Thursday, February 23, 2012

Soprano Life Lessons

A few years a go, I bought my father a rather nice Christmas gift: The Sopranos: The Complete Series. He was quite appreciative. About a month ago, after having seen a Sopranos repeat on A&E, I remembered the gift and decided to re-watch the entire series from beginning to end, so I borrowed the collection from my father. I've just started the third season. For those that may have forgotten, the second season ends with the deaths of Richie Aprile (at the hands of Tony's sister, Janice) and Big Pussy (at the hands of Tony and his crew), along with Meadow's (Tony's daughter) graduation from high school.

As the third season begins, Meadow is a freshman at Columbia and AJ--Tony's son--is in high school. Tony's wife Carmela is enjoying a new mink coat Tony gave her, while hoping that Tony's womanizing ways may finally be ending.

Taken as a whole, the show presents this mobbed-up family as a typical American family, in many ways. And though Tony is a stone-cold killer, a thief, and an unbelievable sonofabitch, he is the hero of the show, very much a tragic hero in fact. One can't help but sympathize with his various dilemmas. For as he struggles to maintain control of his own internal problems and his mob business, he also is tries to protect and provide for his family. His love for them--his wife and children--is a major theme of the show. And though fictional, it rings true in this regard.

And therein lies the lesson: bad people can still love their children, can still be good family men (or women), can even raise mostly good--or at least typical--kids. In the world of politics, we forget this far too easily. Politicians routinely use their families for photo ops, play up the idea that they love their children, and that they try to do a good job in raising them. And for this, we are supposed to give them credit, to either swoon at the sight of their families (when we support them) or grudgingly admit that they have nice families, even if their politics are wrong (when we oppose them).

In short, we are supposed to believe that loving one's family makes someone--as a matter of course--a good person, when nothing could be further from the truth. So don't buy into the rhetoric and the pictures; a sonofabitch can still be a good spouse, a crook can still be a good parent, a bad guy might have no problem shooting you in the head or robbing you blind, then going home and reading stories to his or her kids and lovingly tucking them into bed. And a politician with a beautiful family can still be a very dangerous thing.

Cheers, all.

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