America’s Fascination with the Mob

When reviewing the history of pop culture in the United States, one constant - presumably among many - is the American public’s strange fascination with mobsters and organized crime. What is it about an American subculture - a secret society built on a code of silence and secrecy – that captures America’s attention and become such a ubiquitous aspect of pop culture?
American’s first got their fix of mob culture when Hollywood studios began producing an array of gangster films beginning in the 1930’s.  Everyday, hardworking Americans watched as quintessential, fast-talking movie gangsters, like Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney stole, schemed, and murdered to reach the top of their criminal empires.  These films, often loosely based on real-life mobsters, enthralled the public, providing a momentary escape from the Great Depression sweeping the country, and offering a glimpse into the lives of the outlaws who lived outside the normal conventions of society.

Edward Robinson
(Above: Edward G. Robinson)

When Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver launched a televised crusade against organized crime in 1950, television was in its relative infancy and the hearings vividly brought to life the existence of the mafia.  It became a reality and the American people learned firsthand the inner workings of the mob and the individuals controlling it.  The hearings were a notable success, with an estimated 30 million households tuning in to watch live testimony from America’s biggest gangsters.  Following the hearings, one thing was certain, the American public was fascinated with organized crime.

From the 1950’s through current day, the nation's renewed interest found its outlet, gripping every form of media, allowing naturally curious American’s to indulge their morbid interest.  Films like the “Godfather 1 & 2”, “Goodfellas” and “Casino” often top film critics best movie list, while recent titles like “Legend” and “Black Mass” prove Hollywood Studios have no intention of slowing down.  In television, mob-themed shows like “The Sopranos” and “Boardwalk Empire” remain among the most popular on cable and streaming services.  In fact, the genre has become so mainstream various reality television programs have used the theme as the base for their show, including, “Growing Up Gotti” and “Mob Wives.”  

The Sopranos

When I began writing “Organized Crime in Miami,” it was this fascination I wanted to explore. Often, the public's interest in the mob lies in the media’s mythologized version of it. Gangsters are portrayed as possessing a strict code of honor where family and community are sacred, and the victims are only those that willingly participate in the business.  But the truth can differ greatly, and at times the business of the mob can be horrifically brutal and dirty.  Victims are often innocent citizens, and local businesses and taxpayers are the ones regularly absorbing the financial burden resulting from mob activities.

In “Organized Crime in Miami,” my aim was to show the true story of the mob in Miami, while carefully avoiding the mythologized and romanticized aspects the public has grown to admire.  Using a large collection of rare and never-before-seen photos, readers get an intimate glimpse into the private lives of some of America’s biggest gangsters while examining their relationship and influence within the community.

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