Dec 6, 2023

The Sopranos: Five things I liked, three things I didn't like, and six Italian-American hunks


My partner and I have finished watching The Sopranos (1999-2007), about Mafioso Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and his "family," which controls southern New Jersey.    

Left: Tony's cousin and right-hand man Christopher (Michael Imperioli).

What I liked about it:

1. The interesting inner workings of the Mafia families.

2. The exteriors in New York and New Jersey.

3. The historical references (well, they weren't historical then)

4. The Italian-American dialect: dropping the ends off words ("Let's have some pizz'"), throwing in Italian words (even people whose families have been in American since the late 19th century), and especially using pronouns, with the subject at the end of the sentence; "She's smart, your daughter."; "I owe him a lot, Ton'." 

5. A lot of very cute guys, notably: Tony's cousin Christopher (Michael Imperioli), Carmela's cousin Brian (Matthew Del Negro), a bunch of daughter Meadow's boyfriends (they keep getting murdered, so she has to get a new one), and two mooks (left) who live together, apparently hang out in their underwear with semis, and are killed for some reason I don't remember.

What I didn't like

1. The hundreds of characters.  Tony's extended family, his business associates, their extended families.  People from two seasons ago re-appear, and we're supposed to know who they are.  I got tired of asking "Who's that guy?  Has he appeared before?" and started treating the characters as interchangeable: One of Tony's associates who might get in trouble for running a side business or betraying him, and will probably go to prison or be murdered by the end of the episode.

Left: Daniel Sauli, who played one of Meadow's boyfriends.

2. The girls.  Mega sickening.  I don't think I saw a single bare-chested man.  At home, their girlfriends are wearing bikinis or skimpy underwear, or dangling their boobs.  Tony's main office is at his strip club, Bada Bing, so an innocent scene cuts abruptly to a close up of a naked girl, too fast to look away.  The camera gradually moves out to Tony and the guys discussing something -- and she keeps gyrating in the background.  

Left: Jason Cerbone, another boyfriend,

3. The intense, intense, incredible homophobia. Their standard slur is "cocksucker!'  They are so disgusted by the idea that Uncle Junior keeps his interest in cunnilingis a secret: the guys will think that if he likes going down on women, he must like sucking cock, too.

Left: Al Sapienza.  No idea who he played.

Even people who seem pretty modern go balistic at the idea that gay people exist.  When the teacher says that Billy Budd has gay symbolism, Tony's wife Carmela starts yelling: "What kind of sick pervert is teaching you those lies?  That's what's wrong with schools today.  They tell you that everybody and everything is gay, so naturally all the kids want to try it."

But it gets worse when one of Tony's captains, Vito, is outed: the guys drop by to extort money from a gay bar, and he's there!  He immediately leaves town, adopts a new name, and goes into hiding, but the guys are irate: "I shook hands with that fucking cocksucker!  I had him in my home!  Now I probably have AIDS.  That disgusting freak has a wife and kids!  They're disgraced forever!"

Left: Matthew Del Negro.  I think he played Tony's wife's cousin.

For the rest of the season, until thankfully Vito is found and tortured to death, each episode featured one of the guys yelling "That fucking cocksucker!  I wish he was here now -- I'd kill him with my bare hands -- no, I wouldn't do that.  I couldn't touch him without throwing up!"  We kept fast-forwarding past the five-minute long rants.

Strangely, most of the cast is gay-positive in real life. 

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