As Tony Soprano broke a guy’s teeth for talking to his daughter, I grabbed my hot cup of tea. Cinnamon vapor wafted up my nose. So sweet, like a day at the spa!
This is my second viewing of The Sopranos. This time I select episodes by reading a companion guide called Sopranos sessions, which is bulky enough to be a mob weapon. The show is a parade of murderous, misogynistic, fanatic characters who are kind of still, I don’t know, funny. Watching them is the best part of my day.
The Sopranos is also a work of art, a time capsule of a declining civilization and a prototype anti-hero television. But that’s not about why the show is good. With The Many Saints of Newark the prequel movie comes out today, there are hundreds, no, thousands, no, millions of takes on the legacy of the series.
I just wonder what’s wrong with me. I make a living trying to find humor and the joy of living. I spend a lot of time writing jokes. Overall I am pleasant!
Then, before going to bed, I let off steam with: beheadings on Game Of Thrones; manufacture of methamphetamine on breaking Bad; street murders on Thread; demonic babies on american horror story; and functional alcoholism on Easttown mare.
Once a week on Macabre Monday my husband and I watch a horror movie. This week we watched Holy maud, a movie about a devout woman who is getting more and more extreme. I’m not going to spoil the ending, but it’s great. And absolutely horrible.
“Ready for bed?” I said during the credits.
“After that?” he said and lit Office.
Yes, millions people are still watching Office during the eternal pandemic. Viewers also watched 30.5 billion minutes of Ozark, a show about a money launderer father, and 19 billion minutes of Lucifer, a show on, uh, the Devil.
I called Dawn Cecil to diagnose my problems. The University of South Florida professor studies media representations of crime and justice and teaches a course on criminal media and pop culture. His book Fear, justice and true modern crime examines the rapid growth of real crime Television and podcasts.
“What I do ruins what I sometimes watch,” she said.
Cecil looked The Sopranos when he came out, without any academic strings attached, marveling at how he distorted TV expectations. She later entered the Serial podcast and began to break down the human attraction to serious stories.
I postulated that they tap into our cultural anxieties and give us the tools to deal with them. They offer conflicts, which we have in spades, and resolutions, which we sorely miss.
There isn’t a single reason people flock to the darkness, said Cecil. Complex scenarios can stimulate our brains. They can be therapeutic for people who have experienced trauma. They can be purely escaped.
“Like, my life isn’t that bad after all,” she said. “People have so much worse.”
And maybe, Cecil has learned, we don’t have to work so hard to defend him. It might be okay to love what you love.
So if you’re with me, clear your calendar for these cult new docuseries. Listen to podcasts about medical malpractice on the treadmill. Politely thank friends who recommend a sitcom, then ignore them. Keep doing what moves you, like Tony Soprano watching the ducks in his pool.
Receive Stéphanie’s newsletter
For weekly bonus content and a preview of Stephanie Hayes columns, sign up for the free Stephinitely newsletter.