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The Godfather – A Film Analysis

At the start of The Godfather: Part II (directed by Francis Ford Coppola), we see a grim exchange between a corrupt politician and the head of a Sicilian Mafia family. The politician, a reputed senator, denies the Mafia Don’s request for a Vegas gambling license, saying: “I despise your masquerade, the dishonest way you pose yourself.” The Mafia Don, Michael Corleone (portrayed by Al Pacino), replies: “We’re both part of the same hypocrisy, senator.”

When we see our current socio-political climate (“current” meaning the whole of our lifetime) it is fair to conclude that Mario Puzo’s The Godfather speaks volumes about the rampant hypocrisy running deep in our society. What is hypocrisy? The Greek hypokrisis is closely connected to envy and theatrics. A common subject for the theater in ancient times was, no doubt, mythology.

The Godfather saga can be considered a modern myth—a continuation of the drama of the Greek gods—albeit with a post-Calvary dynamic. In ancient Greece, Zeus was considered the king of the gods and, therefore, the most worthy of worship. Hades, the god of the underworld, on the other hand, is mostly avoided out of fear by the masses. Zeus is the popular face of the gods, the representation of the light: the kind of savior for which people yearn. Hades is the representation of the things that, socially, are best left unsaid.

What’s best left unsaid is the mirroring of the two forces and the source of evil. The rule of Zeus is publicized—presentable. The rule of Hades is an open secret—an incrimination of Zeus. Both rule via murder, coercion, and persecution. This order of mythology is channeled in the Godfather saga. Don Vito Corleone (portrayed by Marlon Brando), Michael’s father and mentor, recognizes this and refers to the politicians, clergy, lawyers, doctors, and professors as pezzonovante: “big shots.”

It is worthwhile to observe the developing relationship between Vito Corleone and the pezzonovante. In his novel, Mario Puzo sketches a history of the Corleone family that is very much grounded in reality. Vito Corleone ascends the underworld by running bootlegging operations during the Prohibition era. During that time, he becomes enormously powerful. The politicians and lawyers see a valuable use for him seeing how black market operations can be beneficial to them. Likewise, Don Corleone pockets these respectable public faces for his own endeavors.

The modern-day relationship between Zeus and Hades is a sophisticated version of the ancient myths. Both employ violence to achieve their ends; both do so in a manner of mutual understanding. This is made all the more obvious when we notice how the Mafia structure works. The Don is at the top of the hierarchy followed by the consigliere (counselor), the caporegimes (commanders), and then the “button men,” the foot soldiers. The Don never gives an order directly to the soldier; it always comes down through the hierarchy.

The structure of our modern-day governments is more or less the same. Why are the hierarchies like this? It is precisely due to the fact that both seek to hide the source of the violence under anonymity. Thus, the sacredness of the structures is maintained. Mario Puzo hammers this point home in an interaction between Michael and his future wife Kay (portrayed by Diane Keaton).

Michael: “My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator.”
Kay: “Do you know how naive you sound, Michael? Presidents and senators don’t have men killed.”
Michael: “Oh. Who’s being naive, Kay?”

Michael’s story is a tragedy for this very reason. He, like his father, has recognized the truth but he is trapped inside it like a bird in a cage. In the beginning of the story, he is, like Kay and most of us, naive about the power structures of society. In defiance of his father, he enlists in the marines and goes off to war. He comes back a war hero and chooses to marry an American girl to further his rebellion.

The scales fall away from his eyes, however, when a mob hit on his father’s life fails. In the hospital, as he races to save his wounded father from another hit, Michael realizes how corrupt the police can be, who are bought off by rival gang lords. This realization, that the life of a pezzonovante means the life of a puppet, leads to Michael killing a police captain and thus cementing his entrance into the underworld.

Things grow much bleaker over the span of two films, as we see Michael’s violent actions coming back to haunt him. With the death of his father, Michael grows more sinister and isolated after witnessing betrayal after betrayal; he trusts no one. The violence which he must employ to keep the wolves away ultimately spills into his family in unspeakable ways.

