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There are many references to American and English romanticism in the series. Similarly spectacular is the failure of Vito to leave the mob and make peace with his homosexuality, although he is offered something close to paradise in several episodes in season six. Charges that The Sopranos is an insult to Italian Americans have been made since the show went on the air: in informal settings, in academic papers, in the news media, and in the courts.

In , Michael Polelle, a law professor at John Marshal Law School in Chicago, unsuccessfully sued Time Warner on behalf of the American Italian Defense Association for violating the Illinois state constitution, which protects individuals against violations of their individual dignity. Establishing the series perspective as a relativist rejection of essentialist beliefs renders these charges absurd failures of the imagination, as well as the mark of an inability to read a complex televisual text.

Author iz ing Chase Robin Nelson In critically evaluating, and ultimately celebrating, the achievement of David Chase and The Sopranos, this essay assumes a critical distance and takes a somewhat circuitous route. This essay seeks to unpack both of these constructions, since they seem to me to be at best missing an important point and at worst valorizing Chase and the series on anachronistic terms. As series creator and a key producer, Chase by all accounts had a strong guiding influence on The Sopranos, but he did not write or author all the episodes.

Indeed, he was supported by a large team of additional producers and writers as well as the many persons required in the complex industrial process of making a television series. In respect of what a rare television auteur might be today, I bring to bear a British perspective to discuss the instance of writer-director Stephen Poliakoff.

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These discursive forces could not have functioned in mutual reinforcement except at a particular historical moment in the television industry. The first of the three discourses arises out of contemporary industry circumstances under which HBO took advantage of a rapidly expanding, multichannel environment. In TVIII—as Rogers, Epstein, and Reeves, after Behrens, have dubbed the decade following the mids—the name of the game is branding, that is, branding of channels overall and also of distinctive products within their schedules.

And, for the new petite bourgeoisie—as Pierre Bourdieu might label the target market of ABC1s—cinema, and in particular European avant-garde cinema, has exactly the right cachet. From the perspective of viewers, literally buying in to the HBO brand at some expense, the cachet fuelled their disposition to affirm their social distinction.

They asserted their superior taste formation as manifest in a capacity to recognize and appreciate the textual complexity that HBO Premium series afforded. There came a time in American culture when not to subscribe to HBO indicated a lack of social distinction. Fan sites, such as the Sopranoland Forum cited earlier, afforded the ideal fora for the development of a discourse of collective identity valorizing creativity and originality. But the age of the Internet affords an opportunity to mobilize, build, and disseminate worldwide a valorization of a TV show.

In an unpublished doctoral study of Sopranos online fandoms, Jeanette Monaco demonstrates how Sopranos fans manifest a devotion to David Chase as auteur, a genius with a unique vision. So Sopranos fandoms were a significant factor in the discursive construction of Chase specifically as auteur. Low attention span stuff. But it is worth recalling, in the context of my concern with the construction of Chase as author of The Sopranos, that, particularly in respect of avant-garde practices, the filmmaker was seen at this time as an artist with a distinctive signature in the postromantic, modernist, or avant-garde tradition.

As Caughie reminds us, as early as , Alexandre Astruc located the filmmaker in the cultural vein of the literary writer with his notion of the camera-as-pen, the camera stylo. In its most effusive formulations, auteur-oriented film criticism celebrated the distinctive directorial signature of the auteur above everything else. And it is an implicit appeal, by way of the distinction of European cinema, to European avant-garde culture that resounds through the construction of Chase as author of The Sopranos. If The Sopranos approximates to art, the argument implicitly runs, it cannot be television, therefore it must be film, and authored cinema at that.

Authoring under the Constraints of Industrial Television Production There is, of course, an irony in celebrating Chase as a radical artist when HBO is a vast corporation, itself part of the even bigger Time Warner international media conglomerate. Grounded though it is on the one hand in the supposed authenticity of lived experience, on the other hand a poetic vision of the world is nevertheless inspired.

