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Orgs criticize ‘Sopranos’

Stereotypes damaging, groups say

NEW YORK — With less than one week before the season premiere of HBO’s Emmy-winning series “The Sopranos,” an alliance of Italian American organizations is up in arms over the way the Mafia-themed series portrays Italian American culture.

The alliance issued a statement Friday that criticized the show — which depicts fictitious members of a New Jersey-based crime family — for “defaming and assassinating the cultural character of Italian Americans.”

The seven orgs, including the National Italian American Foundation and Coalition of Italian American Assns., said that HBO and “The Sopranos” besmirch Italian Americans “by using their religion, customs and values in a violent and immoral context that damages the image and reputations of an estimated 20 million Americans of Italian descent.”

Calling the presentation of Italian Americans on the show “false and harmful stereotypes,” the organization is urging TV networks to create Italian American characters who are “educated, law-abiding and articulate.”

On Monday, the National Italian American Foundation announced that it has joined the alliance of Italian American orgs condemning “The Sopranos.”

“Once again, the entertainment industry has equated being Italian American with being in organized crime,” said prexy Frank Guarini.

“We’re sorry they feel this way. We respectfully disagree,” an HBO spokeswoman said.

The coalition has no plans to call for an official boycott of either HBO or “The Sopranos.”

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