Subliminal Oedipal Factors in Tony?s Sexual Conduct

#1
I can?t believe the overwhelmingly negative reviews this episode is getting. I LOVED it.

It had a lot of what I value most about the Sopranos: interior, psychological drama that weaves the past and present together in extremely subtle, credible ways. Like all other episodes of this nature, it is packed with half-hidden insights and epic sweep, so it takes more than one viewing to begin to get a handle on all of it. I watched several scenes four times before coming here to even post.

One thing stands out to me thematically when viewing this episode in context with the whole series. The deficits in Tony?s relationship with his mother continue to manifest in his self-contradictions where women are concerned. One such contradiction is his pronounced Madonna/whore world view, complete with the exalted ideal of ?mother? on one hand and the masses of ?c*nts? on the other who are to be bought, screwed, and discarded at whim. He is simultaneously driven to both seek and reject intimacy with women. He uses sex partly for superficial ?closeness?, yet he has more real intimacy with the average lamp post than he does with his average goomar or piece of a$$.

In fact, you could say he has a very difficult time properly negotiating the boundaries and/or commonalties between sex and any feelings of genuine warmth for a female. The Ade thing, sparked by a sudden and unexpected rapport between the two, proved that. And the quasi-Oedipal insinuation by Melfi, who often speaks directly for Chase and in fact recited lines verbatim from one of his own most pivotal therapy sessions, pretty much confirms that Tony WAS subliminally, sexually attracted to Fran (his comments about her legs, salivating over her youthful pictures, defensive lies to Melfi about what she was wearing and how her hair was fixed at the cemetery, his sudden inspiration during sex with Valentina when she yelled for him to show his ?love? and he looked at a picture of a dog that I think was supposed to symbolize Fran.) That Tony unconsciously wanted to bang a much older woman that he initially related to as a sort of mother figure is significant, I think, in trying to sort out the messed-up, often contradictory motives in his compulsive sexual conduct. That Melfi was so direct on this point, far more direct and unyielding than ever before, also seems significant.

As does the related and emerging issue of the sexual relationship between Tony and Carmela. I once debated at length on the old board that I thought they had a relatively normal, if modest, offscreen sex life despite having only been depicted in sex onscreen a few times. But in his Whitecaps commentary, Chase criticizes his own writing, saying Tony and Carm?s arguments didn?t dig deep enough, particularly because they never touched on their sexual relationship. Of course this fairly means that there WERE sexual problems between them, and not just the ones I thought were aberrant and temporary (Pax Soprano). Hearing Carm?s giddy ?he took his time? and effusive confessions of dormant ?passion? being suddenly reawakened by Wegler last week, I sense there is a more thorough treatment of the deficiencies in Carm and Tony?s sex life coming on the horizon.

I further sense that those deficiencies could owe to Oedipal overtones that likely seeped into Tony?s unconscious as his emotional intimacy with Carmela grew and as she became a mother. Interestingly, Tony?s description of Carm to Fran was that she was a ?good woman, a good mother?. No mention of appearance, even though Tony has always seemed to find Carm physically attracive. In contrast, his description of his goomar centered on purely physical characteristics. So the dichotomy is one of substance versus sex, and I am convinced that Tony was attracted to Carm originally in large part because he sensed she would be a good mother. The catch 22 for Carm was that the more she filled the maternal void in his life, the less sexual she would become to him.

In Pax Soprano, Carm accuses Tony of ?skeeving? her and only seeing her as someone to procreate with. In two other episodes (Man Walks Into a Psychiatrist?s Office and Boca), she complains about the lack of frequency or adventure in their sex life. In In Camelot, Tony starts his first session with Melfi observing that his dad went to Fran and all his other women to ?get what he wasn?t getting at home?. Subtextually and unconsciously, however, I think that remark was also Tony defending his own philandering, explaining that he was getting from HIS goomars what he wasn?t getting at home, which was sex he could enjoy and divorce from Oedipal overtones.

We know, in fact, that Tony?s motives and values in the goomar vs. wife thing are the exact opposite of his father?s. Tony keeps them strictly for sex and trophy value (Gloria being a mild exception) while Johnny actually LIVED with Fran part of the time and clearly was as emotionally unfaithful to Livia as he was sexually unfaithful. That, in fact, is what really damaged Johnny most in Tony?s eyes.

