Monday, June 04, 2007

One Thing Leads to Another: Blogging Dilemmas and the Sopranos Upcoming Finale

OK. So I was adding a final comment to the previous post, in which a Zenith student has raised some interesting issues about sexual identity and classroom dynamics in the Hallowed Halls, a conversation enriched by several contributions from Gayprof and Adjunct Whore. And as I was doing it, I was having the conflicted feelings I always experience when I end up writing in response to an issue that is specifically about students and life at Zenith. I can only express the attraction-revulsion dilemma this way: remember when Al Pacino, as Michael Corleone, I believe in Godfather III, (having mistakenly thought he has taken the business entirely legit and cut his own ties with organized crime) snarls: "The family. Every time you think you have gotten away they reach out and suck you back in again." Godfather purists will forgive me, I hope, for having the quote, and possibly even the movie chapter, slightly wrong. But it is one of the down sides of being "out" as a blogger: one of the reasons I started blogging in the first place was to have a space in my life that was not governed by Zenith and its peculiar ways. And yet, inevitably, I am asked direct questions about very specific doings there, because students lurk on my blog, and they are actually interested in how things work and why. And part of me wants to say, look, this blog is not office hours. And part of me says, yes, you have a right to be interested in this, and it is a piece of why you are interesting to me that you care about these things, so I will do my best to answer your question. That's when I get sucked back in. Again.

I have no solution to this problem. I think it is, perhaps, My Fate. The topics of Fate and Family lead me to my real preoccupation-- the end of The Sopranos, my favorite television series, which is imminent, and something to which I can pay complete attention now that school has ended for the summer.

Last night, Bobby "Bacala" Bacalieri was killed, and Silvio was put into a probably irreversible coma. Tony is now holed up with Paulie Walnuts and a few other retainers in what I believe is Junior's old house, cuddling a nasty looking automatic weapon and probably watching his life pass before his eyes. N says she is sure Tony will be killed, an idea I am resisting. And before all this happened, Dr. Melfi dismissed Tony as a patient and AJ, Tony's pathetic excuse for a son, was only able to respond to the threats against his family by blubbering, "How am I supposed to maintain with all this going on?" His father, rightly, picked him up out of bed and threw him into the closet.

I know there is going to be a shriek of horror from a lot of bloggers out there who actually know what they are talking about, but this is the stuff of Shakespearean tragedy in my book. I was immediately reminded of the several stagings of Macbeth I have seen in which the damned trees really do start walking and Macbeth goes down alone. As he has known he will. As we *all* know we will. In other words, I am well-educated enough to understand that this is how it must be, but I am devastated all the same. Moreover, unlike Shakespeare, who had all of English history to draw on (as well as a lot of excuses to make for the Tudor monarchy) and was, therefore, always ready for a sequel or prequel to be commissioned, part of what the Sopranos' producers are doing is ensuring that the series can never, ever be revived.

And yet, must everybody die? Even Paulie Walnuts? And at the hands of Phil Leotardo, a man whose family, as Phil himself once memorably said, was mistakenly named at Ellis Island "after a ballet costume?" I know the New Jersey bunch are all murderers themselves, but it seems hardly fair to ask all of us to have bonded with Tony, his crew and his family, over the years and then make us all watch them die. And yes, I get it that part of the point may be making us all shift our ethical perspective and understand that our pleasure in watching the show has made us complicit in some terrible way: just as complicit as Carmella who, for all her pain over Tony's infidelities, has neatly compartmentalized how she profits from his "business;" just as complicit as Meadow, who hopes to go on to law school and work for social justice, paid for by her father's blood money.

This would be the point in the post to say that my preferred ending is that Meadow will step up at the last minute, help her father take charge, and take over as consiglieri, an idea I am sure I should take to therapy myself, along with how pissed I am at Dr. Melfi for cutting her ties to Tony at such a crucial moment.

I probably realized the depths of my own complicity a few episodes back when Christopher Moltosanti, having once again slipped back into his personal hell of drug and alcohol addiction, rolled his car and was bleeding to death. He looked up at his uncle and said: "Help me, Tone." Tony reached over and squeezed Christopher's nostrils shut, suffocating him (and significantly, leaving no clear heir to leadership in the family, a role to which Christopher had revealed himself as deeply unsuited over the course of several seasons.) Of all my friends, I was the only person who believed that Tony was doing exactly what Chris was asking him to do. I guess I'll take that one to therapy too.

In the end, when these television programs become so important, the endings can never be satisfying: Mary Richards turning the lights off in the studio; the last helicopter taking off from the MASH camp; that weird final episode of "Seinfeld" where everyone ends up in jail, a grim commentary on how trapped they were as actors by the success of the series. My least favorite was the end of "Queer As Folk." This was a series I loved because it allowed me to stay in touch with the pleasures of a queer community I left behind in New York (not to mention with my twenties) and could never have in Zenith or Shoreline; ultimately you could say it foundered because not even TV characters can stay young forever. This otherwise fabulous show ended with homophobes blowing up Babylon, the disco - sex club, and all the characters retreating into marriage, affluence, parenthood and middle age. The lesbians, having survived infidelities of various kinds, moved to Canada with their babies, where life was supposedly safe from the effects of homophobia. Yuck.

Really successful television programs can mark off a whole historical period in a person's life, which I suppose is why their endings are such important cultural events. When the Sopranos began, I was living in Zenith, had not yet gotten tenure or finished my first book, and was geting the first seasons on videotape at Blockbuster. So in a sense, Tony and I grew into middle age together. And he is going to die, and leave me to deal with what comes next by myself?

The bastard.

On the other hand, the new season of Big Love starts next Sunday. And in a polygamous Mormon family, you are never really alone.


Ancarett said...

I'm not looking forward to the end of "The Sopranos" both because this will leave me without a single drama I want to watch that's on the air, but more because I know this show ends badly, one way or the other. But I can't stop watching, I'm so deeply invested in the show.

It just goes to show that Tolstoy was right: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." And we are drawn to the unexpected which Tony and his families are giving us in droves these last few episodes.

Anonymous said...

There won't be any black-and-white resolution; at the end of The Sopranos," we'll be left hanging, looking at shades of grey.

PMG said...

I admit I am finding these past few bloody episodes strangely satisfying. All that portent and doom that was hanging over this half-season was getting on my nerves; when important people finally started dying off, the built-up anticipation gave me quite a rush.

And I'm embarrased to say that not only do I also think Christopher wanted to die, there was a part of me, deeply trained by the Sopranos mythology, that knew that no matter what Christopher wanted, killing him was the right thing for Tony to do.

Suddenly my comment is reading like it was written by a serial killer, not a mild-mannered academic. Damn you David Chase!

Anonymous said...

Big Love is my latest addiction - I have no idea how I feel about it, but it's bizarrely compelling. I forget that I'm watching a show about polygamists!

Lesboprof said...

I am a Sopranos fan, too, but I have not engaged with it as fully as the gf.

I don't know what it says about me, but I was horrified most by the behavior of Dr. Malfi's supervising therapist. His disclosure of Tony's name at the dinner party was abhorrent, and she should have gotten up from the table and left.

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