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Jewish Journal

Forget About Jersey Shore, Mob Wives on VH1 is Reality Perfection

by Ilana Angel

April 18, 2011 | 8:30 am

The mob wives of VH1

Let me begin by saying that I am not Italian.  My maternal Grandfather was an Italian Jew, but he left Italy as a baby and there is no lingering Italian in our family.  Shame.  My view of Italians is from the movies and television which could not possibly more be inaccurate.

If you look up famous Italians on Wikipedia you see there are hundreds of names that we all know, admire and love.  Sadly however, if you asked Americans to describe something Italian, they will refer to the Godfather, Goodfellows, and God forbid, Jersey Shore.

Just as Jews are stereotyped as money hungry, cheapskates, who are smart and greedy, Italians are stereotyped as mob involved thugs whose families come first, and men are the rulers.  We think of them as having great crime families and the most fantastic food ever.

Jersey Shore didn’t do a lot to change what America thought about Italians, and even though those kids are not all of Italian decent, the show was depicted as a look into the Italian American experience which while fun and entertaining, may not have been particularly realistic.

Last night VH1 debuted a new series “Mob Wives” and just when you felt that maybe Italians were getting a bad rap on television, along comes 4 women who are all the stereotypes we think Italian women on Staten Island are.  This show is intimidating, a little scary, and fantastic.

I loved the four women featured, how it was shot with occasional surveillance video, the music, loved it all.  I found the women compelling, beautiful, entertaining, dedicated moms, and to be quite frank, these tough talking, strong ladies scared the crap out of me.

Renee Graziano is the daughter of Anthony Graziano, who is currently incarcerated for mob related activities.  When asked what she knows about the mob her response is “what mob?”  I love this chick.  She is pretty, strong, outspoken, and owns her father’s history and her place in it.  She is big on the code of ethics, family, and loyalty to her inner circle.

Karen Gravano is the daughter of Sammy the Bull, who was the underboss of the Gambino organized crime family.  He ratted out the family, is known for bringing down the mob, and is currently incarcerated.  Renee does not like Karen and will never forgive her dad for turning on the family.

Karen has been living in Arizona for ten years to escape what her father did, and is returning to Staten Island to write a book about her life.  She is tough but it feels a little forced where Renee is just inherently tough and it appears to come more naturally.  Renee has more conviction.

Carla Facciolo is married to Joseph Ferragamo who is currently incarcerated for stock fraud, which is “not a bad crime” according to Carla.  He is getting released from prison in a couple of months, and they are getting divorced.  She grew up in the neighborhood with the family.

Drita D’Avanzo is the wife of Lee D’Avanzo who is currently incarcerated for bank robbery.  This chick is hardcore.  Her parents are Albanian and when she married into the mafia her family disowned her.  She is a fighter, very scrappy, gorgeous, and insanely intimidating.

The show follows these four women and their lives on Staten Island.  They are raising their children alone while their husbands are incarcerated.  While we don’t appear to have anything in common, we are all single mothers so I feel for them because I get that part of their lives.

Karen is going to leave her daughter in Arizona and go to back to Staten Island on her own.  She is nervous about going back, but she wants to write her book so she is going and leaving her child until she knows it’s safe.  She talks tough but I think she is scared about going back.

Renee, Carla and Karen are all good friends and go out for a girls night.  They talk about how their men are “away”.  They discuss prison like we me and my friends discuss shopping.  They talk about how nice it will be to go on a date when the men get out and it is hilarious.

Drita says they should join match.com and their profiles can read that they like AK47’s, enjoy men who have spent at least 5 five years in a federal penitentiary, their hobbies are to write men in prison, and their suitors should not be afraid when their husbands get out of prison.

Karen is all about ratting out the mafia like her dad.  She wants to write a book about her life and I’m not sure how she can do that without following in his footsteps.  She is either ballsy or a little unstable.  Her returning to Staten Island makes Renee very unhappy.

Renee cannot separate Karen from her dad and she does not trust her.  Drita and Carla are happy she is coming back.  They don’t want to blame her for what her dad did because they have young children and they don’t people to judge their kids on what their fathers did.

The loyalty and history of these women and their families is complicated.  The friendships and betrayals are not just about them, they are about their families and even if you want to let the past go, you can’t.  If you take the mob part out, the family ties are impressive.

Karen dated and lived with Drita’s husband for seven years which is weird.  I would never date the ex of a friend of mine let alone marry him.  They were friends though and Drita is welcoming her back to Staten Island and agrees to meet her for a drink when she gets back to New York.

Carla is throwing herself a birthday party and wants to invite Karen which is a problem for Renee.  Drita and Karen are having a drink and dancing around the issue of Lee.  It’s an interesting dynamic.  They get reacquainted and you know all hell is going to break loose with Renee.

Carla invitees Karen to her birthday party but does not mention it to Renee.  Not cool.  Karen is over at Drita’s and comments on a picture in her living room, which used to hang in her bedroom she shared with hher boyfriend, who is now Drita’s husband.  That situation is going to blow up.

The girls are getting ready for the party and Lee calls Drita.  It’s interesting that she does not take the call.  If your husband is in prison, and gets to make a call, don’t you answer the phone?  Maybe she didn’t answer because Karen was there but it still felt a little weird.

It’s party time, everyone is made up and ready to have fun but Renee does not know about Karen and will feel ambushed for sure.  At the party everyone is drinking, a lot, and having a good time, then Karen walks in and it’s on.  Renee is shocked to see her and bolts outside.

Karen goes out to talk to her.  She is aggressive and in Renee’s face.  Renee sticks to her guns, stands by the rules of the family, and Karen is out of control.  I love how Renee handles the situation and based on episode one of this series, I’m wearing a Team Renee t-shirt.

I loved this show and I am hooked.  I like these women.  I’m scared of them, but still hooked.  It’s a look into a life that we don’t get to see in this light and it’s fascinating.  I can’t wait for next week.  I’m watching, sleeping with one eye open on days I blog about it, and keeping the faith.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Ilana Angel writes two blogs for JewishJournal.com. KEEPING THE FAITH is about her worldview as a single Jewish mother, and KEEPING IT REAL is all about reality television....

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