Mob Wives: Keeping it in the Family

If you don’t know by now, because maybe you don’t have a penchant for watching mafia shows, housewife reality tv or Staten Island, the second season of VH1’s hit “docu-drama” Mob Wives is well underway. Blending the tropes of violence-prone mafia stories with the boredom and angst of being a housewife, the show portrays the lives of four women who find themselves alone to bring up their families because their husbands, fathers and other male-figures are or have been incarcerated.

The language, like the pre- and post-commercial clips are, in keeping with the genre, extremely repetitive (if you’re looking for a new drinking game, try drinking every time someone says “lifestyle”). The emphasis placed on the affect of the “lifestyle” or mob-family on their nuclear families becomes heightened, as does the constant fighting for and about men, the receiving of calls from prison and the negotiations of single-life in their giant Staten Island homes are all carried out to the soundtrack of claims about “the lifestyle”. Not to mention, of course, that the “framing” –note my word play– of each scene mimics captured surveillance shots.

Leigh Edwards has argued (see “Reality TV and the American Family”, 2010) that contemporary reality television shows in the United States depict “altered” or “modern” families that do not depict the typical representation of the nuclear family, but simultaneously reinforce conventional family norms.

There are a lot of factors that I want to play around with here, but this will hardly be the last time I post about Mob Wives. Let me just put a few ideas out there:

Is Leigh Edwards right? Are these women ultimately hungry for conventional family norms? After all, in episode 7 we have Drita, Carla and Renee all sitting in Drita’s kitchen complaining about trying to get their male partners to admit they have cheated, and how terrible they, as women, and mothers are being treated. RENEE: “How good of a man are you to my kids, to my son, that you abuse me as a woman?”

Is this problem between the “family” of the mob and the nuclear family an inherently Italian or Italian-American problem? Or, rather,  is this what VH1 is trying to tell us? I’m sure I don’t have to remind you of episode 5 of this season when Ramona claimed that Drita was not part of the lifestyle because she isn’t even Italian; she married into it.

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Edwards, Leigh. “Reality TV and the American Family.” The Tube Has Spoken: Reality TV & History.Ed. Julie Anne. Taddeo and Ken Dvorak. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 2010. Print.

“Mob Daughter.” Mob Wives. VH1. New York, NY, 19 Feb. 2012. Television.

“Old Friends New Archenemies.” Mob Wives. VH1. New York, NY, 29 Jan. 2012. Television

1 thought on “Mob Wives: Keeping it in the Family

  1. It’s an issue in any kind of (sub) culture, right? Certainly our collective fascination with the mob warrants more consideration, but I’m curious how those currents work with other groups. I stood outside a church in my neighborhood in NYC recently and watched a funeral procession for a member of the Rough Riders and thought about those things a lot– the intimate family, the RR family, the unaffiliated & bewildered grandparents– & where those priorities lie and intersect.

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