ambitions, terminated by her courtship and marriage to Ray (Christopher Walken), but most importantly it reveals Jean’s disdain at Helen’s grief. Jean is dismissive of Helen’s status as the girlfriend blinded by romance and states; “I don’t know why I’m talking to you”. Jean, as a wife, knows exactly how Helen is attracted to the men who present themselves as “tough, rugged individualists”, but is ignorant of the entrapment of marriage and the pain that accompanies a life with violent criminals. This is also depicted in tense detail by Clara (Isabella Rossellini) and Chez (Chris Penn) whose relationship is central to the film’s exploration of mafia identity and its associated reinforcement of toxic masculinity as an inherited mental illness. This film suggests women are complicit in the structures that confine them for they are irresistibly drawn to the patriarchal business leader as a symbol of strength and family security.

While the wives in The Funeral are not happy or successful figures, they are as significant in the history of the genre as Angela or Connie in Married to the Mob, for they speak the truth of the false romanticism of the mafia and the inability for women to change it from within. Like other Ferrara films, the narrative focuses most of its criticism on the Catholic church, but the Tempio’s worldview is built upon the interconnected values of family and business practices as mutually beneficial and thus, exemplifies the foundational principles of pure capitalism. Ray initially believes Johnny’s death was a result of the disrespect Johnny showed to a business partner, Gaspare (Benicio Del Toro) and rushes to enact revenge in order to regain the family honour. Indeed, Johnny’s communist sympathies are shown as a significant problem, causing distress, not only for the family business, but also heightening the tensions in Chez’s marriage. While it is easily argued that this mafia family is built upon corrupt values, it is Johnny’s anti-capitalist political beliefs that is the catalyst for its destruction. Therefore, while The Funeral is a successful critique of socio-political and religious ideologies that promote patriarchal family values it does not provide a positive alternative. Johnny is shown as an immature political agitator and womanizer who has no respect for his family, in terms of the business that funds his life style or the protection his brothers’ reputation provides for him. The film invites audiences to sympathise with the wives who, we would argue, are the eyes and ears of reason and common sense. However, the film remains nostalgic for the brothers who operate in the business world of reputation and shoulder the burden of violence.

A more recent example of a female character that negotiates the way women have traditionally been portrayed in the American gangster genre is Anna Morales (Jessica Chastain) in A Most Violent Year (J.C. Chandor, 2014). While the film primarily follows her husband, Abel (Oscar Isaac), the film explores questions around masculinity, violence, and what it means to run a “respectable business” in modern day America. While Anna does represent the familiar supportive wife character archetype, her importance in the narrative comes from her connection to the mafia, and in key scenes, the film reverses their gender roles. It is Anna, not Abel, whose father is a mobster, and she is the one who is happy to subvert the law and pushes her husband to use violence and hypermasculine methods to protect their business and their family. Mirroring the revolver scene in Married to the Mob, it is Anna that insists Abel get a gun for protection, and she is the one who has to pull the trigger (both figuratively and literally) when they need to kill a deer they have accidently hit while driving home one night. Furthermore, it is Anna who skims money from their business so they can pay off a business contract and it is Anna who convinces Abel to hide their books from the police when their house is raided. Regardless of her strengths, Anna still receives significantly less screen time and both characters remain fixed in the binary and retrogressive gender orthodoxies that dominate the gangster genre. In short, while Anna functions as the aggressive and masculine character who constantly attempts to reinforce the ‘cosa nostra’ way of life, Abel remains the figurehead of the business and the film.

It can be argued that all the women discussed here are the resilient centre of the films for they play a vital role in the genre’s deep-rooted connection to the American Dream, pure capitalism and traditional family values. They provide the profit motives for the concept of ‘family’ business and within this, both the men and women are trapped within that connection. In summation then, the men and women of the gangster genre in film all suffer from the constraints placed on them by the genre’s adherence to traditional gender roles and the propagation of 1950s American ideals and values. However, recent developments in the way television approaches the gangster genre suggest a more open space for women beyond the periphery.

Television: The Future for Women in the Gangster Genre?

Late capitalism with its readjustments of global and local business practices of production and consumption are “altering the way life is lived” and it could be argued no longer relies on the familial or patriarchal structures that previously dominated. For instance, late capitalism’s focus on technological networks rather than personal ones has encouraged the continued disintegration of traditional family and other social communities. In consequence, the very practice that makes some aspects of business less reliant on gender also undermines the traditional motive for mutually beneficial trade. Furthermore, less focus on the individual presence, means that physical stature is no longer the definitive factor in business leadership. These shifts offer some ideological foundations for why, in the real world, mafia families are now being successfully ruled by women, such as Nunzia D’Amico, a Camorra boss in Naples until assassinated in 2015, or Sandra Ávila Beltrán, the long-time leader of a Mexican based drug cartel. Progress in the real world however is not always fully embraced within the popular imagination. As discussed, the gangster genre in film has reacted to such challenging landscapes by steadfastly clinging to rhetoric and narrative structures that reinforce traditional values. This is why television, with its development of more complex narratives in recent years, is so important. It is providing opportunities for women characters to challenge generic traditions and character stereotypes, as well as change the ideological landscape of the genre.

