Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon traffics in the outlandish, hurtful stereotype that people who enjoy porn all like to masturbate (Perhaps some of them just enjoy the art of filmmaking!), but it’s received the most ire from Italian-American advocacy groups who have branded the film “racist.” The comedy is blasted in an emailed press release from the Italian American One Voice Coalition, which has previously complained about the portrayals of Italian Americans in everything from The Sopranos to Bob The Builder to, simply, “Robert De Niro.”
In the statement, the group’s founder, Dr. Manny Alfano, says Don Jon perpetuates “shop-worn, racist stereotypes” through characters like Levitt’s “stupid, pornography-addicted, T-shirt wearing Jersey Shore clone,” and Scarlett Johansson’s “tight-jeaned, big-haired… Jersey Girl.” Most upsetting is the fact that Levitt’s father is played by Tony Danza, “infamous for his lifelong portrayals of stupid, buffoonish Italian characters, attired in the usual tight white T-shirts.” All of these things—combined with other, supporting T-shirts—create a movie they see as “denigrating Italians and Jews,” quite possibly as denigrating as Tony Danza's entire continued existence.
That the coalition would be upset isn’t surprising, seeing as some of its most vocal criticism has been levied against those Jersey Shore stereotypes (or, judging by how often they’re mentioned in the press release, pretty much just "New Jersey"). While Alfano was successful in its goal to revoke that show’s tax credits, his aim here is to get Italian Americans to protest being characterized as loud, blustering, and single-minded by calling up the film’s production company and posting comments on its Facebook page, as well as bullying Levitt out of filmmaking. “Levitt ought to quit now, take this trite garbage out of movie theaters and donate his profits to charity,” says Alfano, over his outrage at Italian Americans being stereotyped, yet again, as the kind of hotheads who form mobs to push people around.
Neither Joseph Gordon-Levitt nor Tony Danza have yet responded. Meanwhile, T-shirts have issued the brief statement, "Jersey: Where Suckin' Dick Is Like A Handshake."