Thoughts on Ghost Dog

Jim Jarmusch directed Ghost Dog (1999) and played around with different genres, which relates to our discussions of genre theory. He created this hybrid of the two genres, Italian American Gangster and African American Gangster, that are talked about in Chapter 2 of Understanding Film Theory.

Ghost Dog

Italian American Gangster

Semantics- mafia/mob, violence, Italian accents, gold chains/watches, white tanks, smoking cigars, guns, family ties

African American Gangster

Semantics- inner-city, rap, chains, violence, low-income, racism, guns, gangs

I am curious, what were the other genres (if any) that were also included in the film?

The two different types of gangsters in this film are meant to mirror each other. I believe this shows the changing of time. The Italian mob  men, like Louis, represent the old, classic gangsters who are very old-fashioned. The African American gangsters represent the new image or identity of gangsters in the 90s. The changing of time was brought up many times throughout the film.  Ghost Dog says to Louis, “Everything is changing around us”. Also, one of the Italian mob men mentioned that Ghost Dog killed like “the old way- like real fucking gangsters”. I just noticed a constant mention of the “old way” and “change”. I’m not sure what the exact message is of this, but Ghost Dog said towards the end of the movie that people should “stick with the ancient ways”.

Reoccurring themes:

Racism, Equality, Animals (birds, bears, dogs), Asian culture, Literature

One thing I never really understood the meaning of throughout the film was Louise watching cartoons. I understood towards the end that the cartoons mirrored what was going on in the movie, but I was wondering if there was another deeper meaning for this? Thoughts?


One thought on “Thoughts on Ghost Dog”

  1. Carly,

    Initially, I thought the main purpose of the cartoons was solely to foreshadow future events in the film. I was also unsure if this reoccurring motif was constructive for the film or not because it made me questioning why adult gangsters and mobsters would be interested in watching cartoons. Upon further investigation and thought, I concluded that the director may have incorporated the cartoons to add to the satirical aspect of the film, perhaps mimicking the actions of the characters and depicting them in a childish manner. To address another one of your questions, In addition to the Italian Mobster and African American Gangster I think Satire was a major genre used in the film and the cartoons helped to support this.

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