Some of the developments in television may be due in part to more general attitude shifts. Sue Turnbull (2014) suggests post 9/11 TV narratives have included “an increasing sympathy and/or fascination with those who find themselves on the wrong side of the law.15 Furthermore, complex and innovative storytelling now succeeds “both creatively and economically”16 even in network television and so offers a more flexible approach to genre. While it has long been self-reflexive and offered examples of “complicitous critique” 17 in terms of genre and gender, television analyses have noted how “today’s characters are not only more diverse, but complex and exhibit a degree of self-awareness prohibiting stereotype.”18 In short, television narratives are more adaptive and in consequence, women in such as contemporary television crime dramas are extending beyond the margins to play a more active role in the modern gangster world.

Challenges to male dominance in the gangster genre appear in more complex ways than ever before in series such as Queen of the South (M. A. Fortin and Joshua John Miller, 2016-, USA Network). While Teresa Mendoza (Alice Braga) initially paraphrases Karen Hill (Goodfellas) when she states, ”I admit it, this stuff excited me” (Season 1, Episode 1), she soon moves beyond the role of girlfriend to fully embrace her own gangster life; the first two series chronicle her rise to the top of a Mexican drug-smuggling cartel. Furthermore, Teresa is not the cartel’s only female boss. She learns the trade from Camila Vargas (Veronica Falcón) whose counsel and behaviour is fundamental to Teresa’s growth. In season 1, episode 3 Camila reminds Teresa that neither of them can put family first, because “women in business can’t afford to look weak”. Teresa’s lack of family and Camila’s broken one make it apparent that these women operate in environments where gender binaries are more fluid, but where the traditional family has disintegrated. The narratives are about loss and the fight to survive in a modern world where loyalties are transient. As such, the series is a more accurate portrayal of cartel operations as they exist in the amoral, profit-obsessed arena of late capitalism, but in consequence, the series loses the romanticism associated with the film genre and becomes more of a twisted corporate melodrama where every loyalty is suggested as transient.

Questions of loyalty and its effect on sympathies for the gangster business leader have always been central to the genre; Michael Corleone’s (Al Pacino, The Godfather) “tragic hero” story arc is clear evidence of this. Therefore, when Jason Mittell argues that it has become common to incorporate techniques associated with “sentimental melodrama” in new forms of television storytelling and genre mixing in order to emphasize audience sympathies it is evident the gangster genre would adapt well. Mittell also notes how narratives may include “a female protagonist… at the center of a highly serialized version of a traditionally masculinist genre story,” because it “validates effeminate emotional experiences for male viewers and help’s destabilize television’s long-standing gender hierarchies” (p. 251). This is evident in Queen of the South, and also in Animal Kingdom (Jonathan Lisco, 2016, TNT), a series based on the original Australian film (2010, dir. David Michôd). In both the film and the series, the female boss, Janine “Smurf” Cody (Jacki Weaver, film; Ellen Barkin, television) is given a chance to challenge traditional gender roles for women in the gangster genre. However, the television series gives Smurf a more dominant presence and elicits more audience sympathies. While actual screen-time is significantly less than her male offspring, her actions and motivations are at the centre of the criminal undertakings. Smurf, her four sons, and her grandson operate as a family gang (similar to the Italian Mafia) with their own code and rules, chiefly that “Family comes first. Everything else is second,” (“Baz” Blackwell (Scott Speedman), Season 1, Episode 6). It is also made clear that Smurf approves all plans for each of their heists in Season 1 and it is revealed through dialogue that she has always been the one to decide which jobs they take on and how they split the money. Throughout the series, Smurf protects her family from all threats and provides for her boys like a lioness (hence the title of the series). The link between motherhood and leadership is demonstrated in the family tradition that has Smurf bake a pie after every heist. This provides both the validation of ‘effeminate emotions’ and the ‘destabilizing of gender hierarchies’ within the narrative, in that it reinforces her role as a mother, but also reminds viewers and her boys of her place as the boss.

Animal Kingdom (Lisco, 2016)

Another destabilisation occurs in the fact that all of the characters’ actions and motivations stem from Smurf and her decisions. Smurf is not just the ‘resilient centre’ of the family, she is the driving force and best able to handle the barbarism of modern-day criminality. The television gangster genre is still both a critique and celebration of capitalism, but it is the impersonal structure of late capitalism that underpins these narratives. The complex nature of modern business practices, that no longer rely on consistent social relationships allows for a more diverse and conflict-driven narrative, with multiple opportunities for character development. Smurf is given the most extended serial narrative and her role as the “tragic hero” at the centre of the story becomes ever more complex. In season 1, there are various flashbacks to Smurf’s as a teen, when she ran small time cons with her mother and after her mother died. In Season 2, Smurf’s sons rebel and break away from her, which causes chaos and destruction that potentially could have been avoided if Smurf had remained in charge. In Season 3, Smurf is running things from jail, with the help of her grandson, until she is released. Going into season 4, Smurf’s official place as the boss and head of the family has been reinstated. Like her “tragic hero” male counterparts in the gangster genre before her, Smurf’s continual slow descent to a tragic end could be expected in the coming episodes. This protracted narrative arc is similarly defined in Queen of the South where Teresa’s ‘inevitable death’ opens the very first episode and her older, successful self, subsequently appears intermittently in the early narrative to offer the young Teresa guidance during her rise to the top. In the end, these television dramas are less about securing wealth for family inheritance and more about clinging on to individual wealth and power for as long as humanly possible. The advancement of female narratives from the periphery to the centre of the narrative in television serials retains the essence of the genre, but also breaks away from cinema’s love affair with pure capitalism. In so doing. examples such as Animal Kingdom, along with Queen of the South, show that a more complex place exists for women in the genre in serial television moving forward.