In the case of The Sopranos, the conceit of a mobster seeing a psychiatrist becomes a vision of the egoistic depravity of corporate America, if not corporate capitalism itself. While not doubting that The Sopranos is not regular TV fare, and having traced those features of Chase and the promotion of the series that tend toward an auteurist account, I want to suggest that authorial vision in film and other arts, where it might be deemed to obtain, typically runs across a body of work, not just one creative output.

If Chase is indeed the author of The Sopranos, he manifestly failed to gain authorial control over his former network output. Indeed, it is a commonplace that television production is a complex collaborative process, involving designers, lighting camera personnel, make-up artists, composers and sound engineers, and many others besides writers and directors. Moreover, it is also a commonplace that if anybody has control, it is the executive producers, not the writer or director.

There is a pointed joke in this regard at the premiere of Cleaver when the two executive producers say a few words prior to the screening. But, after Christopher Moltisanti has thanked Tony, his wife, and everybody who knows him, the director steps forward, notes in hand, only for the microphone to be whisked away as the houselights darken and the movie rolls.

If the director is secondary to the chief execs in film, the powerful writerdirector is even rarer in the age of corporate television. However, as in America, there have been exceptions. Dennis Potter, with his distinctive non-naturalistic treatments of the s in Pennies from Heaven [] , the s in The Singing Detective [] and the s in Lipstick on Your Collar [] is a case in point of the rare auteur.

I recognize that Poliakoff is little known in the United States, perhaps because of the distinctive personal and European signature that marks his work. Stephen Poliakoff: A Rare Television Auteur Stephen Poliakoff began his career as a playwright and became resident writer at the National Theatre in at the age of twenty-four.

From the outset of his career, he was thus associated with high culture, and he still writes for theater, as well as film and radio. In recent years, however, he is best known as a television dramatist who both writes and directs his plays—or films as, interestingly in the context of this essay, he prefers to call them. Thus, over the period that Chase was producing The Sopranos, Poliakoff wrote and directed a number of miniserial dramas, most of which ran for three to four hours over three episodes.

In The Lost Prince, Russian history and the shooting of the Romanovs in the process of the revolution feature overtly, but, in most of his work, Poliakoff reveals more obliquely a deeply ingrained sense of European history and the present being informed by the past. The plot of Shooting the Past hinges on the ultimate, life-changing revelation to an American businessman, Christopher Anderson Liam Cunningham , that his ancestry is located in the somewhat seedy, but liberational, underworld of postwar Paris.

The library collection will be split up unless the chief librarian, Marilyn Truman Lindsay Duncan , can find a buyer.

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Time passes amid various complications, but no buyer can be found. Toward the end of the story, Anderson is being seduced by the librarian himself to buy the library, not so much sexually although there is an attraction , but with a promised dramatic revelation about his grandmother uncovered through painstaking library research. The specific sequence leading up to the revelation echoes those ten- to twelve-minute interview sequences between Jennifer Melfi Lorraine Bracco and Tony Soprano James Gandolfini in The Sopranos in terms of dramatic tension.

Such sequences are sustained not by action or fast-paced editing, which might characterize other aspects of The Sopranos, but through interest in characters in complex interrelationship. Both dramas involve attractive characters whom viewers come increasingly to know over the duration of the series longer than the average one-hundred-minute film. Between the characters there is a frisson of danger in—and a sexual charge to—the encounters as they move between various modes of dialogic negotiation. If the drama is powerful and interesting enough, Poliakoff believes, viewers will be engaged.

Similarities and Differences The parallels between Poliakoff and Chase are evident. Both men eschew mainstream televisual output and speak of films. Both men see television as a medium to be capable of what they believe to be better, more sophisticated output. Both men are interested in good writing and visual texture with the aim of achieving a poetic construct, a metaphor, perhaps, for contemporary life. First, Poliakoff constructs himself as an auteur by refusing to take commissions unless he is guaranteed artistic control.

His ability to achieve this in contemporary British television is rare, if not actually unique. Beside writing the script, he involves himself in casting, directs, sits in with the editor, and always uses the same trusted composer, Adrian Johnston. His aim is to get as much as possible of his personal and poetic vision onto the screen. For Poliakoff, it is a matter, in his much-publicized view, of authorial originality, a distinctive vision of the world—and a critique of political culture—which he alleges contemporary television has abandoned to focus upon generic material.

