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Gangsterland
Finian: America's full of gangsters, you know.
Sharon: I thought you said it was full of millionaires.
Finian: That depends on which newspaper you read.

In the old days, when you told people in other countries that you were from Chicago, they would say, "Boom-boom! Rat-a-tat-tat!"
Harold Washington, former Mayor of Chicago, 1987

This might be considered the urban counterpart of Eagleland, the perception (more so in other countries) of American cities as crime ridden Vice Cities. This has much to do with the export of American films. Supposedly, you will find French people, for instance, believing that Chicago is still as it was when Al Capone was alive.

While they all derive from the movies, most versions of Gangsterland do reflect violent periods in the history of various cities — at least if you turn your head and squint a little. New York City stand-ins will have violence courtesy of The Mafia, Chicago from the Mayor's office and Prohibition-era bootleggers, and Los Angeles from ethnic street gangs. Note that the first is organized crime, the second is corruption (and organized crime), and the third is street anarchy (though the more successful street gangsters move up into organized crime, or die trying).

Compare Wretched Hive.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime 
  • Baccano! fits in so far as its milieu is a gangster-ridden 1930s New York. However, it also involves alchemy and the mobster characters tend not to fit stereotype.
  • Referenced in Azumanga Daioh when Chiyo announces that she will be going to America. Osaka puts on her Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant hat and suggests that Chiyo will be kidnapped and killed there.
  • Soul Eater basically combines old and new versions of this as well as Eagleland with the Thompson twins who were formerly muggers in America until they tried to mug Death the Kidd
    Tsugumi: A handgun!? Now that's American... in the worst possible way!

     Comic Books  
  • Tintin in America pits Tintin against Chicago gangsters, including an undisguised Al Capone.
  • Sin City, as the name implies, is a crime-filled cesspool where even the heroes aren't the most law-abiding.

    Film 

    Literature 
  • Visible in the James Bond series (novels and early movies) in that while non-American villains were more of the megalomaniacal type, when American villains appeared, they were zoot-suited members of organized crime families.
  • For a British Gentleman Adventurer, The Saint seems to bump into a lot of gangsters when he goes to America. Of course, since this is the Saint we're talking about...
  • In Maximum Ride, Fang, Iggy, and Gazzy visit California. They meet a street gang there called "The Ghosts" who offer them a safehouse. Said gang also helps them out by scaring a hot dog vendor into giving free hot dogs to the mini-Flock and helps them fight the Flyboys.
  • Discussed in The Dresden Files novel Death Masks, where a Catholic priest from Italy says that he is hiring Harry Dresden because he does not trust the police in Chicago, thanks to Chicago's reputation as a Mafia hotbed. While Harry is quick to point out that there is a lot of Mafia activity in Chicago, the level of corruption that said priest suspects is mostly fictional since the Capone days ended.

     Live Action TV  
  • Remington Steele seems to invoke this trope in having Steele obsessed with hard-boiled detective stories. He seemingly believed that they presented as accurate a picture of contemporary America and its slang as they did in the 1920s-1940s, when most of them were written.
  • Boardwalk Empire, takes place in Atlantic City and the surrounding areas during the 20's.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: This is Sigma Iota's hat in "A Piece of the Action."

    Theater 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Necromunda the under hive of the planet are ruled by several gangs who are in constant war with each other over supremacy.
  • Pretty much the main point of White Wolf's World of Darkness setting is that it's like this - the darkest rumours and fears are all true, and then some.

     Video Games  

     Western Animation  
  • The French animated film The Triplets of Belleville has American gangsters as villains. It also invokes Eagleland in depicting the Statue of Liberty and Americans as obese in contrast to the svelte (if equally unattractively drawn) French characters. Well, according to a newspaper the gangsters are apparently the (nonexistent?) French Mafia, and insofar as Belleville was a parody of America, the actual geography of the city, besides the statue, seems to be inspired by Montreal.

     Real Life  
  • A Brooklyn newspaper back during the era gave us this poem (parodying part of "The Star-Spangled Banner"):
    And the pistols' red glare
    Bombs bursting in air
    Gave proof through the night
    That Chicago's still there.
  • Former Chicago mayor Harold Washington lampshaded the city's reputation for crime in a speech to his supporters, quoted above. The phrase immediately afterwards was "Nowadays, they say 'How's Harold?'".
  • New York City during a period rather close to our times. People's testimonies are a bit chilling...
  • Mexico is often viewed as this from time to time. Particularly by people caught up in the current hostilities, which blur the line between a gang war and a civil war!
  • New Jersey has some Gangsterland inner cities. Newark and Camden are the most notable examples. You do not want to walk around there at night (except maybe the Ironbound neighborhood of Newark).
    • In particular Jersey City has historically had a big crime problem. Although the downtown/waterfront area has been gentrified into a yuppie wonderland, the rest of the city has a lot of ghetto areas. The "Greenville" neighborhood is desolate during the day and extremely scary at night. The most frustrating part is that City Hall refuses to acknowledge these realities, and instead claims that crime is "at a 30-year low" despite the fact that virtually everyone in the city knows otherwise.
      • City Hall may well be right. "30-year low" just means that there is less crime now than there was at any one point in the last thirty years, not that there is little crime.
  • Philadelphia has a long history of crime, especially in terms of murder rate, gang violence, and its reputation as being a mafia stronghold. The city of Camden, New Jersey, located directly across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, has frequently been rated as the most dangerous city in the United States.
    • Many of the smaller cities around Philadelphia, such as Reading, Camden, and Trenton, have seen a massive uptick in crime since the steel mills and other factories left the region for cheaper labor abroad. Local coal mining cities and towns haven't been hit quite as hard in terms of violent crimes, but that's mostly due to low and less densely packed populations.
  • The Dying Towns in the Midwestern US are among the best known current examples, with Detroit and Cleveland being the most notorious. It speaks volumes that Chicago, the original Gangsterland, is arguably the most well-off city in the region right now.
    • Murray Hill is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods that's actually in Cleveland, rather than a suburb. It's also home to the local mafia.
  • California has parts of Los Angeles, and further north, Oakland and Richmond.
    • Stockton is also starting to turn into one thanks to an almost non-existent police force.
    • Hell, Central Valley ("The Valley") has the highest grand theft auto statistics in the whole US. In a 2010 report, 4 of the top five spots were Central Valley cities.
  • Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati, Ohio has been consistently in the top 25 most dangerous U.S. neighborhoods, actually reaching the top of the chart for some time.
  • During the Cold War, the Soviet Union used this trope in their anti-American propaganda.
    • So did the Nazis — anti-British propaganda featured tea-drinking Upper-Class Twit-types, anti-Soviet propaganda featured savage looking commies...and anti-American propaganda was all Jews and tommy guns.
  • Nottingham, despite being a relatively small city, is this for England. The Nickname 'Shottingham' references the firearms offences rate, especially with Shotguns, while drugs are a serious rising problem in the city.
  • Limerick is generally considered this in Ireland; in 2007 nearly 33% of all firearm offences in the entire State took place in the city, in 2008 it offically edged past Glasgow to become the murder capital of Europe and for a while it had the nickname 'Stab City'. Things have improved though as ironically the open feuding between the crime families has seriously weakened them. Parts of north Dublin (like Finglas) are also seen as Gangster Land.
  • Brazil as a whole tends to be seen as this, with its vast slums and poverty-stricken neighborhoods that are a good place for gangs to hide.


Friendly Local ChinatownThe CityGayborhood
Fallen States of AmericaIndexed States Of AmericaInvaded States of America
Gang of HatsOrganized Crime TropesGayngster

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