In conclusion, while Hollywood has not yet embraced the realities of late capitalism and neoliberalist ideologies in the gangster genre, the expansive formats of television have allowed it to happen. Hollywood gangsters strengthen the rhetoric of familialism, and continually reproduce the social and physical stature of the business patriarch in order to ignore change and reinforce the comfort of stable narratives. The nostalgic connection of the gangster genre to the 1950s means this ‘thing of ours’ remains a masculine club. Given the genre’s connection to pure capitalism and the American Dream, it can be argued that gangster films cannot exist without the women and their place in the traditional family structure. Television offers more progressive and complex representations of women in crime, partly because of the length and breadth allowed in serial narratives, but also because the narratives embrace the complexities of late capitalist society and its effects on social structures such as the traditional family hierarchy. They expand the genre boundaries, but in so doing they destroy any connection to pure capitalism and the associated romantic connections to family. To this end, viewers might want to consider some of the costs of these narrative successes. While complex narratives celebrate the strength of women gangsters in television, they also lay bare the brutal ideologies that influence their actions. As Camila Vargas declares in Queen of the South (season 2, episode, 3), “in love and war women are more barbaric than men”. This statement asserts and celebrates the pragmatism of women gangsters who she believes are better equipped, both emotionally and physically to deal with a modern world that no longer cares about community, or the mutual benefits of trade. As such, these gangster heroines have no time for nostalgia or extended loyalties for they are operating in callous – almost dystopian – environments. These women are strong characters, but the world they inhabit keeps them isolated and constantly fighting to keep their power.

This article has been peer reviewed.


  1. Robert Warshow “Film Chronicle: The Gangster as Tragic Hero”. The Partisan Review, 15, no.2, (1948), 240-244
  2. Vera Dika “The Representation of Ethnicity in The Godfather” in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Trilogy, Nick Browne, ed (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p.96
  3. Esther Sonnet and Peter Stanfield “Can I Check Yours Hats Please?: Masculinity, Dress and the Retro Gangster Cycles of the 1990s”. In Mob Culture: Hidden Histories of the American Gangster Film, Lee Grieveson, Esther Sonnet and Peter Stanfield, eds (New York, Rutgers, The State University Press, 2005), p.177.
  4. Sonnet and Stanfield, Can I Check Yours, p.182
  5. Jerry Mosher “Big Daddies and the Hollywood Myth of Capitalism” in A Family Affair: cinema calls home, Murray Pomerance, ed (London: Wallflower Press, 2008), p.266
  6. Mosher, Big Daddies, p.266
  7. Ronald, Wilson “Gang Busters: The Kefauver Crime Committee and the Syndicate Films of the 1950s” in Mob Culture: Hidden Histories of the American Gangster Film, Lee Grieveson, Esther Sonnet and Peter Stanfield, eds. (New York, Rutgers, The State University Press, 2005), p. 72.
  8. Carl Freedman “The Supplement of Coppola: Primitive Accumulation and the Godfather Trilogy”. Film International, 9, no.1 (March, 2011), p.17
  9. Polly Reed Meyers Capitalist Family Values: gender, work and corporate values at Boeing (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2015), p. 15
  10. Rosemary Hennessy Profit and Pleasure: sexual identities in late capitalism (New York: Routledge, 2000), p. 54
  11. Hennessy, Profit and Pleasure, p.5
  12. Joseph Schumpter Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (New York, Harper and Row, 1975, original 1942)
  13. Freedman, “Gangsterism and Capitalism”, p.18
  14. Meyers, Capitalist Family Values, p.14.
  15. The TV Crime Drama (Edinburgh University Press, 2014) p.192
  16. Jason Mittell Complex TV: The Poetics of Contemporary Television (New York University Press, 2015) p.2
  17. Jane Feuer, Seeing Through the Eighties: Television and Reaganism (Durham, Duke University Press, 1995) p.7
  18. Monica Michlin, “More, More, More: Contemporary American TV Series and the Attractions and Challenges of Serialization as Ongoing Narrative” (Mise au Point, 01/2011, Iss. 3), p.4

About The Author

George S. Larke-Walsh Ph.D is an Assistant Professor in the Media Arts department at the University of North Texas. Current scholarly projects are focused on documentary theory as well as the gangster genre in cinema and TV.

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