American gangster: "Black Godfather" as a socio-cultural contradiction


  • Dragana Antonijević Department of Ethnology and Anthropology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade, Serbia



gangster movies, biographical film, the American dream, mythologization of anti-heroes, black urban crime, historical reconstruction


The paper analyzes the film American Gangster (2007), directed by Ridley Scott. The film tells the story of the life of the black gangster Frank Lucas, an extraordinary, intelligent and capable man. At the beginning of the paper I give a comment on the reasons for choosing this particular film, after that I give a diegesis of the film which includes a brief biography of Frank Lucas which represents one of the contexts for the analysis and the basic synopsis of the film. After this, a generic analysis is applied – it gives the most important elements of the gangster film genre and their brief history, in order to convey which of these are present in the analyzed film. Within the confines of the genre, two specific issues are considered in detail: historical reconstruction and the mythologization of the gangster through the folklorization and popularization of the character. The contextual analysis is dedicated to the relationship between criminal activity, competition, aggression, and the "American dream" as an ideal and a way of life. On the other hand, the issue of ethnic and especially black criminal activity in American ghettos is considered as the context within which Lucas operated. The semantic analysis summarizes some of the basic socio-cultural contradictions in the movie, and determines its ideological framework and message.


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How to Cite

Antonijević, Dragana. 2017. “American Gangster: ‘Black Godfather’ As a Socio-Cultural Contradiction”. Etnoantropološki Problemi / Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 12 (2):311–348.

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