In contrast, where Poliakoff is hands-on at every stage of the production of his work, Chase, in line with U. This difference is partly a matter of background: Poliakoff, as noted, started life as a theater playwright with all the cultural capital such a role carries in the English literary drama tradition stretching back to Shakespeare, whereas Chase, albeit reluctantly at times, learned his craft in the industrial structures of network television. The second difference is that Chase draws upon established film and television genres in constructing a hybrid.

The Sopranos melds the mobster movie and the soap opera—along with other aspects of psychological drama—although Chase may indeed have forged the contributing elements into something completely new. The three parts of Shooting the Past run for seventy-five, fifty-five, and sixtyfive minutes, respectively.

The Achievement of Chase and The Sopranos Ultimately, then, although the term auteur, with its romantic heritage, seems appropriate for Poliakoff, it seems less appropriate for Chase. To mobilize this part of my argument, I evoke the words of Barthes quoted earlier. There are numerous visual intertextual allusions, both implicit and explicit, to films and television programs; so many, in fact, that it makes David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino seem almost lightweight in this regard. Although the style and the balance between mobster action and domestic soap change subtly over the protracted duration of the series, a consistency of tone and quality is sustained.

This is no mean feat, particularly with different writers, and should be credited notably to the key executive producers, David Chase and Brad Grey supported by the four other named executive producers, two supervising producers, and two producers. Many promising television series begin to fall apart in the second or third season. That The Sopranos was sustained over eighty-six episodes is an extraordinary feat of contemporary television, and Chase, since The Sopranos is generally acknowledged to be his baby, clearly played a creative and steering part in this.

So, on the one hand, I am pointing out that it may be a misnomer to label Chase an auteur, but on the other hand, I am seeking to celebrate what might be seen as an even more worthy achievement: namely, to sustain a consistency of tone and an overarching vision in a long-running, postmodern, hybrid television series produced under industrial television circumstances. As Chase knows to his cost, the achievement of The Sopranos would not have been possible in the network era.

But although the circumstances of TVIII, in seeking to establish brand identity, may well be disposed to distinctive as opposed to middle-of-the road product, it is by no means easy to achieve it. Even with the creative freedom and scope of control that HBO afforded Chase to come up with a distinctive vision, to sustain it in production is quite another matter.

It is in these aspects, of which Chase himself is known to be proud, that, like Poliakoff, he defies norms and expands the range of things we need to embrace under the concept of television. Television executives are suspicious of long scenes, fearing that, with their allegedly short attention spans, viewers will become bored and flick the remote to hop channels.

In this light, it is interesting that Chase is particularly proud of developing and sustaining the slow scenes of halting dialogue and awkward silences between Tony and Dr. Such scenes, typically thought to be unsustainable in prime time, not only worked in The Sopranos but became a signature feature of the series. Moreover, in the later seasons, the privileging of slow-paced domestic scenes over action scenes is marked. From earlier seasons in which the episodes were framed by the closure of at least one narrative strand, The Sopranos developed a more free-flowing, open-ended serial narrative form with existential overtones.

Vestiges of mob violence, when they occur, are swiftly struck and fleetingly shot. The series took full advantage of the long serial narrative form in television, which—not unlike its counterpart in the serialized nineteenth-century novel—works with readers building knowledge of character and situation beyond the inevitable constraints of narrative in a serialized form the need for elements of closure as well as cliffhanger. But, as The Sopranos progressed to season six, the general feel increasingly emphasizes the weight of time relative to human endeavor.

The Sopranos had to end with an underplayed, but rude, gesture in the direction of television orthodoxy. My key point, however is that his achievement is not demeaned by an examination of the difference between an auteur and an executive producer who also writes and directs, since the skillful working of genres, the working of the blend and clash of a variety of writings and the interweaving of a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centers of culture, is itself an artistic achievement.

Moreover, to achieve this under any kind of industrial circumstances, sustaining tone and an overarching vision, is remarkable. Here, I am pointing to a shift of the basis of artistic and textual evaluation to celebrate television as television, not as cinema. A key notion of auteurism posits that the value of a work of art lies in an integrity sustained by the controlling vision and execution of an individual artist, the writer of literature, the director of film. As the frame of my essay has hinted, we have long since departed from such an understanding of individual, let alone collective, textual production and the workings of language.

