I’ve noticed that it’s become de rigueur to over-criticize everything (other than personal politics, mandates, foreign governments, or presidents not named Trump), particularly when it comes to the Sopranos prequel. People are so desperate to appear savvy and informed that they will over-analyze things, thereby nullifying the joy of discovery. You talk yourself into hating, in the futile hopes of besting the haters. You’re afraid to love something that someone else might hate.
To prove my point, I’m going to stick thoughts into your head that will make you hate your favorite things. Let’s start with The Sopranos!
The above linked scene comes from a middle season, wherein Joe Pantoliano plays Ralph Cifaretto, possibly one of the least likable characters in his expansive repertoire of turncoats and creepos. Some of you may recall having to watch Ralph beat a pregnant 20-year-old stripper to death against a parking lot guard rail. Despite this, I myself have utilized Ralph’s method of preparing spaghetti (depicted in the clip) for some time now, and it works. I found myself actually enjoying a spaghetti meal, rather than it just being something I threw together to save money and fill up.
So what’s my over-criticism here? Hold on- let me pull out my I-card.
I’m half-Italian on my mother’s side, from the Tri-State Area. My grandmother spoke fluent Italian, and “Gigi”, my great-grandmother, spoke no English. I grew up around a lot of Italian people. Italian neighborhoods, Italian cuisine, Italian relatives who taught me as a toddler how to say va funculo. A boot-shaped peninsula’s worth of fond memories and wonderful, vibrant people.
Never once did I hear anyone, of any nationality (let alone Italiano) refer to tomato sauce as gravy.
Literally, the first time I ever heard it was (surprise!) on an early episode of The Sopranos, where the leggy psychiatrist’s dweeb of a son is admonished for saying “pass the ginzo gravy” at the family dinner table. I can’t wrap my head around it. Gravy is meat juices. Stewed tomatoes and seasoning is sauce. “Red sauce”, we called it around the house.
So now you’re wondering, haven’t I heard it called “gravy” elsewhere, before? I have no doubt that you have. I’m sure many “Italian-Americans” use that word instead, for the same reason that Ralph Cifaretto was scripted to say it.
I don’t have to spell it out for you, do I? Try this- put on your most offensive mock-Italian accent, and speak the words “sauce” and “gravy”. What do you notice?
One evokes a cliched negative stereotype, one doesn’t.
The reality of association must be shattered for the integrity of the show. If Sopranos characters were heatedly bickering about the “sawss”, they’d be obvious caricatures and the series would’ve been laughed off of cable. There’s an entire interlude in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas where Ray Liotta’s brother is repeatedly told not to let the sawss stick. The line betwixt affection and mockery has never been thinner than today, so that even real-life figures have to be hagiographed of any “problematic” history, regardless of accuracy.
In essence, the entertainment industry is slowly becoming self-aware, and they know better than to create characters that could be easily ridiculed on a school playground/web forum. That’s the stage we’re at. That’s why Ralph says “noodles” instead of “spaghetti“. It’s like discovering your favorite shows were actually written by aliens trying to pass as screenwriters.
This way, if anyone complains (and they have) that The Sopranos is a smorgasbord of Italian stereotypes, the producers can sleep easily, knowing that they did everything they could to avoid such an accusation. Those who complain are in the wrong, and have a clear prejudice against Italians.
You may have noticed this method in heavy usage currently, particularly by Disney, who will craft the most boring, cardboard-cutout female characters, astroturf them through a by-the-numbers action script, and then refer to anyone who calls them out on their bullshit as “sexist”, “misogynist”, or that old chestnut neologism, “incels”. This goes triple if the female character isn’t white; then Disney has carte blanche to pull out every virtue-signal in their wheelhouse.
This is de rigueur.
In the 2020’s, if you didn’t like the laughably mediocre Marvel caper Black Panther, it’s because you hate black people. Not because it’s dumb, or because the lead actor had to literally keep his fatal colon cancer a secret so that Disney wouldn’t screw him out of his contract. No, it can only be because you’re a racist.
Remember what I taught you about racists? How the easiest way to determine who’s virulently racist, is to look no further than those who cry racism? That’s how racist Disney is. So racist, they think using black people as literal props assuages all guilt. And it doesn’t stop with black people; they use women, gays, lesbians and transsexuals the same way. Checkmarks on an agenda, nothing more. Talking points for puff pieces, to demonstrate how much more progressive the studio is by comparison to all those humps who just “make movies”.
As I see it being called lately online, that’s pretty sus. As in suspicious.
We have reached an era wherein the stupid ones among us are so over-emboldened, so affirmed in their own warped idea of justice, that they feel authorized to tear down anything that makes them feel envy. They have been taught that the fault lies with everyone but them. It’s not their fault that they can’t succeed in their chosen dream field; it’s the fault of everyone successful up to the present. The stupid ones know that movies like Goodfellas and shows like The Sopranos are actually terrible, much worse than anything they could conjure up, and here’s a video where they tell you the reasons why for 4-8 hours.
Right now those people have more ammo than ever.
