This year marks two decades since television was changed forever. If “The Sopranos” had been created today instead of in the late ‘90s, would Tony Soprano be a kinder, gentler, more virtue signaling mob boss? Could the scriptwriters even mention “made men,” or would it need to be a gender-neutral pronoun?
What about all of those guns? Millennial viewers would be aghast. Smoking, drinking, and marinara sauce, oh my! Lots of strippers, too, and all female—really, not pretending to be—and good-looking. The horror of it all would be too much to endure.
Families; traditional values. The Catholic Church. And Tony drove a gas guzzling Escalade—with a bigger carbon footprint than half a dozen hybrids. And lets not forget how The Sopranos handled the Italian third rail of homosexuality? If any show today tried to handle the case of Vito Spatafore Sr. in the way Tony and company did, we would have all out cultural nuclear war on our hands.
We’ll soon see who gets “triggered” by all this—because a prequel of the iconic HBO series about a Newark, New Jersey crime family and its existentially troubled paterfamilias, Tony Soprano, is in the works.
“The Many Saints of Newark” will take us back to Tony’s childhood in the Newark of the 1960s and ’70s. It will star Michael Gandolfini, the 19-year-old son of actor James Gandolfini, who played middle-aged Tony to perfection in the original.
Sopranos creator David Chase cast the younger Gandolfini because of his “mastery” of Tony Soprano’s mannerisms as well as his “innate understanding” of Tony’s character, according to Digital Trends. Young Tony is also, of course, alarmingly heterosexual, at least as far as we now know.
Both Jim Rockford of “The Rockford Files” fame (another Chase character) and Tony Soprano could be a “fool or a jerk . . . but had to be the smartest guy in the room.”
Rockford and Tony were also instinctively protective of and courteous toward women, a sure sign of traditional male toxicity and gender stereotypes in the eyes of the Woke Mafia, who operate like real-life Cosa Nostra authoritarians trying to impose their code of omerta on everyone via the cudgel of political correctness.
These woke mafiosos will probably put a contract hit out on the new show—in the form of eructations of feigned outrage, hoping this will cause potential viewers to shy away. Although David Chase is no jabroni, he knows what he is doing.
An alarming new survey conducted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) of college students’ attitudes found that 60 percent believe that “promoting an inclusive environment that is welcoming to a diverse group of students” is more important than “protecting students’ free speech rights, even if it means allowing hurtful or offensive speech.”
It gets worse.
More than half the students surveyed—57 percent—either “agree” or “strongly agree” that “colleges and universities should be able to restrict student expression of political views that are hurtful or offensive to certain students.”
How can Tony Soprano survive in a culture rife with feminine male angst? Where the sole beta-male concern is opening oneself up to emotional richness while talking endlessly about your feelings? This is why Tony would ask plaintively, “Whatever happened to Gary Cooper?”
A lot has changed in American culture in the 20 years since the original series debuted on HBO in January 1999—and even more since the pending prequel’s 1960s-era backdrop.
The only snowflakes in New Jersey back then fell from the sky during winter.
People smoked, cursed, drove convertible Cadillacs with huge V8s—and no airbags, and no one wore a seat-belt. Kids rode bicycles without helmets or helicopter parents hovering. Their moms—who mostly stayed home—expected them to be home in time for supper, that’s all.
Traditional masculinity hadn’t yet been pathologized by the American Psychological Association.
Pre-Woke America was ready for the story of a man—deeply flawed, certainly; but noble in his own way because he was a man. Without Tony Soprano, there would have been no Walter White, no Don Draper, no Jax Teller. He ushered in the dawn of modern serialized TV’s laconic, taciturn anti-hero.
Tony’s crew of Silvio Dante, Paulie Walnuts and Christopher Moltisanti clicked with the viewing public because while they were mobsters, they had good qualities, too—such as genuine affection for each other and a desire to take care of their own. This humanized them and made them extremely likable.
Chase has expressed surprise that the original series made it on the air—and was quoted by IndieWire back in 2016 as saying that the “chances of doing this ever again (are) unlikely,” adding that “my understanding is things have changed” in television. In the woke #MeToo era, everything has changed. Which is tragic, creatively as well as socially.
Politically correct or not, The Sopranos was brilliant TV—and can be credited with helping to ignite the high-quality creative outpouring of programming we today take for granted. Any time you binge watch a series, you are living in the house that Tony built.
Before “The Sopranos,” there was very little to see outside of the big three networks. You generally had to go to the movies to see something like “The Sopranos,” which many believe ranks with “The Godfather” in terms of writing, acting and on every other metric by which artistic excellence is judged.
If “The Many Saints of Newark” is shouted down for hurting society’s current virginal feelings, it will be a loss not only in terms of what we don’t get to see—but what will never be made.
Perhaps young Tony can fit his critics with a pair of cement shoes before the Woke Mafia strikes.
Photo Credit: HBO