So it seems anachronistic to laud Chase as an auteur of this old-fashioned romantic-modernist kind. Moreover, it deflects attention from his real achievement in respect of steering the construction of an open, intertextually playful, postmodern text that draws television viewers in through appeal to established genres and narrative followability and then takes them somewhere else. The levels of textuality afford viewers the opportunity to come at the text in different ways, mobilizing a range of meanings and pleasures for different segments of the market.

Maybe it turned out to be a highly distinctive postmodern television series. Note 1. At one point, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern encounter an actor on the road—a player who will eventually take part in the famous playwithin-a-play that Hamlet stages to provoke his murderous uncle and adulterous mother. Deaths and disclosures, universal and particular, denouements both unexpected and inexorable, transvestite melodrama on all levels including the suggestive. We transport you into a world of intrigue and illusion. I think this passage captures as well as any the scope and richness of the narratives The Sopranos offered over the course of six landmark seasons.

Paulie Gualtieri, a. I here illustrate just a few cases in some detail. They find themselves in a coffee shop that is clearly meant to be Starbucks. The exchange is priceless, but it also touches on some of the deepest questions about capitalism and Italian identity in the show: Paulie Walnuts: How did we miss out on this?

Big Pussy: What? All our food: pizza, calzone, buffalo moozarell, olive oil. They ate pootsie before we gave them the gift of our cuisine. But this, this is the worst. This espresso shit. Big Pussy: Take it easy. The scene is, all at once, witty, absurd, and oddly poignant. This exchange is both riotously funny and, for Paulie, deadly serious. Paulie: That bouncer that sent you back, did he have horns on his head? Christopher: No. He was just some big Irish goon in old-fashioned clothes.

Paulie: Did anybody there have horns or buds for horns, those goat bumps? Christopher: Paulie, it was fucking hell, okay? My father said he loses every hand of cards he plays. Does that sound like fucking heaven to you? Paulie: Was it hot? Christopher: Yeah. What the fuck? Hell is hot. You went to purgatory, my friend. Paulie: Purgatory, a little detour on the way to paradise. You add up all your mortal sins, multiply that number by fifty, then you add up all your venial sins and multiply that by twentyfive. And six thousand years is nothing in eternity terms.

I could do that standing on my head. Yet, later in the episode, Paulie remains unconvinced that matters are so simple, or that he can avoid paying for his victims over the years. Paulie consults a psychic playfully named Ted Hughes, in an intertextual nod to the tragic specter of Sylvia Plath , who claims to see and commune with the dead.

He tries to dialogue with his parish priest, reminding the priest of his good works and contributions, which must count for something Paulie argues: Paulie: Twenty-three years of donations to your parish and this is what this guy sees hanging over me? Psychics are heretics and thieves who practice witchcraft. Paulie: Maybe. When the organ needed a reed job, who was there? When the priest and the altar boys needed new whites, who picked up the tab? I can help you.


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The look Paulie gives him is precisely the look of barely restrained murderousness that Paulie displays throughout the series when his anger can find no immediate outlet. These scenes amount to a mock history of the Protestant Reformation. Rather, it is a faith in the absurdity of the entire effort to explain or bargain with an amoral and uninterested cosmos that drives Paulie.

Putting aside for a moment all the endless speculation about the Russian—whom Chase refused to explain or bring back to the show—there is a strain of absurdist comedy and Into the Wild—type existentialism to this episode that made it unforgettable and in many respects demonstrated how The Sopranos could so thoroughly reinvent and transgress its genre pedigree. When Paulie and Christopher end up in the New Jersey Pine Barrens lost, wounded, and unable to track their Russian quarry, they find themselves at last huddling in an abandoned truck, stripped of any dignity, as they beg Tony to intervene via a dying cell-phone connection.

The fragility and potential meaninglessness of the social conventions by which we all make our way through la cosa nostra, our things—whatever they may be—are illustrated here in the most clever way.

