Thursday, October 2, 2008

Gangsters Versus Gangstas

According to a "news" article on, there's a marketing campaign underway for the new "Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement", also known as the "Mob Museum". But do not fret children, this museum won't "glorify criminal activity" but rather will "candidly explore [the mob's] influence on Las Vegas and the role they played in transforming the city into a famous gambling and entertainment destination."

The role they played in transforming the city into a famous gambling and entertainment destination sounds kinda like glorifying to me. "Hey, look at what the Mob did for us!"

This marketing campaign includes "cheeky" t-shirts with the expression "There is no such thing as a Mob museum nor have I ever been there."

So at this point, you're probably thinking: "Why are you going off about this? And lighten up would ya! This is hilarious!"

Don't get me wrong. I have an enthusiastic sense of humour and I was once a huge Sopranos fan.

But what we have here is a clear distinction between "good" criminals and "bad" criminals. Gangsters AKA the Mob = good, Gangstas = bad. I highly doubt that the "Chicago Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement" would get the same round of applause and "OMG, AREN'T THEY JUST SO DAMN CHEEKY?!"

And what is the difference between a gangster and a gangsta? Well not much really. Both have been involved in the drugs, arms and sex trade. Both have been linked to murder and theft. Organized crime is organized crime.

What we have here is a major racial and class divide. On one side we have white gangsters who are glorified in film and now their very own museum. On the other side we have people of colour who may be glorified in music and certain categories of film, but who are blamed for many of today's social ills, including high rates of violence in high schools and drive-by shootings, specifically in lower-class areas.

Why is it that the Mob has been elevated to this pseudo-glorified status of being Museum worthy whereas gangstas and I would even include Biker Gangs here to really bring in the class argument, are seen as the vile of society?

This is race and class privilege at its very best.

I say what happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas.

1 comment:

JaneDoe said...

I totally get what you mean- I think there's also a great deal of gender privilege in this love affair pop culture has with the white gangster figure. Generally they're seen as some sort of uber-masculine sexy ideal, whereas a woman committing the same crimes would just be a criminal (and probably a slut). I wished The Sopranos TV show would have explored issues like this more.