Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Philosophical Side of The Sopranos

My husband Mowgli (not his real name) and I have been on vacation since last Friday, and I had grand ambitions for this time, detailed in a long list that I plan to keep as a reminder of my folly. To be fair, I did roast a chicken and make a veggie pot pie, and we did visit Lincoln's home in Springfield. But -- citizenship quiz studying? Not once. Attempt dosas with new recipe from kind cyberfriend? Didn't happen.

And writing? Wasn't even on the list. I didn't think it needed to be. I thought I'd spring out of bed and start pecking away until Mowgli snatched the laptop from my flying fingers. I did my usual blog posts, but that's all I did -- the minimum. Unless you count the plethora of Facebook updates on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, which, to make myself feel better, I do.

What I've been doing instead of writing is so weird, it makes me squirm to admit it publicly. I've been watching season 5 of the Sopranos. I haven't loved it as much as I've heard some do -- the violence prevents that -- but I've liked it enough to look forward to watching one or two episodes before the day gets rolling. In fact, I watched one this morning, and it spawned today's topic. Lucky thing, too, 'cause honestly, I had nary a post idea when I got up this morning.

It was Episode 58, "Sentimental Education," and about 10 minutes in Tony B., who's been trying to go straight after 18 years in prison, compares being an immigrant to being in prison. The rest of the episode underscores this theme, with pointed remarks about Koreans and dogs, and Carmella's affair failing because of her lover's prejudice against women like her, i.e., mobsters' wives. Toward the end of the hour, Tony B. beats up his Korean business partner, destroying his best chance at achieving his goal of going straight. Tony Soprano responds to this news by saying, "It's tough to do business with outsiders."

Granted, this is a show that delights in making cartoons of ethnic stereotypes, but it did make me think about the three-way battle between heritage and fate and free will. To what extent are we all bound by our heritage, the shapes of our noses and cheekbones, our last names?

What do you think, readers? How have you experienced these strictures? Are they good, bad, or somewhere in between?


  1. Dimitri here...

    My Girlfriend Anastsia (not her real name) and I turned on the Departed last night; an equally violent portrayal of the underworld life in America. The film focuses on an Irish crime family in Boston and pulls heavily on the real life mobster "Whitey" Bulger.

    The portion of the movie dealing with the cultural stereotypes of the Irish had never really come to the fore front of story for me as I had no real connection to the Irish nor had I ever really gotten to know an Irishman very well.

    Some ways into the movie, there is a line from Matt Damon's Character where he is talking to his girlfriend about a very serious subject. So that I do not spoil the movie for anyone, this will be out of context: “I’m Irish. I’ll deal with something being wrong my whole life.”

    I don't recall ever reacting to nor even remembering that particular line in the 5 times that I previously watched this movie. Anastasia, however, broke out in laughter. Mind you, this is a very somber line during a very somber scene and Anastasia was not giggling. Rather, she let out the loud kind of guffaw that is usually reserved by a 12 year old boy for the fart scene of Blazing Saddles.

    This started a short conversation about why she found this funny and I began to relate certain portions of her life to this new understanding of here. The Irish, it seems, really do tend to put up for something that is wrong...quite often for the rest of their lives. Much like my discovery of the hopeless romantic nature of the Poles (I thought it was just me until I read a page long explanation of it by a character in a book); this revelation has had me thinking for nearly two days straight; this is a long time for me.

    Bad or Good, the more I look into the overall behavior of people from different cultures, the more I find certain strong behavioral traits that sometimes seem to drive their actions and thoughts past their basic upbringing. It has often led me to wonder if some of these behaviors go past the way we are raised and reach down into our genetic code.

  2. Many thanks, Dimitri, for your detailed and hilarious comment. Oddly, that same line made me laugh, too -- mayhap our ancestors took a Northern detour way back when.

  3. Interesting side fact we learned from the special Features of the Departed. "Whitey" Bulger is still at large and, as a testiment to his incredibly violent nature, is the FBI's #2 most wanted after Osama Bin Laden.


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