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I want again to allude to Stoppard here as an unconscious but very apt connection to the vision of director Steve Buscemi and writers Terence Winter and Tim Van Patten. There we were—demented children mincing about in clothes that no one ever wore, speaking as no man ever spoke, swearing love in wigs and rhymed couplets, killing each other with wooden swords, hollow protestations of faith hurled after empty promises of vengeance—and every gesture, every pose, vanishing into the thin unpopulated air. We ransomed our dignity to the clouds, and the uncomprehending birds listened.

Think, in your head, now, think of the most. Are you thinking of it? Well, I saw you do it. One of the signal accomplishments of The Sopranos is how we are both seduced and chastised as viewers for generally looking at the world the way Tony wants us to—it was his show after all. Or was it? Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Paulie Walnuts beg to differ. Christopher, Osama, and A. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.

The administration considered this book so important that visitors to the White House were given free copies, and it continued to have a significant political and cultural impact at the end of a decade in which America was experiencing dire economic fortunes stagflation and a second energy crisis.

The Carter administration was attracted to this analysis because it offered a way of grasping American decline at the level of individuals. Television drama can work in the opposite way. Individual traits and patterns of behavior exhibited by fictional characters can signal, resemble, and be emblematic of wider structural and systemic matters. The Culture of Narcissism presents a psychosocial history of America that calibrates the decline of the family and adult solidarity against the intensification of individualization and consumerism. So does The Sopranos.

The show has always been interested in exploring the contemporary cultural and psychological imagination of America through its narratives and characters. It is hardly an analytical revelation that The Sopranos is emblematic of cultural trends, since the very first shots of the show are explicit about its interest in the contemporary landscapes of cultural meaning. What is special about the show is its successful working through of a complex series of ideas about the decline of America by using character and narrative development in a brilliant and compelling manner.

The fact that Tony has children allows the show to depict and calibrate cultural change through generational change. The Culture of Narcissism is primarily concerned with the decline of the family and was immensely influential, beyond its impact on the Carter administration in the late s. One reason for its impact was that it addressed acute psychological experiences as aspects of historical change, thereby permitting, as Carter anticipated, strongly individual responses, even though Lasch himself pointed out that far wider structural solutions Christopher, Osama, and A.

He argues that the psychological anchors of family, community, and tradition have been eroded, leaving a society that is little more than an aggregate of psychologically vulnerable individuals; this is reflected in the increasingly chaotic cultural imagination evidenced in books, films, and other forms of cultural expression.

Daniel Horowitz offers this cogent account of the main themes: Rather than liberating people, the progress that liberal individualists and corporate capitalists alike proposed had trapped them, stripping people of sources of genuine satisfaction. In the realm of production, routinized work had become alienating and separated from family life. Reformers, the state, and the professions had invaded the family, in the process undermining its authority and the realm of private life.

Feminists had fully contributed to the undermining of the family and the fostering of a false sense of liberation. Elites, especially those on the left, had isolated themselves from the people they claimed to be helping.

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Consumer culture, the compensation offered by capitalists and liberals who believed in liberation offered in place of meaningful work and family life, further eroded psychological integrity. This left individuals with a sense of empty yearning that was impossible to fulfill. The search for self-fulfillment through consumption and therapy had turned America into a hedonist society. All these forces undermined real work, an authentic sense of self, and a morally grounded faith.

Combining this fascination with the contempt for the everyday and the herd is clearly redolent of the depiction of the fictional mobsters in The Sopranos as having disdain for the ordinary lives of those around them whom they exploit, injure, and steal from, while they jockey for power, prestige, and prominence in their own criminal groups. Indeed, by that point, the show seems to be using A. Along with its interest in celebrity and therapy, it is in its overall tone and attitude toward materialism that The Sopranos most clearly chimes with The Culture of Narcissism.

It also eschews any easy political coordinates. And although both book and television series are deeply concerned about the decline of America, their disdain for materialism and consumer culture locates them more closely not only to anticapitalist Western movements, but also toward contemporary nihilistic Christopher, Osama, and A. To begin with I will locate the ways in which aspects of narcissism and nihilism are developed through A.

