By: Teah Henry
I recently finished my first watch through of ‘The Sopranos’, and I wasn’t the only one who was binging the show. According to HBO, the show’s viewership went up 179% at the start of the pandemic. ‘The Sopranos’ still manages to be relevant today with its commentary on mental health, social issues, and American capitalism despite its finale airing in 2007.
The show cemented itself as a staple in television history with its realistic, complex characters and being one of the first shows that proved T.V. could be just as effective as film.
It was also one of the first to utilize the anti-hero; a protagonist that the viewer isn’t meant to agree with or even like. ‘The Sopranos’ paved the way for other shows like ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘Rescue Me’.
It’s not far fetched to say that most mafia stories are critiques of capitalism. They take place in a system that encourages cheating and competitiveness, and the members are often not happy with the way things are. The way that only a few in the mafia make a large profit while sending out lower ranking members to do the dangerous work is reminiscent of the small amount of people that hold the majority of wealth while most Americans are stuck working for a living. Christopher’s frustrations with Tony are the same as workers towards their own bosses; feeling used and not cared about.
During the pandemic, the rich got insanely richer while the working class struggled to make ends meet. Congress couldn’t agree to send out another stimulus check a year after the first one, while other countries were consistently sending them out monthly. A lot of people became aware of America’s unfair distribution of wealth, and ‘The Sopranos’ bleak look at how capitalism only keeps its citizens unhappy helped people feel heard.
Tony’s struggle with his mental health was also something viewers could relate to. Struggling with depression and panic attacks, Tony has to hide his problems to nearly everyone in his life due to social stigma. Tony’s inability to feel completely happy and satisfied is something a lot of people deal with, especially now as living conditions in America become worse.
Teens may also see themselves in the character AJ, Tony’s son, who is a teen throughout most of the show. He inherited his father’s mental health issues. His struggle with school and finding a purpose in his life is familiar to many.
While almost all of the characters in ‘The Sopranos’ are irredeemable, there is something relatable about their feelings and struggles, and the commentary it makes will always ring true with American culture.