By Joseph Kellard
I heard Lorraine Bracco, an actress on the HBO series “The Sopranos,” interviewed on NBC radio last week. The Sopranos is centered on Tony Soprano and his families, both his immediate kin and the Mafia. Knowing this, I was uninterested in The Sopranos from the start. While over the years I had seen a few segments, what Brocco said further justified my decision to otherwise keep from watching the show.
When the NBC radio show host asked Bracco why the The Sopranos was so popular, she said (paraphrase): “People identified with the characters because they were flawed—they weren’t perfect.”
Well, that about sums up most TV shows-movies-art today. But that this show’s main characters are mobsters makes them *far* from “perfect” and “flawed.” Describing them as such allowed Brocco to then characterize Tony Soprano as “the guy next door.” Since when is a murderous mob boss your typical next-door neighbor? I guess part of Tony’s character and appeal -- the mask that makes his thuggish core more palpable -- is that he is an otherwise average guy, i.e., plain spoken, loves his kids, etc., etc.
The interviewer also asked Brocco about the heat she took from her fellow “Italian-Americans” who were upset that another TV series or movie was stereotyping their ethnic clan as a bunch of lowlifes. Brocco said she cared only about the opinion of her Italian father, who gave his sanction by saying that The Sopranos is “just a television show; just entertainment,” she said. This means fictional tales and characters and their ideas and actions are meaningless.
What intrigues me most are those “Italian-Americans” outraged over The Sopranos, as well as the feminists who denounced the show because it depicted violence against women -- but apparently had no problem with the show’s more common male-on-male emotionalist violence.
If these people possessed an inkling of what art should properly and essentially depict, they would be more fundamentally concerned that the producers of The Sopranos want us to contemplate central characters who are seriously imperfect, even murderous, or who otherwise are just your average Joe -- but with blood all over his hands.
The Sopranos’ popularity is due primarily to the long and ongoing romanticizing in American movies of the mobsters-gangsters, particularly by depicting them as leading otherwise normal, average lives as they compartmentalize their thuggishly violent ways.
See my column "The Sopranos' Is Fired At For The Wrong Reasons" at: http://tinyurl.com/24tg54
Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard