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So Long, Tony Soprano

Remember his character, not his stereotype.

       It lasted eight years, six seasons, and eighty-six episodes. The Sopranos still gains fans even after production has stopped and cast members have passed away. The Sopranos mafia put the mafia before everything, including their own families– as seen through the conflict between “one’s family” (blood) and “one’s family” (business). Viewers migrate to this plot-line because its story provides an escape; it feels like seeing something that shouldn’t be.

       With the birth of The Godfather, Italian-American culture has gained a large audience in film. The presence of the Italian-American mafia in film is seen in movies such as Godfather, Goodfellas, Casino, and shows such as the Sopranos. As Americans continue to mourn over the death of Tony Soprano, it is important to distinguish between the Sopranos character and the off-screen actor, better known as James Gandolfini.

       The Sopranos strong character development and award-winning plot for storyline draws upon our culture’s fascination with stereotypes. The Godfather movie also brings in the allure of stereotypes within the Italian American culture in the same way that other entertainment draws upon Irish-Americans being drunks, Hispanic-Americans being involved in drug trade, Russians being involved in organized crime, Asians being scientists, and so forth. Synthesize all of those cultural stereotypes together and what boils down is a melting pot, also known as America.

       An overwhelming majority of Americans fall victim to believing that the Sopranos are a truth-bearing representation of the Italian-American community; however, they are wrong. The Sopranos characters, like Tony Soprano, are not actual people; they are television representations of what America perceives the ‘ideal’ Italian-American community to be. The pseudo-escape offered by the Soprano’s is one that entertains Americans with illusions of Italian fantasy. The real Italian Americans are everywhere around us, just take a look around the streets of North End’s neighborhood.

       Urbanized “Little Italy’s,” like Boston’s North End, attract millions of annual visitors and residents to their neighborhoods because of their cultural charm and host as history-havens. While many may be quick to chalk up the North End community as a culture synthesized of cigars, cash, and cocaine, instances like the closing of Boschetto’s Bakery correct these misguided beliefs by shedding light on the real aspects of this neighborhood’s history. The culture here is comprised of hard-working Italians who are descendants of the Italian immigrants that came through Ellis Island centuries ago. Their restaurants and bakeries are primarily all they and their family have even known.

       The culture of Italian-Americans have long been subjected to negative stereotypes in the media. Dating back from The Godfather up through modern-day shows, like the Sopranos and Jersey Shore, this community has continued to suffer from the poor taste in portrayal. When the media subjects different groups of the community it is better to rather focus on the character and plot development than it is to take the content for its literal meaning. The appeal of the Sopranos plot and “having it all for the taking” storyline has to do with the thrill of the power and life; these desires, however, drive many facets of all cultures and societies. The Soprano’s mass-following is an audience that craves entertainment as an outlet of escape; this idea of an escape is a utopia for everyone. It is also a reminder that at some point everyone feels subjected to stereotypes of their own culture– whether culturally, socially, economically.

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6 Replies to “So Long, Tony Soprano

  1. I’m not sure I understand the reason someone would write this piece. The title of the article itself flies in the face of ” this isn’t what Italians are like” tone of the piece.

    “An overwhelming majority of Americans fall victim to believing that the Sopranos are a truth-bearing representation of the Italian-American community; however, they are wrong. The Sopranos characters, like Tony Soprano, are not actual people; they are television representations of what America perceives the ‘ideal’ Italian-American community to be. The pseudo-escape offered by the Soprano’s is one that entertains Americans with illusions of Italian fantasy. The real Italian Americans are everywhere around us, just take a look around the streets of North End’s neighborhood.”

    Is this for real? Do we really need to be told that Tony Soprano and company are not real people? In my opinion, this piece borders on offensive to all nationalities all by itself. It reads like Reggie White’s speech from about 10 years ago.

    1. I think many people including myself understand and fought a lot of these stereotypes. I have a love/hate feelin toward the sopranos.

  2. Do real-life people think “cigars, cash and cocaine” when picturing the North End? It’s more like “chicken parm, cannolis, and (parking) cones”.

  3. Andy, I only wish you were completely right. The No. End is filthy, the college kids have no regard for the
    Neighborhood, it is a Pit Stop for them, Party Time. The Trash, Rats & Noise is totally unnecessary and
    because people only get away with, what you allow them to get away with, is why we are in this position today.
    This generation of college kids think they are entitled to do whatever they want. I have overheard Tourist
    talking about how filthy our streets are. Why aren’t they putting people on the streets to clean gutters like they do
    on Hanover St., Prince St. & Parmenter St? God knows the City is taking in enough revenue that the entire
    No. End, being as small as it is, should be immaculate.

    1. 100% agree on college kids and the trash, it’s a real problem.

      I just meant that I don’t think anyone still sees the North End as an extension of The Godfather or Goodfellas which may have been the case 20 years ago. But maybe I’m wrong.

  4. Nice article. That was a small portion of being Italian. Almost every culture had their so call mob or mafia or what ever. But the Italians, we gave the world some of the greatest singers and music, food, art, tradition, culture.

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