Re: More comments from Chase

#11
CamMan wrote:I think all of the above comments, although articulate as they are, assume way too much about David Chase's personal beliefs. You can't just assume Chase doesn't believe in spiritual awakening or moral transformation.


I am often guilty of speculation. It was my past time, afterall, between seasons.:icon_biggrin:

But especially when I venture speculation about real people, I try to make reasonable inferences from actual evidence and fact, which doesn't mean the inferences are necessarily correct but does hopefully grant them a likelihood greater than mere assumption.

If you've read/heard all his interviews, and if you factor that in to what we learn about Tony's beliefs on the show (and the two are undoubtedly very related), the picture that emerges is that, while he apparently yearns to or would like to believe, he doesn't, in the end, believe in God, certainly not in the sense of an omnipotent force for love or good. I'm too lazy to annotate everything of weight here, but let me throw out a couple of quotes, first from bada's transcription of his interview from the revised edition of the Sopranos book:

Do you believe life has an arc? Or is it just a bunch of stuff that happens?

Is there a purpose you mean? Everything I have to say about this is in the show. Go look at Albert Camus’s Myth of Sisyphus. It’s all there: Life seems to have no purpose but we have to go on behaving as though it does. We have to go on behaving toward each other like people who would love.
Note: Bada and others engaged in a spirited discussion about the Myth of Sisyphus in the above thread and elsewhere, as I recall, but here is a Wiki distillation in case you (like yours truly) had no idea before Chase's quote what the Myth of Sisyphus was actually about):

In the essay, Camus introduces his philosophy of the absurd: man's futile search for meaning, unity and clarity in the face of an unintelligible world devoid of God and eternal truths or values.
And from a 2004 interview in the New York Times:


HEFFERNAN: Tony Soprano seems like he needs confession and absolution as much as therapy. Does Tony believe in God?

CHASE: That's complicated. A person could only answer that by asking whether they themselves believe in God. Do I want to get into all that?

HEFFERNAN: Are questions about Tony questions about you, then?

CHASE: No. No, they're not. But for some reason when you said that I found that hard to separate from myself. I guess he was indoctrinated with it as a young boy, and some of it's still there. But his rational self, his 21st-century self, has to ask himself, "Do I believe in miracles and God?" It's hard to say yes.
He's conflicted but not convicted, as I see it.
Just look at the respectful way he presented the Pastor Bob character in 6b, at least until he started with the dinosaur stuff.
That pastor was precisely the kind of advocate/authority for Christian faith that turns off so many, and I think that was the entire reason he was put in that show. He was presented as a superficially earnest and well-meaning person but utterly devoid of intellectual credibility of the kind needed to sway guys like Tony -- and especially cerebral guys like Chase.

The actual text of the story tells us that Tony Soprano himself was not capable of that type of change. He always reverted to his sociopathic murderous and destructive tendencies. That doesn't mean that Chase doesn't believe in those concepts himself, just that they couldn't or woudn't work for Tony. Chase was just staying true to his characters.
I agree with that reasoning, although I still think Chase doesn't believe in change via a divine/religious intervention or experience for reasons already articulated. In other words, it's important to distinquish here between the kind of change experienced by Saul on the road to Damascus and the kind that Hunter Scangerelo apparently experienced after accumulating some DUIs and flunking out of school initially. To me, it's no coincidence that Chase brought his daughter back for that one scene in the last episode. He seemed to want to make the point that people like Tony and Carmela (and Chris and Vito and Tony B and Janice and Artie and everbody else in the Sopranos world who ever yearned to break out of their well-worn rut of "comfortable" misery) weren't candidates for change because they were never really willing to suffer and sacrifice for it. He seemed to be saying, in his own flesh, no less, that he had to work his ass off to overcome his psychic handicaps in some measure, and that kind of progress is not accessible to a guy who still won't give up his life of power and money even after that lifestyle cost him numerous arrests, numerous dead colleagues, two assassination attempts, and one near-death coma.

