The Godfather II: Masculine Mafia Manliness To The Core
Whether or not you think there is anything manly or masculine about the mafia, you can not deny the attractiveness of The Godfather series. I recently did a post on The Godfather talking about some the lessons we can learn from watching this masterpiece.
The whole idea of writing on this was inspired by my wife, a first time Godfather watcher, who spent the entire day (a few weeks ago) watching parts one and two. She fell in love with the aura of the story, the entertainment of the characters, and the potential manliness lessons derived from its situations.
The Godfather II was incredible. It was released in 1974, just two years after the The Godfather I and was every bit as enthralling and intense as the first. Francis Ford Coppola, who directed the film, decided to cast Robert De Niro as the young Vito Corleone in all the flashbacks to when Vito was cutting his teeth on the streets of New York.
In that first post on The Godfather I, I used memorable quotes to help explain what I got out of the movie to help me with my quest of understanding manliness.
Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) – “My father taught me many things … keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”
How masculine is this comment? Think about it. You have to be pretty darn comfortable with your ability to handle yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally to keep your enemies closer to you than your friends. The core of this statement is to simply know who is trying to take what you have (and there is always somebody trying to do that if you are successful), bring them close, and keep a watchful eye on their moves.
As a man with tons of great friends and family, you may believe you don’t have any enemies in this life, but most likely they simply have not shown themselves yet. If you are successful, made some money along the way, have a great family, whatever – there is someone that is watching that has jealous thoughts and feelings towards you. Will they ever act on those and try to take you down, maybe not. But better to be safe. Protect your family at all costs is the manliness trait that convinces you to always be on the lookout. If you suspect someone of being an enemy in the future, keep a close on eye on them. As Mikey would say, “keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.”
Hyman Roth – “I’d give four million just to be able to take a piss without it hurting“.
Hyman Roth – “Good health is the most important thing. More than success, more than money, more than power.”
Both of these quotes from the Jewish Mafia boss Hyman Roth were to Michael Corleone, the main character in the movie epic. Hyman was a very old man who was around for a very long time. Many considered him to be the most dangerous of the bosses because of it.
He tried to live a very unassuming life in Florida, far away from the action in New York. He was growing old, but also truly wanted to live forever. He made it a point to make these comments to Michael about health on two occasions. He knew who he was talking to when he did it. They were not by accident.
Hyman Roth was giving Michael a warning that if he did not comply with the deal they were embarking upon, that his health would be in danger. He wanted to ensure Michael knew that health was the most important thing and the rest was just business. He never had to threaten Michael, just refer to his own health as the conduit to send the message.
The main lesson I did drag away from these comments was Hyman is right. Your health is indeed the most important thing in this life. Those mafia bosses with all their masculinity and macho actions, were all killed at one point because they either got too greedy, crossed the wrong people, or were just too naive and thought they were going to live forever.
Tony Pentangelli – “Your father did business with Hyman Roth; Your father respected Hyman Roth; But your father never trusted Hyman Roth.” (speaking to Michael Corleone)
In all my years of being in business, the one thing that remains constant is that you can trust NO ONE. Don’t believe me? You haven’t been around long enough. Think this is just too pessimistic? You haven’t been around long enough.
I was told once that no matter how good of friends you think you are with someone or well you might respect the other party, when there is money involved, you have no friends and it is ALWAYS war! I did not believe this until it happened to me. As soon as you live through it – once, twice, maybe three times, but I hope not – then you will know this to be as true as the sky is blue.
Men who are in business know that emotions should never get in the way of anything. Actually, many masculine types might even say that it is weak to let emotions get in the way. If you believe this, then it will not be a hard sell to you that positive emotions are just as deadly as negative ones. Let you guard down once, the people who were waiting for you to do that will pounce on the opportunity.
Michael Corleone – “Discontent for money is just a trick of the rich to keep the poor without it.“
Funny how this works in our lifetime. Those who have plenty of money and know what it takes to make more, often show public disdain for it. They understand it as a tool of their trade, but will try to convince others of its demon-like qualitities.
Here Michael Corleone in his negative, skeptical view on all of mankind at this point in the movie, was simply trying to make the point that it is the rich and powerful that control the message of wealth creation.
What I learned from this statement is that many people want what the rich have, but almost no one is willing to do what it really takes to get it. The Godfather at this point in the movie hates his life and does not like what he has become, but he also knows that he did what he had to do to make the money and get the power he has. Convincing everyone else that doing those things are just not worth it in the long run is the greatest trick the rich can ever play on the poor. It eliminates competition…another core trait of The Godfather mantra.
Michael Corleone – “When Pop had troubles, did he ever think that maybe by trying to be strong, and trying to protect his family, that he could lose it instead?” Then his mother said, “But you can never lose your family. Never.”
Oh, how Mama is always right. You can never lose your family, but this is a theme often visited here on the Return To Manliness site. We sometimes get so caught up in what we are trying to do as men – our duty; our job; our friends; our activities – that we must never forget that the family is the whole reason you are doing all those other things.
Vito, Michael’s father, did everything he did for the protection of his family. He did some things that were horrible and at times, led to the loss of family members. The Godfather movies have that “Shakespearean tragedy” feel to them. They were every bit as tragic as Macbeth or King Lear or any of the other classics.
Mama truly believed that you could never lose your family. This was something that was core to the beliefs of people from yesteryear. As Michael continued his descent into the abyss, he eventually lost faith in this core tenet as well. He did so at the very end of the movie when he gave the order to kill his brother.
In summary, my wife and I love the series. There are all kinds of subplots and little mysteries that you only uncover after watching it a few times. I encourage those who have not seen it to go rent it. If you want to spend more time with the lessons learned from this classic American epic, then you may have to purchase the collection. I know I did.