It is here that Mario Puzo’s Catholic sensibilities are noticeable. When Michael’s wife willingly commits an abortion, it is made certain to us through Kay’s very own words that her abortion is an “abomination” done to stop another child from entering Hades’ underworld of violence and death. Also, Michael’s own brother Fredo betrays him. All of this culminates in Michael having his brother assassinated; it is an event that would haunt him for the remainder of his life.

Puzo does not mythologize Hades. He certainly romanticizes some characters to a degree but never beyond belief. What Puzo does with Michael’s character is humanize him and make him relatable. How on earth can we relate to a cold and calculating Mafia boss? For this, we will come again to the mirroring of the two hierarchies.

The Mafia structure which Puzo writes about is centuries old, built on the traditional system of the old mythologies. In our world, we might be inclined to think that our nation’s leaders are the political equivalent to the Mafia Dons. But when we look closely, we will see that the leaders are mere “button men.” After all, the leaders are elected and brought into office by popular consensus.

Who then are the Mafia Dons in our midst? The answer: whoever that wishes to hide within the anonymity of the crowd and have others carry out their dark fantasies. Think of a “respectable” person who threatens his/her neighbor by calling the police when something unruly occurs. This tiny illustration should be sufficient to convict us. It also tells us why the ancient Mafia system has died out. The Mafia has died out because we—the average citizens—have chosen to be the replacement. It is no coincidence that Mario Puzo chooses to tell the tale of Hades in a manner of realism and from the perspective of a mortal.

The violence that haunts the Corleones is symbolic of the unrest and decline in moral values that grips a society when it decides to play God. When a society decides to take the role of a democratic judge, jury, and executioner, and by proxy eliminates all those who are non-violent yet disorderly and non-conforming, that society short circuits because the Calvary event does not allow for anonymity to last.

In the last scene of the Godfather: Part II, we see Michael Corleone seated all alone in contemplation. He has become the most powerful man in the underworld but there is no joy in his triumph. How can he celebrate when he sees very clearly the bones of his very own brother, among the others whom he has murdered, as the foundation of his empire? We are left with only one thing: the fate that waits for us if we continue down the same path of hypocrisy.

Why Christ Didn’t Write, Veterans Radio: Honoring Smedley Butler, Nineteen Years of the Afghanistan War

David Gornoski begins the show by reading from Rene Girard’s book “When These Things Begin.” What did Jesus mean when he said we must pick up His cross and follow Him? What does the imitation of Christ mean in our modern-day society? Also in the show, David is joined by Sgt. Dan McKnight of Bring Our Troops Home and Maj. Danny Sjursen of Skeptical Vet for a Veterans Radio segment. Together, they discuss the legacy of General Smedley Butler, the nineteen years of the Afghanistan War, the non-existent anti-war left, the war hawks in the conservative side, and more.

Our Cannibalistic Desires: Shannon Braswell Interviews David Gornoski

Shannon Braswell, in his first episode of Polymath’s Paradise, sits down with David Gornoski. The two resume their discussion on the works of Rene Girard. David takes us through his disillusionment with mainstream Christian talking points and his introduction to Rene Girard.

“Jesus was basically an object for folks rather than the subject of your life,” David says, “Jesus had become an object with people to have a social status in comparison with others.” How do we make Jesus the subject of our lives?

How does the eucharist relate to cannibalism? How is civilization, as we know it, rooted in cannibalism? How has Christ affected humanity through this ritual consumption of the other in our species? Listen to the full podcast to find out.

Kaitlin Bennett Responds to UCF Mob Attack, Announces Her Return

David Gornoski starts the show by taking us through the anthropological study of how ancient communities sustained their culture through human sacrifice and how that phenomenon still exists today when we look at the media and political narratives of our time. Plus, Kaitlin Bennett, conservative activist, calls in to talk about the incident on UCF where she was chased out by a mob from the campus. Does the hatred for Trump stem from any actual knowledge of his policies? Kaitlin says that this hatred comes from indoctrination rather than discernment while announcing that she intends to return to the UCF campus. Listen to the full episode for all of this and more.