The difference is that I'm not talking about change that emanates entirely from internal drive or that relies upon self for invention and actuation. I'm talking about a transformational experience of a miraculous or divine nature from a force external to the individual that, as a matter of grace, accomplishes the heavy lifting for the person. And as antecedent in this process, the individual admits his own fundamental imperfection, impotence, and need for intervention. It's really just the AA protocol or the notion of Christian salvation all over again. But it's the kind of "miracle" that Chase seems unable to believe in.
The problem may be the audiences "projections" of what Tony should be or how he should end up by the end of the story. If you were watching this 86 hour epic in hopes of finally seeing Tony's moral or spiritual redemption then you were in for a devastating and frusturating end to the saga.
For me the problem was that the Tony of the first 3 seasons was not portrayed as a sociopath. He possessed the very things -- conscience (though selective, muted, and often evidencing in odd ways), a capacity for remorse, and a capacity for loving attachments -- that excluded him from the set of people called "sociopaths" as the term is defined in psychiatric circles. He was antisocial, i.e., criminal and content to operate by a set of laws not embraced by mainstream society, but not devoid of conscience and the capacity to love and empathize with others. See the Glen Gabbard book for more details.

Then there was what I still believe to be exquisitely crafted symbolism and subtext in seasons 5 and 6a suggesting a deep, genuine, but repressed yearning on Tony's part to reform his life and be something other than a gangster, a yearning that could be forged into reality under the right stress. I'm not the one who wrote Calling All Cars and Two Tonys and Test Dream and Join the Club and Mayham. Chase did, and so he surely bears some responsibility for fostering the audience hopes and expectations of which you speak.

After numerous fits and starts and insights followed by slipbacks, after his own failures in therapy and the failures of others in sobriety and straight life and anger management, why shouldn't we have expected that, at some point, just to reward us for sitting through all the repetition, Tony would finally experience real personal growth and character shift? I suppose until Chase made the Sisyphus comment, I couldn't understand any argument that meaningful character growth HADN'T been signaled for quite some time before the series end.

Interestingly enough, this may explain why many viewers just cant see the blackout as suggesting Tony's literal death despite the logic of it because if you accept it, then it truly is the end for Tony Soprano. If you don't accept it, then the story of Tony Soprano, and by extension, his chance for moral or spiritual redemption or change lives on.
I can't speak for others, but, in my case, one has nothing to do with the other. In fact, the question of his survival was never something I really cared about, before or after the last episode. You won't find me in any of the impassioned threads arguing one way or the other on his death.

I happen to think Chase meant to suggest his death but to leave its precise parameters of time, manner, and place vague and unresolved, and I think the black was only to convey that -- when he did die, whenever and however -- his experience would stand in stark contrast to the "fade to white" death in the presence of deceased family that he experienced when he flatlined in the hospital. In other words, having once eschewed the chance at a white death with "family", a death of something, he would reap a black death, a death of nothing, and would thus realize his worst nightmare, the one he narrated to Melfi in the first episode: he would, for all eternity, "lose his family." It was even suggested in the last episode as he raked leaves, looked up yearningly, and heard the distant cry of ducks in flight.

Again, though, whether he died in the diner or not was largely irrelevant to me since Chase finally made clear by Kennedy and Heidi that the only character change Tony would experience was the total obliteration of his once-evident seeds of conscience. His survival beyond the diner would only be important if Chase ever decided to do a movie or some extension of the series. And even then, I won't go into it expecting Tony to change.:icon_wink:
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: More comments from Chase

#12
Great post FOMW!

Isnt it also interesting how the last two seasons we are tantalized by Agent Harris who apparently has some amount of affection towards Tony and it almost makes you think they're trying to make him turn. Especially the scene in MIA where they meet by the airport. The first time I watched the last two seasons I kept wondering which episode would Tony get at least the offer to get out of the Mafia from Harris. Another of those "redemptions" missed........
[font="Franklin Gothic Medium"]You know, Vito called me “skip” the other day. Slip of the tongue, no doubt. But I noticed he didn’t correct himself.[/font][SIZE="1"][/SIZE]

Re: More comments from Chase

#13
badabellisima wrote:Thanks Garth. And i agree- i also never understood the venomous reaction some people had about the ending. :icon_neutral:


Of course, I respect people's opinions. It was just a bit too much hate heaped on Chase for that decision. It was never a conventional show; it made me wonder if I was watching the same series as the other people. We were, of course, but we were watching and seeing completely different things and coming back for completely different reasons.

