What about mob molls?

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Say mob moll, and the face of some movie actress or other comes immediately to mind. Who do you see?

“When I think typical moll, I think of Lorraine Bracco and the other wives in “Goodfellas”– especially when Bracco goes shopping and Ray Liotta asks her how much money she needs, and she indicates with her fingers the width of the wad of cash she wants,” writes Susan Wloszczyna. “But there are serious questions to be asked about how much women are marginalized in mob films, and what impact their roles have.”

Joanna Langfield gets some answers from screenwriter Terence Winters, best known for having created the mob molls attached to “The Sopranos” family. But it’s a bit surprising that in his feature, “Brooklyn Rules,” a semi-autobiographical tale tracing the lives of a trio of Italian boys who come of age in mob-ruled Brooklyn, Winters’ featured female is a sort of anti-moll, a Wasp-y coed (Mena Suvari) who uproots one of the young men (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) away from his neighborhood, his buddies and a prospective life of crime.

“In mob movies we love, the moll typically gets a grapefruit mashed into her mug (“The Public Enemy“), sexually provokes the hero (“Scarface,” “Bugsy,” and “The Big Heat“), or pours the coffee when the fellas get together to summit (“The Godfather“),” writes Carrie Rickey.

Singling out Jamie Lee Curtis in Katheryn Bigelow’s “Blue Steel,” Kathleen Turner and Angelina Jolie as hit women in “Prizzi’s Honor” and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” respectively, Rickey suggests, “Girls with guns can be seen as transgressive images in movies, as the gun is a phallic signifier. You could write a treatise on that. But just free-associating, I’d say there’s nothing like a pistol-packin’ mama, whether glamorous like Faye Dunaway’s Bonnie Parker in “Bonnie and Clyde,” (where Bonnie had to have a gun of her own because Clyde was shooting blanks) or Dorothy Provine, whose Bonnie was more fashion plate than bank robber in “The Bonnie Parker Story.”

Gena Rowlands as “Gloria,” the moll-turned-mobster who uses a gun to protect a kid who witnessed a mob hit on his parents, raises the question of how mob molls function as moms.

“With the possible exceptions of Nancy Marchand as Tony Soprano’s mom and Angelica Huston as Maerose Prizzi, most females in mob movies are monster moms,” says Rickey,” typified by Margaret Wycherly in “White Heat“ or Shelley Winters in “Bloody Mama.“ Or, like Michelle Pfeiffer in “Scarface” and “Married to the Mob” or Gloria Grahame in everything, they’re trophies. As Tony Montana says, first you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the girl.”

Yeah, but what– other than that inch or two-inch wad of money or half a grapefruit– does the girl get? And what does she go through to get it?

We’re interested in knowing what you think. Please leave your comments here, or send them to us by email at awfjinc@gmai.com.

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).