Thursday, February 21, 2008

Funny How? Very Funny

A priceless circular hermeneutic moment from last week's Italian American Lit and Film class:

Me: The depth and significance of the Italian American as buffoon stereotype is perhaps best illustrated by the scene in Goodfellas where the Joe Pesci character simultaneously takes offense at being perceived as funny and turns that offense into a joke. In effect, Pesci both fulfills and kills the stereotype.

Student: But the other characters in the scene are Italian American, so that doesn't make sense.

Me: Must the significance, meaning of a scene be limited to the "contents" of the minds of the characters in it? What about other agencies, artistic, cultural, interpretive, bla bla bla?

Another Student: But we know that Pesci improvised that scene, it wasn't in the script.

Me: So you think that Pesci doesn't know what he is doing, that he's just there to amuse you, that he's funny?



Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough, that scene was an instance of art imitating life. Allegedly, Pesci was impersonating Robert "Cabert" Bisaccia--an Italian -American mafiosi who he had known in his youth.

Anonymous said...