“Sleeping with the Fishes”: A Canadian Spectacle of Ethnicity and Crime in Dramatic Television

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 09:45
Oral Presentation
Stephen MUZZATTI, Ryerson University, Canada
Emma SMITH, Ryerson University, Canada
Embedded within the crime-enthused narratives of modern and traditional television lies a cavernous public obsession with the Italian mob boss. Displaying a fierce family loyalty, built on values of honour, prestige and retribution this glamourised figure is repeatedly revered as the grand patriarch, entrepreneurial genius and nucleus of a well-oiled criminal organisation. The pervasive ambiguities and idleness of liquid modernity generate a milieu wherein the audiences' insatiable appetite for transgressive familiarity is perpetually fuelled by mafia-centered storylines. The viewer is encouraged to temporarily disengage from their unremitting, habitual fears and enlist in the ranks of these celebrated outlaws. Joining the extensive American productions of gangster representations, such as The Godfather film trilogy (1972-1990) and The Sopranos television drama (1999-2007), the new Canadian mini-series, Bad Blood (2017), works to depict the life and death of the real-life Montreal mob boss Vito Rizzuto (1946-2013). Though highly stylised, dramatised and infused with fictional elements, this series highlights the illicit enterprises and corruption that constitute the quagmire of Canada’s intersecting worlds of business, politics, crime and law enforcement

Addressing myths of organised crime, this paper attends to elements of ethnicity, spectacle and allurement infused in the six-episodes of the Bad Blood production. Referencing the recent trend in re-capturing the infamous stories of aberrant figures, such as The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (2016) and Law and Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders (2017), we contend a process of audience pacification is underway within the docu-reality crime genre. The inclusion of celebrity, within all of these representations, only serves to re-exoticise the stereotypical images of glamorous lawbreakers. We are forever sleeping with the (televised) fishes!