Follow Kaitlin on Twitter @KaitlinMarieox

Revolution vs Renaissance

“Silence is violence,” is one’s of the trending mottos of our time. Does the McWoke crowd, backing Biden and Kamala Harris, really care about injustices? David Gornoski asks as he points out Biden and Harris’ pro-war and pro-mass incarceration records. Calls for revolution and socialism, David says, are based on the scapegoating principle; it won’t succeed because we cannot unite around a scapegoat any longer. Do we need more cycles–revolutions–of violence or do we look towards real progress that seeks to free the hidden victims of our society?

Who is Our Model for Morality?

When politicians cry moral outrage, the question for us should be: What is the moral standard for our country today? The brotherhood of man? Democracy? David argues that you cannot eliminate the rule of tyranny and violence without modeling yourself on Jesus. If we’re to imitate Jesus as the role model for governance, does that enable us to commit “preemptive” violence upon non-violent persons? What would a societal imitation of Jesus look like? Listen to the full episode to find out and more.

Why Twitter is a Hellscape

“Twitter is one long, drawn-out crisis of undifferentiation with a neverending futile search for scapegoats.” The social media platform has become a playground of sorts for politicians playing childish tit-for-tat games with each other. Why has Twitter become such a hellscape? Healthy boundaries and hierarchies are what our society currently lacks, David observes. Joining David Gornoski to discuss this topic is James Kourtides who points us to the misuse of technology that leads to self-inflicted death. How do we tackle this age of negative mimesis through technology? The answer, David and James say, might have something to do with how Jesus destroyed the ancient practice of human sacrifice with the cross.

Subscribe to James Kourtides’ YouTube channel.

Chicago Pastor Corey Brooks on 1619 Project, BLM

Why are conservatives failing to live up to their promises to cut spending and decrease government? David Gornoski gives us some fascinating answers to this question. David also offers some startling insights into what news like the sentencing of Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli mean with regards to institutional abuse in society. Plus, joining David is Chicago’s ‘rooftop pastor’ Corey Brooks to talk about New York Time’s 1619 project and the Black Lives Matter organization, both of which pastor Brooks says are based upon “insidious lies.” Is the current government system encouraging the average American in any way? What can we learn from Mel Gibson’s movie Apocalypto? Listen to the full episode to find out and more.

Support Pastor Corey Brooks’ work at projecthood.org
Email A Neighbor’s Choice with a guest suggestion, story tip or question at hello@aneighborschoice.com
Find David Gornoski on YouTube
Visit the A Neighbor’s Choice website at aneighborschoice.com

 

THINGS HIDDEN 18: The Future is Mimetic

Craig Stewart and David Gornoski return to discuss the mimetic road to a future designed by Jesus.

Is there a link between Rene Girard’s theory and the hard sciences? “There’s a sacred to science,” David claims while highlighting how certain aspects of what’s considered ‘settled’ is rarely questioned in the world of academia.

What is the Christian reaction to the state’s monopoly on violence? How do we define our participation in collective violence, especially in today’s heavily institutionalized world? Why has modern-day academia failed in getting us to an accurate understanding of anthropology whereas Girard succeeded? Listen to the full podcast to find out.

Visit Craig Stewart’s YouTube channel.

David Gornoski on the Blasts in Beirut and the 75th Anniversary of the Hiroshima Bombing

Listen to the podcast:

David Gornoski is back with another exciting episode as he comments on the latest news of explosions in Beirut while looking back at the Atomic bombs exploding in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What good is gender politics in the field of engineering if engineers keep churning out new ways of ending the human species? David asks. How can we escape this path of destruction? How can our nation’s foreign policy accurately reflect our cross-haunted culture? Listen to the full episode as David Gornoski explores the news, deconstructs the media narrative, and presents to us the path of hope as revealed by Jesus’ personhood revolution.