Gender Roles in The Godfather and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Categories: The Godfather

The Godfather and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest both embrace the theme of gender: The Godfather is a story demonstrating power and violence in the Mafia’s world. (Phillps 88-90) But, analyzing the text from a different angle, women in The Godfather are under a patriarchal system and convey the conventional image of them.

The conventional image of women is related to the female gender stereotype since women are usually centered on the conception of femininity, which is a set of appearances, roles, and behaviors associated with women.

(Alters and Schiff 143) Peculiarities of it traditionally cited as feminine include demureness, empathy, and humility. (Shehan 1 – 5) The feminine characters in The Godfather emphasize the strength of patriarchy in the Corleone family, men have authority and dominance over their wives and children because the feminine factors such as weakness and consideration led women to obey to male.

On the contrary, females in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest break the conventional image of women, intent to dominate men by intimidation, shaming and physical force which reflects the matriarchy, women hold the main power positions.

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My thesis statement is “The Godfather’s representation of the conventional image of women reflects the masculine nature of the world of the Mafia, while One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’s unconventional representation of women attempts to criticize institutional oppression.” Next, I would discuss the representation of women in The Godfather.

Since 1880, many Sicilians emigrated to America and the Mafia established in New York and Chicago.

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The Mafia is active in criminal organizations such as prostitution, fraud, and kidnapping. (Kerr and Wright.) The world of Mafia in The Godfather is ruled by muscular men where men hold the scope of power. The role of women is mostly being caretakers of the family and have a lower status compared with men.
In the scene of the wedding ceremony at the beginning, women, all dress bonnily. The camera captures this scene from a distance so that no females gets any distinct concern which hints that women get no chances to speak anything worthwhile in this film. (Rehman 148)
Connie is one of the representations of the conventional image of women that always comply with the order from men and as one of the members of the caretaker of the family. For example, when Don backs home from the hospital, men gather together talking business while all women are diligent getting ready for the meal. When the dinner is done, Sonny still talking about trading so that Connie tells him that their father never talked dealing at the table. However, Carlo, Connie’s husband tells Connie “shut up”. Sonny cautions Carlo furiously be respectful towards his sister, but their mother tells Sonny “not to intervene” (The Godfather 1: 36: 32 – 1: 36: 45). Connie closes her mouth immediately when her husband asks her to do so. In this scene showing that none of the women can speak except Connie, and she is also told to close her mouth. (Rehman 150) The women in The Godfather usually being the one taking care of a family. The world of Mafia is led by men, where women barely get any voice.

Furthermore, while Sonny finds that Connie has been beaten by her husband, because of fearing her brother might beat Carlo, Connie persuades Sonny it is her had started the fight (The Godfather 1: 47: 25 – 1: 47: 50). Connie does not mind being hurt by her husband and loves him with heart and soul although it is possible to kill her unborn baby. (Rehman 151) Connie accepts an inferior status as wives, she looks after his husbands and gives birth to their children.

Throughout the film, women are sostenuto told to look after the children whilst the men take care of business. Female characters also appear as objects, principally for their sexual appeal to men.

Sonny’s paramour is one of the examples. At the wedding proceeds, Sonny and her having sex from above Sonny’s shoulder, and the audience views her from the point of view of Sonny where the paramour is regarded as an object compared with him. (Rehman 148) This is the first scene that the film contains a female character with no background music. The absence of music led people to focus on what is being said by the character. However, the only sound that the viewer can hear is the highly sensuous moaning of the paramour.

Sonny’s paramour emerges in the whole movie only twice, and both times, she appears for the sexual satisfaction of Sonny. Besides, her name has never been mentioned in the movie. Not revealing this role’s name shows that she does not importance at all since the sole purpose of her existence in this world of gangsters is to please men’s demand for sex.

Another example of women appears as the foil in the Mafia's world and mainly for their sexual appearance to men in this film can be seen at Michael's relationships between Kay and Apollonia.

When Michael Corleone arrives in Sicily, he meets Apollonia. Michael is instantly attracted by her physical beauty. (Godfather 1: 40: 23). One of Michael’s guards describes the woman that particularly attracted Michael’s attention: “Such hair…such mouth” (The Godfather 1: 41: 21). Infatuated by this Italian beauty, Michael marries her. (Hafsa 151)

Apollonia is the representation of femininity; she is beautiful to Michael that he making inquiries to begin a traditional wooing of Apollonia without mutual understanding. Apollonia not only beautiful but also feminine and young. Apollonia often wears a dress in the film, the first time she met Michael was wearing a magenta dress and she is always appearing with long hair. Apollonia does not talk much in The Godfather, the first word came from her mouth is a lowish “Thanks” to Michael. Those factors reflect that She is demure and girlish. Apollonia was sixteen or seventeen at the time with an enchanting face and captivating body. She is also a virgin and at the wedding night, the scene shows her supple breasts and smooth skin. It seems that sexual attractiveness to be the only criterion to referee a woman. (Rehman 152)

On the other hand, Michael completely forgetting his love in America, Kay. Michael marries Apollonia, never considering how Kay would have felt and heartbreaking if she knows about it. When Apolonia dies, Michael then returns to America, but he does not meet Kay as soon as he can, he finds Kay after he been back in America for more than a year. (The Godfather 2:14:04).

This reveals that both Kay and Apolonia have been entirely disposable objects for Michael. The deadness of Apollonia is the reason Michael returns to Kay so that he could marry her, and have children by her. Thus, women, in this male-dominated world, are just stuffs that are fungible whenever demanded. In the meantime, Kay as a white protestant is just a means for Michael to assimilate with the majority of the American middle-class. (Ng 32) Since Michael was a Marine during World War II, it is believed that The Godfather is set in the 40s-50s America which is a period that women are mostly seen as a home wife. (Coburn 46) However, Kay meets Michael at University; she is well educated and independent on her own that reflects she has the identity of the American middle-class to pursue studying and Michael marries her just for gaining recognition respectability to further legalize the business of the Mafia. Kay is another tool for men to reinforce their power.

Updated: Mar 15, 2022
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Gender Roles in The Godfather and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. (2020, Sep 28). Retrieved from

Gender Roles in The Godfather and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest essay
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