Friday, October 07, 2011

The Sopranos – more than a TV series!

The Sopranos are definitely an integral part of American pop culture since the series premiered in 1999. Through the characters of this series many things were explained to the people of America - Al Qaeda terrorist attack on America, presidential elections, the new bosses in the White House...


Several days after the terrorist attack on World Trade Center in 2001, New York Times wrote that nothing would ever be the same in America – not even Tony Soprano’s ride home to his house in North Caldwell, New Jersey. That is how they tried to describe the state of the American nation.

Al Qaeda's terrorist attack and its victims are described in hundreds of texts and hours of documentary television programs, but New York Times’ depiction of tragedy and post-terrorist paranoia through the opening title sequence of “The Sopranos” is probably the most picturesque.

Of course, they were referring to the particular frame from the opening sequence in which, in the side rear-view mirror of Tony Soprano’s car, twin towers of the World Trade Center are shown. Shortly after the attack, the creator of the series, David Chase, removed the sequence with "deceased" twins.

New York Times’ depiction of apocalyptic date was not the only case in which the series "The Sopranos" were used for picturesque display of American society’s pulse. There are hundreds of examples where these famous TV mobsters served as first aid in a quicker understanding of social conditions in United States. 

One of the most famous citations of Sopranos took place during the elections in United States, in 2004. In the last presidential debate between George Bush and John Kerry, the Democratic candidate compared George W. Bush with Tony Soprano: Being lectured by the president on fiscal responsibility is a little bit like Tony Soprano talking to me about law and order in this country.


In the mid nineties, creator of the series, David Chase, offered the pilot episode of "The Sopranos" to all prestigious American TV stations, including the famous company "Fox". They rejected the offered material because they were scared of its content - previously unseen combination of violence, explicit sex, and a completely new TV language spiced with curses, which the characters of the series often used. Fortunately, the most powerful U.S. cable network, HBO, recognized a golden goose in Chase’s mobster saga and from January 10, 1999, started broadcasting “The Sopranos”.

From the pilot episode and on, an army of sociologists, psychologists and various other theorists was provoked with the life of waste management king and mobster capo who, despite of dozens of treatments in Dr. Melfi’s psychiatric clinic and hundreds of grams of Prozac, is more and more struggling to balance his private and mob life.


From the very first episode of this gangster TV hit, there was literally not a single week without an analytical article by some well-known media, or news about “The Sopranos”, whether it was about the shocking registration of first mobster gay fellatio seen on some gangster movie or series, or an announcement that this series increased the number of Americans who visit  psychiatrists (under the influence of Tony Soprano’s sessions) and all the way to the disturbing news that the real crime family DeCavalcante (according to some, an inspiration for “The Sopranos”) recruited new members thanks to the popularity of the series.

From the beginning of the series, “The Sopranos” encountered resistance from the Italian community in America, which believed that the series harmed the image of Italians. On Columbus Day, Italian-American holyday, the community had strongly protested against the presence of actors of this series in their celebration. A popular former New York Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, a big fan of “The Sopranos”, had to personally intervene and protect the actors. One of the most famous members of the Italian community in America that has publicly criticized the depiction of Italians by “The Sopranos” was Victoria Gotti, daughter of the last great don from the Gambino crime family, John Gotti.

On the other hand, New York Times proclaimed “The Sopranos” as the most important piece of the American pop-culture in the second half of the 20th century. Also, on many lists of key events at the turn of the nineties, “The Sopranos” are highlighted. The most bizarre were the theories that connected the mythology of “The Sopranos” with Greek mythology, justifying this by the fact that the series integrated several archetypes: Zeus, Hera, and even Zeus’ seduction of mortal women.

Fiction and real life have constantly changed roles, like in the case of an actor in this series Lillo Brancato Junior, who was accused of robbery and armed assault on a police officer. But the key episode related to this series occurred on March 3, 1999, approximately two months after the series premiered. On that day, a black Pontiac was rolling the same rode Tony Soprano is taking in the opening sequence of the series, going from New York to New Jersey and approaching the headquarters of the DeCavalcante crime family. In the Pontiac were Mafia capo Anthony Rotondo, a "soldier" of DeCavalcante crime family, Joseph Sclafani, and two family members, which the FBI labeled as Ralph and Bill.

Sitting comfortably in the padded seats of the Pontiac, these travelers started a conversation about “The Sopranos” while enjoying their own dramatic alter egos. Their conversation completely depicted Quentin Tarantino’s image of mafia world, more accurately, something like the beginning of his movie Reservoir Dogs where an obscure group of gangsters is discussing about Madonna and her song "Like a Virgin".

The whole story of the clan DeCavalcante soon found herself on the table of FBI agents and it was recorded with a hidden microphone by Ralphie Guarino, who was later proclaimed as an "intruder" in the New Jersey mafia family. The recorded conversation of the DeCavalcante clan members regarding “The Sopranos” were used in the courtroom during the trial against the mafia family where capo Anthony Rotondo admitted that he was delighted with “The Sopranos”, especially because he identified himself with many details of the series.


Mobsters in college and the Lady Gaga’s first job

* In 2004, at the University of Toronto, Professor Maurice Yakovar began a series of lectures on "The Sopranos".

* In April 2005, the Supreme Court of Orange County, California sentenced twenty-two year old Jason Bautista on 25 years of imprisonment for first-degree murder. In 2003, Bautista killed his mother Jane with a knife because she reminded him of Tony Soprano’s mother Livia. At the court, Bautista said that he chopped the head and the hands of his mother because he learned how to hide the identity of a victim from one of the episodes of “The Sopranos”.

* In 2002, the British magazine Uncut proclaimed “The Sopranos” as best drama series in television history.

* In 2001, Lady Gaga appeared in the episode "The Telltale Moozadell". She was a teenager at the time.

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1 comments: on "The Sopranos – more than a TV series!"

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