Re: More comments from Chase

#14
I never understood the hate either! Except it seemed to represent some subconciousness of people wanting to see the show end in a form of the brutal violence so many fans of the show loved. I think they hated Chase because they really wanted to see Tony whacked that badly. And they interpeted the blackout as a middle finger when I saw it as an artistic peace sign. As in, havent you had enough of the violence, do you really need an ending with a huge bloodbath Scarface style?? Its already been done, a number of times, so many times it is cliche'. And kudos to the Chase Machine for not falling into that cozy cliche and instead making us stop and think. Imagine a TV show that makes you think???? How ridiculous! I like Matt Weiner take, how it was like smashing a guitar at the end of a song. That says it all folks! A smashed guitar is......... dead....
[font="Franklin Gothic Medium"]You know, Vito called me “skip” the other day. Slip of the tongue, no doubt. But I noticed he didn’t correct himself.[/font][SIZE="1"][/SIZE]

Re: More comments from Chase

#15
Fly- you said:

For me the problem was that the Tony of the first 3 seasons was not portrayed as a sociopath. He possessed the very things -- conscience (though selective, muted, and often evidencing in odd ways), a capacity for remorse, and a capacity for loving attachments -- that excluded him from the set of people called "sociopaths" as the term is defined in psychiatric circles. He was antisocial, i.e., criminal and content to operate by a set of laws not embraced by mainstream society, but not devoid of conscience and the capacity to love and empathize with others. See the Glen Gabbard book for more details.

Then there was what I still believe to be exquisitely crafted symbolism and subtext in seasons 5 and 6a suggesting a deep, genuine, but repressed yearning on Tony's part to reform his life and be something other than a gangster, a yearning that could be forged into reality under the right stress. I'm not the one who wrote Calling All Cars and Two Tonys and Test Dream and Join the Club and Mayham. Chase did, and so he surely bears some responsibility for fostering the audience hopes and expectations of which you speak.

After numerous fits and starts and insights followed by slipbacks, after his own failures in therapy and the failures of others in sobriety and straight life and anger management, why shouldn't we have expected that, at some point, just to reward us for sitting through all the repetition, Tony would finally experience real personal growth and character shift? I suppose until Chase made the Sisyphus comment, I couldn't understand any argument that meaningful character growth HADN'T been signaled for quite some time before the series end.


From what i read about sociopathy-(i guess there is quite a bit of disagreement about assessing it or defining the symptoms)- i think it is fair to say that maybe Chase somehow portrayed Tony a certain way those first three seasons, then as the character evolved, maybe Chase did not evolve at the same pace- Tony outgrew Chase- the created surpassed the creator. Maybe that pissed off Chase. He could not control his Frankenstein.

In real true sociopathy, a grown adult would not develop it midlife the way Tony seems to have become that 'mid-season'. You are correct Fly- Tony exhibited a conscience, capacity for remorse and a capacity for loving attachments early on in the show, so perhaps Chase made some errors of inconsistency in his portrayal of Tony later. Tony's later behavior is not what you would expect from how he was portrayed the first seasons.

Here's an interesting stretch, (and to sound absolutely 'California'!):

If Chase was sort of working out his 'issues' thru his character in Tony- and it started to evolve that Tony, (while gaining a life of his own as creations often do)- was actually heading towards a breakthrough, redemption or an internal epiphany, and further, that Chase himself could not keep up in his own progress- perhaps that would be a reason for Chase to put the brakes on Tony's advancement, turn him more into a "sociopath" with behavior that didn't quite follow from his earlier portrayal, and deny him (Tony) his final achievement. Perhaps Chase held his character back because maybe Chase was almost jealous of his potential success, or at least didn't feel in control of it. Maybe he thought he had to be in control of it, that it was scary for Tony to have a life of his own apart from his creator. "If I (Chase) can't have a divine intervention, then darn it, my leading character won't either!".

Yet, Chase didn't (obviously) kill him off like a Frankenstein, even though plenty of villagers were after him with pitchforks and torches ("Where's the bloody face in a plate full of onion rings darn it"!).

The more i read up on it, Tony really wasn't a "sociopath". Not sure what he was! :icon_biggrin:

Do you suppose Chase is afraid he himself might be one? Or afraid if his character might be one? It's supposedly currently uncurable, barely treatable. (Unless you believe in divine intervention...)- the last thing a guy like Chase might want to have to hear.

