Let me start by pointing out that most of the people I know don't even watch The Sopranos.
"Too violent," they say with a curled lip. "I'm not interested in anything like that."
Well, maybe it's my five planets in Scorpio. (In an attempt to shine a light on my past relationship choices, my astrologer friend April once told me, "Anyone can love a kitten, but it takes a Scorpio to love a cockroach.") I believe in going to the depths -- on everything. The things I prefer to talk about are often more than unsayable -- to many people, they're unthinkable.
Me, I love the humanity in people that makes them such a tangled mess of infuriating contradictions. (The French say to know all is to forgive all. Well, maybe. It helps.)
As long as I can remember, even complete strangers told me very personal things. Then they'd look surprised and say, "You know, you're the first person I've ever told about that." When I wondered aloud what it is about me that draws this out in people, one of my friends responded, "You don't judge people, and they sense that about you. They feel safe unloading their darkest, deepest secrets."
I didn't accept this explanation, because I actually wish I didn't judge people quite so much. But I suppose when marked on the bell curve of human nature, I judge less harshly than most.
Besides that Scorpio cluster in my first house, I also credit Susan Howatch, who's one of my very favorite authors. She wrote a series of books about a group of Anglican clergymen across fifty years or so, and she has this gift for character development. Reading these stories is one shock after another as she persuades you that actually, you were quite wrong about a particular character you saw only in black and white -- a character who is somehow more broken, yet more capable of evolution than you could have possibly imagined. (I specifically blame Howatch for the last boyfriend, who is much more of a cockroach than a kitten.)
Tony Soprano reminds me of that ex, because to this day, I still don't know if he's a true criminal mind -- or just another broken individual, trying to stumble through life as best he knows how. I just don't know; and ultimately, I don't need to know.
And that's the beauty of The Sopranos. You just don't know, and you never will. David Chase is not going to make it that easy on us. He wants us to meet our own demons through this surrogate family.
We've watched Tony Soprano long enough to know he, too, is more of a cockroach than a kitten -- although he's clearly both.
I think when people say they don't want to look at this kind of violence and internal struggle, spiritual emptiness and despair, they're saying they don"t want to acknowledge those things in themselves. (Dr. Jung would have something to say about that.)
That refusal to see leaves you vulnerable to those who would use it against you. (For instance, you might lack the capacity to understand that yes, a president could very well lie to lead us into war.)
But for those of us who were willing to watch, each week Tony Soprano died just a little bit more for his own sins. If that's not moral, I don't know what is.