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“I’m worried all the time…”

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The Sopranos, it seems to me, has always been preoccupied with charting the amorphous, over-determined cloud of anxiety that hovers over America today. From the beginning of the first episode of the new season.

Carmela and Adriana (her ghost) are standing in the house that the former is building “on spec,” the frame of it anyway…

CARMELA: I’m worried Ade…

GHOST OF ADRIANA: Everybody’s worried…

CARMELA: No… I’m worried all the time…

A terrific way to open the season. The show, like most or all of us Americans, hasn’t ever quite been able to figure out exactly what it’s worried about… The ever-escalating competitiveness of business… The ever-increasing demands to consume at a pitch and level appropriate to your (real or imagined) social position… The ever-decreasing viability of the family, nuclear or extend, as a form of social organization… The ever-present threat of violence that defines the American city street or suburban parking lot… The fact that sickness and death is nearly-preventable, but only ever nearly…

Underlying it all, perhaps, is a blinding sense – but one only ever evanescently available to the characters themselves – of the corrupt provenance of the money that they spend, the lives that they live. The fact that the home and the cars and the college educations are purchased with ill-gotten gains, with the flesh and souls of drug-addicts and prostitutes and ruined gamblers and beaten down junior associates. At one point during the third season, a psychotherapist (not Melfi – her teacher was it?) advises Carmela to leave Tony: “Stop taking your husband’s blood money. You can never say you haven’t been warned.”

The show takes a novelistic form, of course, and this is what novels have always done: play the inner life against the outer world, the private vs. the public, love vs. money, family vs. society. But what is it about this specific conjunction – of the gangster and the family man, the mob boss and the suffering husband and father, that draws the eyes not just of the academy, and not just of “everyone,” but in particular of HBO’s prized demographic – male, post-ethnic, college educated, upper-middle class or above… The New Jersey demographic, the big bees in the hive of business, finance, law, and government. The underbosses of the empire.

I can’t help but feel at times when I watch the show that one day it will serve as the allegorical record of our own fin de siècle, the fall of the American empire, and what the mass-psychological atmosphere felt like to breathe… Why am I so worried all of the time? Everything is so good… It’s no coincidence that the show has wrapped around 9/11, and it’s no coincidence that the show was never much interested in discussing it.

Written by adswithoutproducts

March 14, 2006 at 11:32 pm

Posted in america, teevee

4 Responses

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  1. Great post. The characters seem especially well-written, is what holds my interest. Of course you’re right to remark on this formula, of contemporary alienation/blueprint of mass psychology facing decline…the show certainly reflects these themes self-consciously.

    It is television, after all.


    March 16, 2006 at 12:48 pm

  2. Thanks, Matt…


    March 17, 2006 at 11:23 pm

  3. Thanks, Louis, I’ll definitely take a look. Looks v. interesting!


    March 20, 2006 at 12:07 pm

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