Blood Money Can't Buy Happiness
We've all seen movies and TV shows that glamorize the mob, from The Godfather to The Sopranos to My Cousin Vinny. Vh1 recently wrapped up its first season of "Mob WIves" which illustrates another perspective on the mob. Vh1 has labeled Mob Wives as a 'docu-soap' that follows the lives of four struggling, connected women who have to pick up the pieces and resume their lives after their husbands or fathers do time for Mob-related activities. The women are supposedly long time friends who live in Staten Island, grappling with their identities, their own families and their futures.
Wearing expensive fur coats, and glitzy bling, they ride around Staten Island in BMWs and Mercedes Benzs when they aren't lounging around their beautiful houses. They tan, work out, drink, and occasionally beat the crap out of each other. They don't have jobs but blow through money like it grows on trees. Apparently the blood money hasn't run out yet. I find it appalling that they managed to hold on to so much dirty money in the first place. Their husbands and fathers are low life criminals and some are mass murderers who managed to profit off their atrocities. When we giggle at the sight of the mob wives drinking cosmos in their enormous houses, just remember where that money came from.
But half way through the first episode, the glitz and glam of the mob princess lifestyle seemed to suddenly disappear as we were introduced to the lives of the four women. They are despicable when they brag about their mob connections but it is depressing how they cling to those connections as if it is the only thing that makes them feel worthy or respectable.
Renee Graziano is a mob-daughter and the biggest train wreck of them all. In one scene, she fights with a man she meets at a bar and threatens: "do you know who I am? Do you know who my father is?" No one knew who Renee was before the show and her father is just a criminal – not something most people would take pride in bragging about. She calls her ex-husband mobster to straighten the situation out which he does, luckily without violence. This woman is constantly either weeping or having dramatic meltdowns. She’s cries to her therapist, sobs at her son, and shields herself with plastic surgery and pounds of make up.
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During the season, her ex-husband and father of her son, AJ (don’t laugh), was arrested in an FBI mob bust. She continuously tries to get over her ex-husband Junior, but her total lack of self-confidence and self-worth keeps her crawling back, and she allows him a place to stay until he has to go to prison. It is especially sad to watch as Junior tells her he still loves her and so on, only a few days before he goes back to the slammer, because we all know he just needs someone on the outside to send him lavish care packages.
Drita D’Avanzo is actually Albanian and in desperate need of anger management. She married into the mob much to the chagrin of her straight-laced immigrant family. During the season, her husband Lee is served a prison sentence for the second time during their marriage, for robbing a bank, and refuses to tell Drita the expected date of his release. Throughout their 11-year marriage, they had two kids and spent a total of two years together – Lee was in jail for the other nine. It seems like she sends him elaborate care packages every other day after getting a precise list of every single item he wants.
For nine years she has sent him care packages, taken care of their two children, and waited loyally for him. To top it off, in one of the later episodes, Drita finds out Lee cheated on her. I know the show was labeled a "docu-soap" but Drita's life seems like a pretty accurate depiction of a real mob wife; she is wasting her life waiting for a deadbeat thug who will be in and out of prison until he dies.
Karen Gravano is trying desperately to escape her father’s mobster past by moving back to Staten Island from Arizona, writing a book about the mob, and starring in Mob Wives. That sounds more like "trying desperately to profit off her father's mobster past." Her father is the infamous Sammy "The Bull," also known as the biggest 'rat' in la Cosa Nostra history. While he confessed to nineteen murders in his book, he is currently serving a 19-year sentence in an undisclosed location. Karen's father is a convicted mass murderer, but like the other four women, there appears to be a total lack of sympathy for and indifference towards her father's victims.
The families of those victims are speaking out and outraged, believing that the four mob wives are looking for unwarranted sympathy for their pain. "All these Mafia princesses grew up with their fathers' blood money," said Jackie Colucci, 64, whose brother, Joseph Colucci, 26, was Gravano's first victim in 1970. "She (Karen Gravano) grew up having the best of everything on blood money. "[But] what about my niece and nephew growing up without a father? It's upsetting."
But victims' families say that La Cosa Nostra's institution isn't the real issue; what afflicts them are the weekly reminders of their loved ones' murders and the attempts of others (the mob wives), directly or indirectly, to cash in on them. I am curious to know how the mob feels about this kind of spotlight on their personal lives. Did these women jeopardize the safety of their families by allowing a camera into their lives? Will other members of their families be investigated by law enforcement as a result?
For a group of women who admit that the lifestyle has its hardships for raising children on their own, and at the same time faithfully believe in not snitching or demonstrating the various ways of being a "rat", I find it slightly strange that they would broadcast their connection to the underworld so vociferously. When even the mafia find the alluring spotlight offered by reality television and the Z-list celebrity status it inevitably brings, we can only wonder in horror what programmers will come up with next?
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