Monday, March 13, 2006

The Sopranos...

I still don't remember why I like this show. It's been a while since I'd thought about it, so I was intrigued by the season premiere last night. I'm one of those people you might have once caught whining about the glorification (and condoning) of brute violence, but now I get it. Humans have a vestigial appetite for violence, like a ghost limb. This instinct has mostly lost its fangs over the course of civilization (and evolved into aggression and competitiveness) but still, we are fundamentally programmed to stand in awe of destruction as a form of magic: concentrated hypnotic action that quickly makes way for new circumstances, and keeps the cycle of life a churning. As my friend Melvin says, "Even if you can't have sex, you're still going to want to watch somebody who can."

But back to the show. Honestly? Can you say formula? Male soap opera? Painting by numbers with a few shock-value alley-oops thrown in at the end to make you forget the lack of engagement you felt in the first 45 minutes? It's a little insuling. Of course, I reserve the right to retract all of these true reactions. Episodic television, like many things (albums, foods, people), needs to grow on you. Sometimes at first all you can notice is the flaws, the obviousness, the tricks. After a few bites your critical faculty calms down and you allow yourself to enjoy the larger pleasures just beneath that flaky crust. Try it, you like it (eventually).

My friend Jonathan says that the show is a glorification of bourgeois values in America. In other words, the show is engineered to make middle-class working guys with families and mortgages and enormous guts feel like they are just like Tony Soprano, and by proxy are part of something vital, rebellious, and cool. I think he's on to something. James Gandolfini is the poster child of the American fuck you, aka "My Way" spirit. When you go to a store and you ask the salesperson how many megapixels a camera has and he turns to you in his chartreuse vest and says, "How the fuck should I know?" and walks away... That... THAT! is the land of the free and the home of the brave we're fighting for.

So now I remember why I like the Sopranos. I like to kick off the week with a bludgeoning reminder of the mutant sense of entitlement that our liberty hath wrought. So anyway, how big are your balls?


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