I also thought the episode was great because of that very fact. This is the first episode ever where Tony manages to demythologize his father, see him a little more honestly for the raunchy role model he was. Neither Down Neck nor Fortunate Son, neither beatings nor chopped pinkies, managed to do that.

Outwardly, Tony covers it all up, of course, casting all blame again on Livia for the dog even though his father obviously was far more responsible for that debacle than his mother was (and for the benefit of another boy, a sort of alternate son, no less). And Tony concocts a bunch of bloated lies about Fran to further mythologize his father to the crew. Those guys may believe the myths, but Tony doesn?t. He knows what the world eventually came to know about Camelot . . . that it was all bull$hit. The question is whether knowing that will result in Tony examining himself more honestly and acting to change what he sees.

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I agree

#2
I agree completely. This episode wasn't the best of the season, but it was still incredible. The emotional level near the end when Tony was talking to Dr. Melfi about his parents, and the flashback (I agree with other posters about the odd casting job for TOny at 16) was off the charts. Those people who want the show to feature at least 2 whackings a week, turn the channel people, the show never has been like that and never will be like that

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#5
I agree with you Melfi on all points, except for two...

1) You said:
"defensive lies to Melfi about what she was wearing and how her hair was fixed at the cemetery" in reference to Fran. I think Tony made those comments about his mother, not Fran. Rewatch the scene again, and I think you'll get the same impression.

2) I don't think that Tony uses women just for sex. I think he seeks emotional fulfillment as well. Look at his reaction upon learning that Zelman was sleeping with the Russian lady (why can't I remember her name?). Look at how deeply Tony felt for the one-legged Russian. Look at how hurt he was when he found out that Gloria died. Of course, the grandest example is Melfi, who attracts Tony almost purely mentally/emotionally...

I think, in a lot of ways, Tony is as out of love with Carm as she is with him. While the reasons for her behavior can be debated, one can't deny that she's often a "stick in the mud" who worries far too much about money, and not enough about fun and passion - at least in reference to Tony. Remember her reaction when Tony bought her the mink coat? She was instantly turned on. I think Tony senses that.

Unfortunately, we never had a chance to see how Tony and Carm were before T became so immersed in the mob life. Maybe there were great, fun times. Maybe there was senseless passion. But, from what we've seen, Tony seems as disinterested in Carm as she is in him.

I think Tony's lamenting over their breakup is more an issue of a) Tony feeling that he "failed" at something, and b) Tony again losing his sense of family. I don't know how much Carm, as a person, plays into it. It's what he she represents that Tony really misses.

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#6
Lust is a very powerfull thing! I have observed, as probably you all have, that the first couple weeks up to the first year you are not settled in reality but your head is in the clouds and once a relationship has come to the point were the next step is concerned it sometimes falls apart.

This leads to many people seeking a new person to lust over till the next person comes along.

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Fly Comments

#8
Wow!! What a post. I couldn't agree more!!! It always makes me happy to share The Soprano Experience with people who love the show for the complete experience David Chase itends it to be.

It's been said that great art sometimes becomes popular for the wrong reasons, and The Sopranos is a prime example.

This episode will play out to be one of the pivitol ones in the season if not the series.

By the way. I loved David Chase's not so settle stab at the Emmy Awards!!! ($15.00).

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Re: chicoxl . . .

#9
<blockquote>Quote:<hr>I think Tony made those comments about his mother, not Fran. Rewatch the scene again, and I think you'll get the same impression.<hr></blockquote>

chicoxl, I took your advice and rewatched that passage (actually about 4 times). I still think he is talking about Fran.

Melfi asks (in a prescient kind of way) whether he's attracted to Fran, and he replies with "She's old enough to be my mother", much less a denial than a sideways, accidental admission of the Oedipal overtones. So Melfi shrugs at the implications, leaving Tony to get all defensive and to deny what he just almost admitted. "It's an expression! Don't cream yourself!" (BTW that is a major laugh-out-loud kind of line to me.<img src=http://www.ezboard.com/images/emoticons/happy.gif ALT=":D"> ) Then he emphatically denies for about the 4th time in his therapy, "I do not want to f--- my mother!"

He immediately continues. "You should have seen her in her house coat and hair net. This conversation would be over in two seconds."