(I saw a website where all these diagnosed sociopaths blog on their issues. Apparently, not all of them are criminal, and they talked about how brilliantly they could con anyone, but that they always were looking out for some need of their own to fulfill, even if it seemed like they were being nice to you. And they knew what they were doing and could not help themselves. Really scary- it would be easier to spot the criminal than these types. Apparently, a large percent of CEOs of large corporations might be sociopaths!) :frown:

Re: More comments from Chase

#16
And what about the lack of Panic Attacks that defined so much of the first four seasons?? It seems that when the panic attacks left, sociopathy walked in.......... Just a thought
[font="Franklin Gothic Medium"]You know, Vito called me “skip” the other day. Slip of the tongue, no doubt. But I noticed he didn’t correct himself.[/font][SIZE="1"][/SIZE]

Re: More comments from Chase

#17
SilvioMancini wrote:I never understood the hate either! Except it seemed to represent some subconciousness of people wanting to see the show end in a form of the brutal violence so many fans of the show loved. I think they hated Chase because they really wanted to see Tony whacked that badly. And they interpeted the blackout as a middle finger when I saw it as an artistic peace sign. As in, havent you had enough of the violence, do you really need an ending with a huge bloodbath Scarface style?? Its already been done, a number of times, so many times it is cliche'. And kudos to the Chase Machine for not falling into that cozy cliche and instead making us stop and think. Imagine a TV show that makes you think???? How ridiculous! I like Matt Weiner take, how it was like smashing a guitar at the end of a song. That says it all folks! A smashed guitar is......... dead....


I watched that classic movie stand by me in the weekend. A scene in that made me think of the Sopranos. Can't remember his name, but the main character in the movie had a knack for storytelling. He told a story of a fat boy in a pie eating contest vomiting which started a "vomitfest" among the audience, then he said the end. One of the boys he was telling the story to said but what happened next? The main character replied, nothing happened next, that's the end of the story.

The response from the boy that was listening was very typical of the response from most viewers after the Sopranos finale. Chase alluded to it in his interview after the finale when he talked of reading stories to his nices/nephews. He would just end them, seemingly in the middle of the story. As I recollect, Chase said it was human nature to require an ending, I think he even called it a childlike need. Even in these latest comments, there is discussion on the ambiguity of the ending, yet people still hover, waiting for the slightest comment they can interpret into a definitive ending.

Re: More comments from Chase

#18
badabellisima wrote:Here's an interesting stretch, (and to sound absolutely 'California'!):

If Chase was sort of working out his 'issues' thru his character in Tony- and it started to evolve that Tony, (while gaining a life of his own as creations often do)- was actually heading towards a breakthrough, redemption or an internal epiphany, and further, that Chase himself could not keep up in his own progress- perhaps that would be a reason for Chase to put the brakes on Tony's advancement, turn him more into a "sociopath" with behavior that didn't quite follow from his earlier portrayal, and deny him (Tony) his final achievement. Perhaps Chase held his character back because maybe Chase was almost jealous of his potential success, or at least didn't feel in control of it. Maybe he thought he had to be in control of it, that it was scary for Tony to have a life of his own apart from his creator. "If I (Chase) can't have a divine intervention, then darn it, my leading character won't either!".


That's a very provocative idea that certainly merits consideration. It's a bit similar to an idea chaseisgod advanced on past occasions (I miss you, chaseisgod.:icon_cry:). He felt that something must have happened part way through the series that significantly soured Chase on therapy and that that explained the gradual reduction in both frequency and gravity of therapy sessions in later seasons and Tony's almost complete inability to achieve any emotional/psychological/moral growth.

I do recall an NPR Chase interview with Terry Gross following season 2 (which is probably still available on their website). In it, Chase reminds that Tony is not a "nice guy", that you may find him lovable but that he does, terrible, terrible things. He also says something that implies (to me, anyway) that he had originally planned for Tony to make greater strides in therapy in season two than he ultimately did but changed his mind. The quote was something like, "Finally, I got tired of all these people (critics, fans, bloggers, those in the cottage industry of Soprano commentary?) moralizing about Tony, and I decided, 'Look. This guy's a gangster. And that's enough to say about his personal growth . . . for now.'"