Put crudely, A. As the show reaches its conclusion, A. It reminds us that A. To the extent that characters in the show represent things beyond themselves, A. In the final season, Tony claims to hate his son, in part because A. What bother Tony most are the bad feelings this causes him to experience, but we also sense that he may grasp A.

In the scenes in which A. He is frequently depicted pursuing the pleasures of consumption, especially watching television or playing video games. His deviance is of a mild kind in the genre of ordinary teenage misbehavior—the odd spot of school vandalism, cheating, and swimming-pool urination. Even in the final episodes, where his distress is acute and dangerous, it might be tempting to dismiss his depression and existential despair as part of the generic misery of the teenager; but this is difficult to do because A.

Like I even care. In this beguiling scene, it is easy to join the characters we watch in missing the significance of what is happening. The dramatization of A. We may see in A. After all, in this well-known poem, hesitation and pausing are the key events. The poem depicts the narrator who stops near a wood during a dark evening, presumably on a journey elsewhere. This hesitation and A. As we witness characters struggling to find meaning in a well-known item of cultural expression, we might be alerted to our own struggles to locate and clarify meaning in the work we are experiencing.

This scene and others like it in the show therefore develop the sense that The Sopranos uses its narratives and characters to comment on and explore contemporary society by signaling its interest in the process of meaning making itself. It seems to warn us that it is, as a show, aware of our own involvement and struggle to comprehend it. Short of Meadow and A. Such a self-conscious address to the audience allows us to consider the possibility that A. By the final episodes of the last season, A. Building on the insights of that essay, I will concentrate on a more specific use of art and artifacts as part of a system in the show that foregrounds the act of witnessing; in doing so, I will show how this system was eventually co-opted around a stylistic and narrative pattern that evokes some aspects of contemporary terrorism.

According to Devji, martyrdom, or shahadat, involves not only the person whose life is voluntarily sacrificed for the cause of God, but everyone annihilated in this cause whether willingly or not. Not only people, but animals, buildings and other inanimate objects as well may participate in the rites of martyrdom, including even those who witness the martyrdom of others without themselves being killed. Because martyrdom in Islam is thus connected to seeing in a much more general as well as much more specific sense than in Christianity, it is capable of cohabiting in productive ways with the global practices of news reportage.

Martyrdom also includes within its ambit any number of subjects: perpetrators, victims, bystanders, other animate and inanimate witnesses, near or far, all of whom constitute by their very seeing the landscape of the Christopher, Osama, and A. Only in mass media does the collective witnessing that defines martyrdom achieve its full effect, as the various attempts by would-be-martyrs to film their deaths or at least to leave behind videotaped testaments, illustrates so clearly.

In other words, we can see them as attempts to establish and clarify meaning, and, rather than seeing them as products of local or even national antagonisms, we might see them as expressions of a Western malaise that Lasch and, following him, Jimmy Carter, identified three decades ago. The Sopranos, too, uses, as Ricci argues, inanimate but sensual objects like artworks and statues to signal to the viewer the possibility of another way of taking what we see and hear, beyond the generically obvious.

To what extent is it the witnessing by such objects that deepens the meaning of scenes in which they participate? My argument is that, presumably without an explicit intention to reference jihadist acts of martyrdom, the earlier seasons of The Sopranos nonetheless internalize the idea of the witness as part of a stylistic and aesthetic system that Ricci has painstakingly detailed. By seasons five and six, the combination of A.

Retrospectively, this allows us to think of the witness as a motif in The Sopranos that raises the issue of judgment and evaluation and implies an ethical stance. To what extent does it resist or resent the appetite for generic rewards gunfights, killings, etc. Its very uncertainty, its stony lack of subjectivity, is nonetheless expressive of a judgmental subjectivity; it seems to imply some kind of interrogation.

There is no way of getting back at it, of finding out what it wants. How am I expected to respond? They are mute witnesses, and the suggestion of their scrutiny forces us to reconsider the surface meanings of what we see. There are many further examples. Not only do statues seem to inhabit this role of witness, but the weight of judgment and accusation sometimes is more direct, as in a gaze or stare toward characters and viewers from apparently unseeing eyes.

