Point: The Sopranos, a family affair

Weir thinking about it

The HBO series, The Sopranos has captured huge ratings on television by appealing to a segment of society that cannot get enough sex and violence from "traditional" TV fare. Since network television has not yet been able to add vulgar four letter words to their scripts, or show the graphic effects of a 9 mm slug hitting a human head, they seem to be at a distinct disadvantage. When Tony Soprano sits at the bar in the Bada Bing Club with nude dancers undulating all around him, and spews venomous expletives at his crew while he orders a "hit," you can almost hear the network executives crying foul.

CBS: "Why should we be deprived of our share of that market? Keeping us out of it is like a restraint of trade."

ABC: "It's time for America to grow up. What's wrong with sex and violence? It's a part of our culture. Are we going to raise a generation of uncultured children?"

NBC: "It seems to me that we're being discriminated against. If HBO can do it, why can't we?"

Actually, that's a valid question. Since HBO does not filter out child viewing from their broadcasts, what's to stop millions of kids from having the same access to the Soprano's that they have to Frasier or NYPD Blue? Perhaps we could argue that HBO is a pay channel and therefore one has to request it and come up with a monthly fee. But doesn't that just make it seem more attractive? In a capitalist society, you get what you pay for. Filet mignon always costs more than chuck steak. Therefore, aren't we, by implication, telling people that explicit sex and violence is a more valuable area of entertainment than the mere insinuation of it?

Perhaps if we put The Sopranos on "free" TV, and charged a premium to view wholesome programming, (assuming that there is any left) we'd be doing a service to the country. We could even allow subscribers a tax write—off on the monthly fee. By doing so, we could elevate the level of family entertainment in the eyes of the purchasing public, while simultaneously arousing the spirit of good will and patriotism.

When people become conditioned to the idea that viewing explicit sex and violence is free, however, decent, morally grounded sitcoms and dramas can only be viewed for a price, it could pave the way to a new cultural paradigm in America. Programs like The Sopranos could be relegated to the trash bin of low class, easy access, worthless entertainment.

But frankly, the problem with The Sopranos goes beyond the words and the pictures. Let's face it, most people can find titillation for a price. To me, the most dangerous part of the series is the attempt to make the characters appear normal, or traditional. They appear as loving parents and siblings who have a genuine compassion for their neighbors and friends. The fact that they exist by robbing, assaulting, and murdering their fellow man is often viewed as a subtext to their otherwise benevolent nature. The message that's being transmitted is, some people need a good beating, while others need killing. Of course, the reasoning used is that these people deserve violence because they resisted the mob's demands. Therefore, if you own a business and refuse to pay "insurance" to the mob, you deserve to have your legs broken. If you complain to the police, you deserve to be whacked.

In the mobster mindset, brutality is the greatest weapon against intransigence, and all methods are justifiable if they achieve the goal. When someone borrows money from a loan shark, it's taken for granted that they will be severely beaten or killed if the loan is not repaid, along with the usurious interest. Not exactly like the deal you make with your local banker.

However, the racketeer would say that they only lend money to people who haven't the collateral to get a bank loan. Wise guys don't ask for collateral. They inform you up front that your pulse is your collateral. If you want to continue to have one, you'll pay your debt. Where you get it, how you get it, or from whom you get it, is your problem. From their perspective, you either pay or you die. You see, according to this philosophy, people only get what they deserve.

Then, we view these characters at home, being tender and loving with their families. The idea being implanted in young minds is that you can be a decent family man or woman and still be a murderous thug. Furthermore, you can be the spouse or children of a murderous thug and deal with it as long as it keeps you in the lifestyle you enjoy. There are a lot of susceptible minds in that vast wasteland of cable connections. Lord only knows how many of them are being seduced by this corrupted view of life. To me, that's the real danger of The Sopranos.