Now, special-interest groups in filming locations can exert pressure easily on productions, as seen in my review of Many Saints of Newark. They had to shoot in the proper Jersey environs, or risk being labeled phony by the fans. However, a commission exists that most likely told them that in order to film there, a certain percentage of the cast and crew had to be black and/or female, a certain percentage of the running time had to have black people on-screen and speaking, and a certain percentage of the scenes had to be two or more black people interacting with no white persons present. I imagine negotiations went back and forth until the producers just gave in and filmed extra shit elsewhere. I suggest that the strain on the creators, particularly mid-septuagenarian David Chase, was enough to make them just want to get it over with. Bet ya a fin I’m right.
Now, personally, I didn’t find the “diversity and inclusion” to be inappropriate or forced in Many Saints, but that’s moot; the haters have their ammo. If they want to call the writing and script compromised, they can. Think if somehow, cosmically, the movie could have come out before 2008. Do you honestly, seriously think that the scenes with black characters would have been received the same way as in 2021, after a decade-plus dance with forced agendas and politics? Seriously?
Think about how you’re already over-analyzing scenes from The Sopranos, not through the lens of the prequel as you were meant to, but through the filthy eye of the brainwashed internet pedant. Bit by bit you notice things that are now “problematic”, or “borderline offensive”, and suddenly you’re a boring contrarian like everybody else. A mud-slinging groundling bellowing abuse from the cheap seats.
And you expect… what exactly? Acknowledgement as someone who deconstructed a work of fiction until it made them a crazy asshole? What possible entity of production could meet your needs? Just like your “perfect Star Wars movie”, it cannot conceivably exist. It can’t be made. Movies do not form at the speed of thought yet. Either enjoy or reject what you’re given, or admit to yourself that you occasionally want to LARP as an insult comic, just without any repercussions whatsoever.
For example, let’s say for the sake of argument that you wanted to write a joke about AAVE, or “how black people tend to speak”. The safe way to play it would be to do what Futurama did, and water it down to “New Yawk” vernacular, which was not only appropriate for the setting but more or less accurate. Thus, both “ask=ax” and the tendency to unnecessarily pluralize words could both be goofed upon, without fear of reprisal.
Now; about that unnecessary pluralization thing. The joke works in Futurama with Sal because it’s a funny idea that a grouchy New Yorker would, in a millennium’s time, use a dialect wherein almost every word has an “s” at the end. It works on a lot of levels, as they say; it’s the common “youse”, taken to a riotous extreme.
However; even if, as I’ve postulated, AAVE was the original inspiration, there are two words that you will most likely never hear pluralized by any black person, either on a screen or in reality. If you do hear them, you’re watching something from over 80 years ago, or a Quentin Tarantino movie.
Those words are think and see.
I’m going to suggest you don’t sound those words out aloud with an “I” at the start and an “s” at the end, in a “blaccent”. No matter who overhears you, an incident will arise. Because those two words, in that form, magically become “racist”.
These two words become so racist that most black people won’t even use the “s” when it’s warranted; “she think” is substituted for “she thinks”, “he sees” becomes “he see”. It’s ingrained in a gigantic percentage of the black population, but it’s organically reactive.
Because unless you’re Yosemite Sam, saying “ah thinks” or “ah sees” can make you sound like an established form of racial mockery. You might as well throw in “feets”, as in “feets don’t fail me now”.
See what I did there?
I introduced you to a thought paradigm- one I didn’t even create- that will influence the way you look at movies and TV from this point on. I made an infallible negative association between two ordinary English words and racist old minstrel shows. Even if you disagree with it, you’ll still be affected by it. This is the way the entertainment industry operates now. If they can’t beat the competition, they smear it, through unpleasant associations either invented or magnified beyond all rational proportion.
What if I told you that there is currently a political comic strip on the web, one so brilliantly razor-sharp and savage, that its haters impulsively and baselessly claim it’s the work of a “Nazi”? Almost as if they were… programmed to? (Or at the very least compensated by some bureau?)
Would you believe that the cartoonist who created the excellent, incisive comic strip above so offends certain people, that they spend time forming communities for the specific purpose of vandalizing the strip to make “parodies” in MSPaint that only reveal their absolute lack of anything even resembling humor?
It’s true, and since they’re convinced the creator is a Nazi, they’re (not coincidentally) the easiest people to fuck with, ever. Once someone has descended to the level where they see the “OK” sign as a secret white power symbol, they will fall for literally anything. Like the idea that a movie requires a commission for “diversity and inclusion”. These people have been brainwashed to see race and nothing else. They have to use force and pressure to get what they want, because what they want is unnecessary, and subconsciously they know it.
It’s not “representation”. It’s marketing, and nothing more. Anyone who claims to represent the interests of any race, gender or sexual orientation is a huckster working a grift. Someone put it into their head that they could make a living exploiting how they were born or what they became, and they ran with it. They sell people out for breakfast. And this mindset is busily laying waste to everything from schools, to churches, to families. They never waste an opportunity to tell you how everything you know and love is wrong.
They think they have the right to tell you how to think, and that you should be punished if you think differently.