It's not linguistically clear whether the "her" referred to Livia or Fran. But I don't think Tony would try to "prove" not wanting to screw his mother by talking about her appearance. For Tony, the simple fact is that it's incestuous and grotesque and even if his mother looked like Vivien Leigh, he wouldn't want to bang her. To argue it has anything to do with appearance is to give credence to the notion that he is not really repulsed by the idea or possibility of doing his own mom.

What makes more sense to me is that he would lie about something Melfi has no first hand information about (Fran's dress and appearance) in order to vindicate his point. This is Tony's m.o. in therapy: lie about whatever is inconvenient or damaging to his image. By demeaning Fran's appearance, which stands in stark contrast to the way he talked about her just a couple of scenes before with Junior and the way he talked about her later in the ep, Tony was trying to objectify or substantiate his denial of attraction, only in the process he unwittingly attributed to Fran the very things (particularly the very Livia-esque housecoat) that proved he had a maternal identification with Fran in the first place.

<blockquote>Quote:<hr>I don't think that Tony uses women just for sex. I think he seeks emotional fulfillment as well.<hr></blockquote>

I think we agree that he craves emotional fulfillment because of deficits with "the" woman in his early life. Where we may disagree is in my belief that his craving is manifested in totally self-contradictory and antagonistic behaviors today. That antagonism and contradiction is an outgrowth of the love/hate contradiction he has for Livia herself. And because sex is the means by which grown women and men are overhwelmingly socialized to inter-relate, it becomes a vehicle for a lot of displaced motives. This was the whole point I was trying to make in my main post.

I remain convinced that 99% of his extramarital sex has been absolutely with no or little emotional component. This is clearly why we saw his "wham bam" attitude with Valentina in Two Tonys, getting ready to leave right after sex, cutting off any effort at conversation ("too bad you didn't get all your talking done with [your therpist]"). And it was a replay of every sexual encounter he's had in the previous 4 seasons, except for those with Gloria and Svetlana. Gloria, not coincidentally, is the character that was shaped to most closely resemble Livia, so it was natural that the dynamics of that relationship would be different and substantially more emotional. Svetlana was equally exceptional because she was the "anti Livia", the anti Gloria, the real "strong, silent type" that Tony admires and longs to be, the kind who loses a leg and instead of wallowing in "poor me" and self pity designs websites.

Agree totally about Tony and Melfi, which is one reason their relationship is so fascinating. Although I'm sure he has always enjoyed her short skirts as well as her mind.<img src=http://www.ezboard.com/images/emoticons/happy.gif ALT=":D">

I totally disagree that he is "out of love" with Carmela. She's just the biggest casualty in his lifelong struggle with "mother issues", to use Melfi's ex hubby's expression. His feelings for her are terribly complex. But him roaming that house and yard and following her into the kitchen to fondle counters and fumble with words and using pizzas and AJ and swimming and money drop offs as excuses to be around her seem to clearly indicate to me his continuing emotional dependency on her. Twice in the last two eps we caught him giving her looks without her even being aware that subtly testify to the fact that he still loves her.

From previews, it looks like next week is going to illuminate this more too.

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Re: Subliminal Oedipal Factors in Tony?s Sexual Conduct

#10
<blockquote>Quote:<hr>I can?t believe the overwhelmingly negative reviews this episode is getting. I LOVED it.<hr></blockquote><blockquote>Quote:<hr>It had a lot of what I value most about the Sopranos: interior, psychological drama that weaves the past and present together in extremely subtle, credible ways. Like all other episodes of this nature, it is packed with half-hidden insights and epic sweep, so it takes more than one viewing to begin to get a handle on all of it. I watched several scenes four times before coming here to even post.<hr></blockquote>

THANK you, Melfi. I agree COMPLETELY. Just as I had to explain to a rather gung-ho friend of mine who was missing the strictly business, gun-toting gangster aspect of the show, The Sopranos has never, NEVER been only (or even primarily) a mob drama--God knows that's been done enough times before!!!--but also a psychological one. The show has ALWAYS been at least as much about what is going through Tony head--and his heart--as about any other aspect of his life. Why do people constantly forget that? Sometimes--much to my own chagrin and even irritation--it seems like most of the show's fans don't even realize what the show is really all about. Damn!

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