Study Guide

Goodfellas Respect and Reputation

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Respect and Reputation

HENRY: Paulie may have moved slow, but it was only because Paulie didn't have to move for anybody.

When you're the most well respected member of the crew, you don't have to worry about pleasing anyone else. Paulie has earned that respect through running a successful protection racket and taking care of business, but also because he's seen as predictable and not crazy.

HENRY: One day, some of the kids from the neighborhood carried my mother's groceries all the way home. You know why? It was outta respect.

The taste of respect that Henry gets when he starts working at the cabstand is what sucks him into the mob. It sets the course for his entire life.

TOMMY: You mean, let me understand this 'cause, you know, maybe it's me. I'm a little f***ed up maybe, but I'm funny how? I mean, funny, like I'm a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh? I'm here to f***in' amuse you? What do you mean, funny? Funny how? How am I funny?

Here, Tommy is just giving Henry a hard time, but it shows how short-tempered and explosive Tommy can be when he feels he's being disrespected. So does the vicious beat down he gives to Sonny over his $7,000 tab right after he finishes scaring the crap out of Henry.

TOMMY: In this day and age, what the f*** is this world coming to? I can't believe this, prejudiced against—a Jew broad—prejudiced against Italians.

Tommy thinks just being Italian is worthy of respect. Considering that you can't get made unless you're 100 percent Italian, it seems the rest of the mob may agree. Henry and Jimmy know that, as much as they might be respected, their mixed heritage makes it impossible for them to ever be made men.

KAREN: You got some nerve standing me up! Nobody does that to me! Who the hell do you think you are? Frankie Valli or some kinda big shot?

While the movie closely associates respect with masculinity, that doesn't mean Karen can't get her some.

MORRIE: Henry, you're a good kid. I've been good to you. You've been good to me. But there's something quite unreasonable going on here. Jimmy's being an unconscionable ball-breaker. I never had to pay the vigorous debt he demands. Am I something special? What am I? A schmuck on wheels?

He's not on wheels, but the movie does play Morrie for laughs. Just look at that wig. He's not nearly as macho as the rest of the crew, and that means he's the low man on the respect totem pole.

TOMMY: No more shines, Billy.

BILLY: What?

TOMMY: I said, no more shines. Maybe you didn't hear about it; you've been away a long time. They didn't go up there and tell you. I don't shine shoes anymore.

BILLY: Relax, will ya? For crying out—what's, what's got into you? I'm breaking your balls a little bit, that's all. I'm only kidding with ya.

TOMMY: Sometimes you don't sound like you're kidding. You know, there's a lot of people around.

Tommy doesn't want anyone around being reminded of his days as a lowly shoeshine boy. When Billy presses it even further, Tommy goes bananas, ultimately murdering the made man and sealing his own fate in the process.

SPIDER: Why don't you go f*** yourself, Tommy?

JIMMY: Whoa! I didn't f***in' hear right. I couldn't believe what I just heard. Hey, Spider, here. Here, this is for you. Attaboy.

[tossing money on the table]

Here, Spider, this is for you. I got respect for this kid. He's got a lot of f***ing balls. Good for you; don't take no s*** off nobody. He shoots him in the foot; he tells him to go f*** himself. Tommy, you gonna let him get away with that? You gonna let this f***ing punk get away with that? What's the matter? What's the world coming to?

[Tommy whips out a gun and kills Spider.]

Tommy is fine with making jokes. We regularly see him holding court, going for laughs. But when the joke is on him? Tommy loses it.

PAULIE: I don't want any more of that s***.

HENRY: What s***? What are you talking about?

PAULIE: Just stay away from the garbage. You know what I mean.

HENRY: Look, Paulie?

PAULIE: I'm not talking about what you did inside; you did what you had to do. I'm talking about now. From now. Here and now.

HENRY: Paulie, why would I want to get into that?

PAULIE: Don't make a jerk out of me. Just don't do it. Just don't do it.

Paulie is no dummy; he knows how this whole drug thing is going to go down, and he doesn't want to look like a clown. Even at the top of the heap, Paulie is sensitive about his image.

HENRY: Thirty-two hundred bucks. That's what he gave me. Thirty-two hundred bucks for a lifetime. It wasn't even enough to pay for the coffin.

Paulie's handout to Henry shows that he's lost respect for Henry by the movie's end. Henry feels he's owed a lot more. You know, even though he totally went behind Paulie's back and against his advice. He may have majorly screwed up and gone against the family, but Henry feels he's still owed respect.

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