I originally took the "for now" to mean that he chose to simply delay, not abandon, plans for that growth. Now I'm inclined to think that his whole philosophy on the issue of a gangster in therapy, and what was realistic to imagine that could lead to, started to change around that time. I also think he flat out resented that his audience loved Tony despite (and sometimes even because of) the bad things he did.

I think he felt a need to constantly challenge the audience, "Oh, you love him, do you?" Tony whacks Pussy. "Yes, well how about now?" Tony effectively sanctions a hit on his best friend's son and daughter's boyfriend. "Do you still love him? Okay, how about now?" He belt whips a business partner for screwing one of his cast off girlfriends, AFTER the guy essentially asks for and receives Tony's permission to do exactly that. He steals his colleague's horse, then steals his girlfriend, breaks the news while the guy's kid is in the hospital near death, and then beats him to death on suspicion that the guy killed the horse. (Of course Ralph's murder was far, FAR down the list of Tony's misdeeds in my book, but many felt differently.) "You still love him?" Tony sabotages his cousin's earnest efforts to lead a straight life after prison, pulls him back to a life of crime, and then blows his face off when he proves too ambitious. He provokes his sister with horrible insults and allegations just so he can sabotage her genuine efforts at self improvement. He very nearly screws his nephew's fiance, even talks about marrying her himself, yet takes longer to order a sandwich than he took to order her death when he learns she's been talking to the FBI.

"You still love him? Okay, let's tease you with the prospect of Tony having a profoundly life-altering NDE and then show you how that doesn't stick as he sabotages his nephew's sobriety and puts him on a certain path to death; spitefully sabotages his brother-in-law's relative moral "cleanliness" by ordering him to kill a guy; comes perilously close to killing one of his oldest associates because the guy is annoying and talks a lot; and puts the fear of God in an old friend and colleague because the guy had the audacity to ask for repayment of a loan. NOW do you still love him?"

Then finally Tony kills his nephew -- his surrogate "son" that he drove back to drugs -- and shows not an ounce of remorse or sorrow afterward. "I dare you to love him now."

I think that sort of thing was at least a sub conscious element in Chase's thinking and contributed to the downward moral progression Tony showed over the series.

Do you suppose Chase is afraid he himself might be one? Or afraid if his character might be one? It's supposedly currently uncurable, barely treatable. (Unless you believe in divine intervention...)- the last thing a guy like Chase might want to have to hear.
I don't know him, but I can't imagine that's even remotely at play. To the extent he parallels himself to Tony, or leverages his own life issues and experiences for dramatic value on the show, I think he does so mostly in abstractions or very broad terms. He has obviously shared Tony's depression and self-esteem, existential, and mother issues, but the rest of it is unique to Tony, I suspect.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: More comments from Chase

#19
As always a great write-up, Fly. I felt very similar. It turns into a double ended blade for Chase and the Sopranos crew. The show would NOT have been as successful without Gandolfini's charm and likability. But that is also what kept audiences forgiving Tony and in some cases calling him a hero. This, as you said, had to have disgusted Chase in some aspect. But then again, a long-running show like this, if Tony was a complete asshole at all times that no one likes watching and whom has no redeemable qualities...sorry, but audiences would not have gravitated to him. And thereby Chase would not have been able to tell his story.

Re: More comments from Chase

#20
FlyOnMelfisWall wrote:...Then finally Tony kills his nephew -- his surrogate "son" that he drove back to drugs -- and shows not an ounce of remorse or sorrow afterward. "I dare you to love him now."...


Great post. And yes- i dared to love him now, even after Chase made him as bad-a$$ as possible! With a queasy stomach maybe, but i've dared it anyway. i have experience making that almost insurmountable stretch of reaching to love a dear family member who has done a terrible thing that didn't deserve forgiveness. Its Love of the hardest kind. Its easy to love the good cuddly ones who have not wronged you. Its the hardest to love the worst ones. And its what we are called to do. But it does require the help of God and lots of faith. Its as if Chase is daring us to call upon that resource. Maybe its how he himself can believe in it- if he dares someone else and then can see it in action. i wonder if he is one of those guys who is or was really hard on his staff, family or loved ones ("you always hurt the ones you love"), while baiting them to see their response: "I dare you to love him (me, David Chase) now."
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