Since its surge in America during the early 1900s, the mafia has been a hot topic to the media due to its mysterious nature and affiliation to organized crime. Historians and law enforcement alike have dedicated years of research to understanding the mafia and their culture. While much has been confirmed, much more is still in the dark about the mafia, due to omertà, or the code of silence that members of the mafia are sworn to. This forces media and screenwriters to take what they know and interpret the rest in their own vision. There are many different movies and novels dedicated to the mafia, each of which have their own unique elements and stereotypes that have projected an image of how Italian Americans act as a whole. Many of these literary works convey different stereotypes associated with the mafia, including an affinity to violence, the specific roles of each gender, social and cultural values of Italian American society and the societal influence of the mafia as an organization. Two films which convey some of these stereotypes are Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather and Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas. As a whole, popular films about the mafia during the early and mid-1900s depicted Italian Americans as members of organized crime and created a lasting stereotype that still holds today.
The mafia is an organization that is built on crime and violence. Through violent activities like vandalism and murder, the mafia builds a reputation amongst the community based off of fear. Tommy DeVito, played by Joe Pesci in Goodfellas is a hot-headed character who has very little regard for anyone outside of his circle of friends. During a scene in which him and several others are engaged in a game of poker, Spider forgets to bring Tommy a drink and Tommy overreacts and shoots Spider in the foot. Later in the film, Spider verbally retaliates, causing Tommy to lose his cool, shooting and killing Spider with no remorse.