Monday, January 18, 2010

The Godfather Part II Film Review

Written on November 6, 2009

Films are often used and viewed as diversionary entertainment, but films often have the power to provide an excellent look into American society. The power of language, its use and what its use entails is often a critical factor in how immigrants get along in America. The use of language and its mastery can relate power and weakness among immigrants. The film, The Godfather Part II is an excellent example of the use of language and its effects on immigrants. The sociolinguistic situations of the film provide an excellent examination to see how language use affects immigrants.

For immigrant groups coming to the United States, language is power. The inability of an immigrant to learn English can often leave them with a feeling of powerlessness and in a second class state. The immigrants generally then stick together to their own group where their language is dominant, as with the Italians in the turn of the 20th century, and Puerto Ricans and other Latino groups later on. Adjusting to and learning a new language can be tough especially for older immigrants, as language is learned more easily during the first years of life.

The Godfather Part II tells two stories, one of a young immigrant named Vito Corleone’s rise to power, and the other of his son Michael Corleone’s bid to keep the family power. Early in the film an important scene occurs that shows a connection between language and power. At a public ceremony for Michael Corleone’s son, a United States senator badly mispronounces the Corleone name. But, in a later one on one meeting with Michael Corleone, the senator not only pronounces a dislike for Italians, he also proceeds to pronounce the Corleone name perfectly. He thus showed that not only could he properly pronounce the name, he deliberately mispronounced the Corleone name as a sign of disrespect and to assert his power over the Corleones, who come from a stigmatized ethnic group.

In the film’s progression where Vito is a young poor man, he never speaks English. English is used as a language of emphasis to declare emphatic points, while everyone speaks mostly Italian. The first time Vito uses English it is when he uses the words, yeah and sure, as he goes out to commit his first crime. Vito’s partner Clemenza addresses him in English in giving him instructions showing his power over Vito. A turning point in the film and Vito’s life is when he takes a turn from being a subordinate to his crime partners is when he addresses them in English for the first time basically asserting himself as the power among his group. Vito then uses English as the language he speaks when making assertive claims. Vito from then on uses English as the language he needs when making dominant statements, and others use English toward him in a subordinate role. As a rich man English the dominant language of the country becomes the language he uses to establish and reinforce his dominance over others.

For the later characters of the film such as Michael Corleone on the other hand Italian is rarely used. As a more refined American born member of society he uses English. Frank Pentangeli on the other hand who is portrayed as a more crude non upper-class member of society speaks Italian at times frequently code switching with English. When Michael speaks with Frank at a point he also breaks off into speaking in Italian. Michael’s use of Italian here does not signify a loss or shift of power as it would have for his father, but simply reaffirms his status as a member of the ethnic group despite his upper class lifestyle. When Michael though does speak to his mother in Italian later on, due to his feeling of losing his family it signifies a moment of weakness. Michael is unsure of whether he is doing the right thing and English normally the language of power and confidence can do him no good in the situation.

The Godfather Part II is a film that shows the significant role between language and power among immigrants and others in America. The shifts and usage of the language can mean much more if you really take a look into the meaning.

Bonvillian, Nancy. Language, Culture, and Communication: The Meaning of Messages
5th Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007.

Media Ethics and Journalism

Written on Novemer 17,2009

In 1981 Janet Cooke a writer for the Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize for a story about a 8 year old heroin addict. A few days later the story broke that Cooke’s story was a fabrication. In May 2003 it was discovered that Jayson Blair a writer for the New York Times had been plagiarizing and fabricating stories. In recent years in America the issue of Media ethics in journalism has been a frequent issue that has been brought up due to serious scandals like the ones mentioned threatening the integrity of Media institutions.

In discussing ethics in the Media it is important to note that the Society of Professional Journalists which has been in existence since 1909, has already established a code of ethics. Among this code of ethics is an obligation to seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and be accountable. The problem though with this code of ethics is that it is voluntary and not necessarily subscribed to by all journalists. Some commentators like John Merrill are of the position that the media is essentially unethical. This position is true for some media people, but I would make the argument that the vast majority of media people are ethical and looking to uphold high standards of journalism, since the entire credibility of journalism rests on a credibility with readers. Journalists from the International Federation of Journalists have launched an Ethical Journalism Initiative. Journalists have sensed that the growing sentiment about unethical journalism is affecting their field, and they are working hard to bring a higher standard for journalists to adhere to. The use of digital media has jumped in the journalism field and sometimes the news being distributed via social media is unverified as happened in the Iranian Election protests of 2009. Journalists have looked for ways to ensure that the digital media conforms to ethical standards of journalism. Journalists who have been found to fabricate or misrepresent stories have been forced out of the field or punished in various other ways no matter how esteemed as Dan Rather at CBS found out.

The power that the Media holds in America is significant. Scandals brought out in the press have helped take down government administrations and ensured that democracy is working correctly. It only makes sense then that standards exist to make sure that the press is working ethically. Under a free press system as the one here in the United States there is not too much that the government can do to ensure Media ethics in journalism aside from whether journalists break the law, but consumers and owners of Media outlets have to be the ones to ensure that the media is working ethically. Consumers have continually spoken as public esteem for the press has been continuously falling for about the last 20 years. The public has also spoken with their usage of traditional media outlets which continues to drop. For the Media to continue to ensure the public trust constant vigilance is necessary to make sure journalists are trained in the right way from the very beginning to uphold a standard of ethics and for it to carry over in their professional work.

Richardson, R. (Fall 2009) Accessed from
Gottlieb, Stephen F. Accessed from
The Mindanao Examiner. Accessed from
Leach, Jan. (Fall 2009) Accessed from
Dennis, Everette & Merrill, John. Media Debates 4th Edition. Thompson Wadsworth, 2006