Bob Weir is a columnist for The American Thinker. The author of 7 books, he is a retired NYPD sergeant, living in Flower Mound, Texas. BobWeir777@aol.com

Weir thinking about it

The HBO series, The Sopranos has captured huge ratings on television by appealing to a segment of society that cannot get enough sex and violence from "traditional" TV fare. Since network television has not yet been able to add vulgar four letter words to their scripts, or show the graphic effects of a 9 mm slug hitting a human head, they seem to be at a distinct disadvantage. When Tony Soprano sits at the bar in the Bada Bing Club with nude dancers undulating all around him, and spews venomous expletives at his crew while he orders a "hit," you can almost hear the network executives crying foul.

CBS: "Why should we be deprived of our share of that market? Keeping us out of it is like a restraint of trade."

ABC: "It's time for America to grow up. What's wrong with sex and violence? It's a part of our culture. Are we going to raise a generation of uncultured children?"

NBC: "It seems to me that we're being discriminated against. If HBO can do it, why can't we?"

Actually, that's a valid question. Since HBO does not filter out child viewing from their broadcasts, what's to stop millions of kids from having the same access to the Soprano's that they have to Frasier or NYPD Blue? Perhaps we could argue that HBO is a pay channel and therefore one has to request it and come up with a monthly fee. But doesn't that just make it seem more attractive? In a capitalist society, you get what you pay for. Filet mignon always costs more than chuck steak. Therefore, aren't we, by implication, telling people that explicit sex and violence is a more valuable area of entertainment than the mere insinuation of it?

Perhaps if we put The Sopranos on "free" TV, and charged a premium to view wholesome programming, (assuming that there is any left) we'd be doing a service to the country. We could even allow subscribers a tax write—off on the monthly fee. By doing so, we could elevate the level of family entertainment in the eyes of the purchasing public, while simultaneously arousing the spirit of good will and patriotism.

When people become conditioned to the idea that viewing explicit sex and violence is free, however, decent, morally grounded sitcoms and dramas can only be viewed for a price, it could pave the way to a new cultural paradigm in America. Programs like The Sopranos could be relegated to the trash bin of low class, easy access, worthless entertainment.

But frankly, the problem with The Sopranos goes beyond the words and the pictures. Let's face it, most people can find titillation for a price. To me, the most dangerous part of the series is the attempt to make the characters appear normal, or traditional. They appear as loving parents and siblings who have a genuine compassion for their neighbors and friends. The fact that they exist by robbing, assaulting, and murdering their fellow man is often viewed as a subtext to their otherwise benevolent nature. The message that's being transmitted is, some people need a good beating, while others need killing. Of course, the reasoning used is that these people deserve violence because they resisted the mob's demands. Therefore, if you own a business and refuse to pay "insurance" to the mob, you deserve to have your legs broken. If you complain to the police, you deserve to be whacked.

In the mobster mindset, brutality is the greatest weapon against intransigence, and all methods are justifiable if they achieve the goal. When someone borrows money from a loan shark, it's taken for granted that they will be severely beaten or killed if the loan is not repaid, along with the usurious interest. Not exactly like the deal you make with your local banker.

However, the racketeer would say that they only lend money to people who haven't the collateral to get a bank loan. Wise guys don't ask for collateral. They inform you up front that your pulse is your collateral. If you want to continue to have one, you'll pay your debt. Where you get it, how you get it, or from whom you get it, is your problem. From their perspective, you either pay or you die. You see, according to this philosophy, people only get what they deserve.

Then, we view these characters at home, being tender and loving with their families. The idea being implanted in young minds is that you can be a decent family man or woman and still be a murderous thug. Furthermore, you can be the spouse or children of a murderous thug and deal with it as long as it keeps you in the lifestyle you enjoy. There are a lot of susceptible minds in that vast wasteland of cable connections. Lord only knows how many of them are being seduced by this corrupted view of life. To me, that's the real danger of The Sopranos.

Bob Weir is a columnist for The American Thinker. The author of 7 books, he is a retired NYPD sergeant, living in Flower Mound, Texas. BobWeir777@aol.com