Tony Soprano, psychoanalysis and the Jews

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Just heard the news about James Gandolfini.

From my Forward days: a Jewish take on Tony Soprano and psychoanalysis:

If leaders are measured by how they treat their Jews, then Tony Soprano qualifies as a world-class statesman.

Of course, “The Sopranos” features its share of corrupt Jews — ultra-Orthodox and secular — as well as several marginally antisemitic wiseguys. Yet Tony has evinced a decidedly philosemitic streak — one that might, in fact, explain how this Jersey mob boss ended up on a psychiatrist’s couch.

The tradition — in life and in fiction — of Jewish ties to the Mafia is a rich, albeit rocky, one. Tony’s cinematic predecessor, the original Godfather, Vito Corleone, famously respected Hyman Roth, did business with Hyman Roth, but he never trusted Hyman Roth. Tony, on the other hand, not only trusts but loves Herman “Hesh” Rabkin, a mob-connected retired record producer who was close to Tony’s late father. Judging from his unwillingness to take Hesh’s money, Tony has more respect for his father’s old friend than he does for the Italian-blooded members of the family.

And the feeling extends beyond Hesh. Tony is livid when his daughter starts dating one of her fellow students at Columbia University, a half-Jewish half-black California kid. While Tony has plenty to say about his daughter seeing a black man, he expresses no discomfort about the Jewish half of the equation. Tony generally seems comfortable with, even proud of, his daughter’s ascent into Columbia’s heavily Jewish Ivy-League milieu, in sharp contrast to his tendency to view white-collar Italians as sellouts, not role models for assimilation. He disdains them, even as he grows increasingly dissatisfied with life as the top dog at the Bada Bing strip joint.

The key to understanding the presentation of Jews and Judaism on “The Sopranos,” however, is to recognize that the most important Jewish character on the show is not a person but a process: psychoanalysis.

Click here for the full article.

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