What is the judgment of money? This Christopher, Osama, and A. Chris has taken the money as a token, a souvenir of the act. It should have meaning, and his pinning it to the fridge seems to encompass his desire to make sure it does, even though his mother is dismissive of his attempts to understand his father as a good man.

Or take the way in which we see the ruined face of Tony Blundetto after his cousin has blasted him with a shotgun. This the gore, the drama of the killing, the generic reward , the eyes seem to say, is what you want, is it? I think such shots convey an attitude of judgment and evaluation that the objects variously project outward; this seems to be an attitude that the show wishes us to adopt more strongly. Are we, they seem to demand, up to making an ethical response, one that matches the depth and sensitivity that is demanded of us?

To what extent are we implicated and asked to stand witness to our implication in such shots? What is the appropriate ethical stance where violence does not serve to clarify moral distinctions but instead to open up the morality and ethics of our narrative involvement in it? It is notable, for example, that A. However, despite A. It is in those scenes where A. Like those inanimate objects, he stands on, passively watching, and we are invited to speculate on the nature of his involvement: Is he repulsed as we are or is he fascinated?

The film style deliberately avoids defining his response for us. In the final episode of the show, these patterns are drawn together eloquently. As a way of capping its extraordinary artistic achievement over six seasons, it is difficult to imagine a finer resolution, in part because almost every scene remains conscious of its responsibility to that inheritance. The moment in which we find, somewhat unexpectedly, A.

It is, of course, possible for a television show of more than eighty episodes to draw quite deeply on a wide range of narrative and character histories. Possible, but is it plausible? I mean is it plausible that this shot of the yellow Nissan stopped in the woods evokes A. The scene, like much of the final episode, is wintry, but the woods are not snowy.

How are we to take this? It is a generically familiar moment in which a young couple alone in a car struggle with the pull of sexual desire: the desire for further intimacy that the shared experience of the song has stimulated in tension with the stability of friendship. It is played very tenderly at first, with A. Of all things, music cannot be taken lightly in The Sopranos.


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  • The Dylan song is emblematic of countercultural alienation and is about the corrupting nature of consumerism, authority, and advertising. It Christopher, Osama, and A. The song is in part about being owned or duped by the corrupt mass culture around us. There is solid irony at work in the juxtaposition of this song with the interior of one of the most vivid and monstrous symbols of consumerism, the SUV, which catches fire because A. What, then, is the value of popular culture as protest or resistance? However, what seems to me to be important is what happens afterward.

    The couple, who had been about to copulate, now look small and childlike in the woods, a version of Hansel and Gretel facing great, sudden, and unexpected danger. Mutual witnessing of the explosion—different from what we might have expected—is a marker in the next phase of their relationship.

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    Something sublime should have meaning. When A. In fact, it is the visceral, emotional, and aesthetic impact that excites A. Note that the experience does not have any meaning beyond itself—it does not point to new kinds of behavior or moral orientation. Instead, A. He craves dramatic action.

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    When I first saw this scene, and A. The combination of his narcissism, nihilism, and witnessing of the spectacular forms of destruction seems to be in keeping with popular ideas of terrorists and their nihilistic interest in media-dispersed theaters of destruction. See more. The Essential Sopranos Reader. David Lavery. The Sopranos is recognized as the most successful cable series in the history of television. The book concludes with an interview with Dominic Chianese, who played Uncle Junior in all six seasons of the show.

    Stacey Abbott. As a natural heir to the hit television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural has risen to prominence with a strong cult following, and this series of essays from contributors around the globe investigates the genre-bending series cultural footprint both in the United States and abroad. The writings explore topics such as folklore, religion, gender and sexuality, comedy, music, and much more, and a brief guide to all the episodes is also included. Supernatural follows brothers Dean and Sam Winchester as they encounter and battle evil beings such as vampires, shapeshifters, ghouls, and ghosts from a multitude of genres including folklore, urban legends, and religious history.

    After a slow and inauspicious beginning, Seinfeld broke through to become one of the most commercially successful sitcoms in the history of television. The book also includes a comprehensive episode guide, and Betty Lee's lexicon of Seinfeld language. Professional Idiot: A Memoir. Stephen Steve-O Glover.