Re: Tony’s Vicarious Patricide

#21
Somewhere in Harpo's stream of consciousness there are some very valid and potent points, although not as exhaustive as the main thesis of this thread.

It seems to me though that "Cleaver" was the closest thing to a "vicarious patricide" in the series, but it was never actually fulfilled. Christopher never killed Tony, although he did kill what remained of Tony's trust in him.

It might have been several characters' desires to kill their fathers or father figures. But it seems in the end it is the fathers who are responsible for their sons' final fate.

Re: Tony’s Vicarious Patricide

#22
harpo wrote:I see my take as more or less in agreement and complementary with Fly On's great insights which I want to take a closer look at than an alternative. They're in the same key it seems to me. I share the opinion about aggression towards father. And I don't think there's any definitive answer to the question why does Tony kill Chris. I don't even think the murder of Chris being patricide is mutually exclusive with it being filicide. You don't need to distinguish between them when people's roles are so fluid in the mind. (Everyone is both at the same time, or mother and daughter simultaneously.) But I'm qualifying it by suggesting no matter what impels Tony to kill, patricide is philosophically impossible when murder itself is so clearly defined as the province of the father. In the destruction of the father's life, you become the thing you destroy. And that clearly happens between Tony and Chris post-mortem (like Oedipus and his father). And the victim is your "son" psychologically or spiritually speaking. Maybe that's why Bobby's shooting victim is a drummer like AJ and like Janice's son Harpo. Zoinks! I just spooked myself out. I'll be careful. Don't worry. Now I bet I can't do my laundry without having a panic attack. No more laundry for me. Just decided. Deal with it elevatormates.

Young David Chase also a drummer who like AJ went into the movie business. just thought of that. Same kind of with Phil Collins who was a drummer and later Oscar winner though this is not relevant to The Sopranos. What the hell am I talking about? Phil Collins: more popular in South America than you imagine.

If the actor who played Members Only was chosen because of a resemblance to Johnny instead of his obviously anagrammy name, it could be that the son who is prepared to kill has become father. I didn't want to start that debate though. You can find the symbolism in the final scene regardless of whether you viewed it as the instant of Tony's death. This scene also spooked me. Whenever I eat out now, I bring a drill and before ordering I screw the bathroom door shut to prevent any funny business in there. How would that scene have played if someone else was already in the bathroom and Members Only had to awkwardly stand around waiting to go as Tony cast glances his way?

I like that song Against All Odds.


Harpo- your posts are so awesome i hardly know where to begin! Somewhere in the combination of yours and "Fly On's" (!) views is a place i can feel comfortable in agreeing with.

And Fly On, you are right- i was completely over-analyzing what was an ancillary aspect (the exhausting long journey bit) to your fundamental thesis (Christopher's snuffing as a patricidal act by Tony). Sometimes i get off track and over-obsess on small points.... such as:

--- getting back to Harpo's mention of what would happen if someone else was still in the bathroom and MOJ/MOG had to wait-- well if you'll recall, some time back i actually called Holsten's and checked in to what sort of bathroom they actually have there. Sure enough, its the kind that only has one lockable door to the outside, and only one person at a time can use it. MOG's repeated glances over that direction could easily have been exactly what one would do after several cups of coffee, a full bladder, and an anxious wait until the current occupant of the one-man loo vacates it for the next user...:icon_biggrin:

Re: Tony’s Vicarious Patricide

#23
FlyOnMelfisWall wrote:Both these statements relate to why I thought Tony's desert epiphany was a realization that, in the end, he was BOTH his father and his "son". He was both a son who had been corrupted and a corrupting father. He was an uncle who killed a nephew, and a nephew who an uncle tried to kill. He was a child his mother imagined suffocating and a parent who suffocated his own child. He was both "Kennedy" -- his father -- and "Heidi", the child deprived of real parental love and guidance. (Incidentally, CamMan, the Heidi bowl argument simply brings an extra dimension to the choice of that name that I think ties together nicely with Coach Molinaro as Johnny Boy's alter ego in Test Dream and with the large football murals brought in for the shoot at Holsten's. But, in case you missed it, I also argued that Tony himself is also "Heidi", the oprhan, or at least the child who suffered a peculiar brand of parental abandonment.)

In any case, it all leads to the notion that "everything is everything". Things which seem opposite or mutually exclusive are part of a single, unified whole. That was the philosophy that left the deepest impression upon Tony post coma. That was what resonated with the philosophy of the Buddhist monks. And since the peyote epiphany was a bookend to the coma, I think it had to, in the end, reinforce and illustrate the "all is one" philosophy in an incredibly personal way involving Christopher's murder. And that means Tony had to realize that in killing his "son" he was also killing his father, the father he could never bring himself to consciously defy, disown, or repudiate.

Although I had planned to say all this much more elegantly in another treatment geared specifically toward Tony's spiritual desitination (as partially illustrated in the desert), don't forget that, as Finnerty, Tony was accused of selling defective solar heating systems. "Solar heat" = "sun warmth" = "son love", as I read it. In effect, I think the monks were accusing him of peddling defective "love" for his sons -- both of them -- by not providing them with what he himself would have liked to have had provided by his father: a proper role model and guiding male influence. His task in returning to life was to correct that defect, to "take [personal] responsibility" for his own actions and life and stop with the excuse that he had no choice to ever do anything else. He had to stop subconsciously blaming what he became on his father and stop consciously blaming so much of what he became on his mother.

But as the play on duality continues, even "solar heat" has a diametrically opposite meaning. Saying Tony was peddling defective "son love" could mean his love FOR his sons was defective and/or that his love AS a son was defective, that he was not owning up to his real, subconscious hatred of his own father.

Taking it further, heat can be both comforting and life-preserving or it can burn and destroy. Destructive heat requires insulation . . . asbestos. When Tony stripped away the psychic asbestos out on Pumping Station Road, the raging flames from his defective "solar heat"(love for his father AS a son) were no longer insulated and contained, and the result was destruction. That's why I firmly believe the asbestos storyline was juxtaposed with Christopher's murder. To me, it's an absolutely perfect metaphor for the decompensation and toxic catharsis comprising that act.

With the preface that I avoided mentioning the diner scene because I feared it would encourage certain people to derail the topic yet again, and with the caveat that I will delete any post from this thread that veers off into another discussion/debate about whether Tony died, the diner scene is relevant to this conversation. I have always agreed that MOG might have been cast because he vaguely resembles Johnny Boy. (Actually, the first night I saw him, I thought for a split second it was an aged Steve Perry himself coming in the door, but that's another story.)

As I thought more about the last scene in relation to the whole patricidal theory, I began to consider that the actor was cast because he could simultaneously suggest a bit of Christopher and a bit of Johnny Boy: father and "son" at the same time. Much was made at various times of Christopher's nose, and this guy has a nose about as prominent and protruding, yet his build and other features are a bit reminiscent of Johnny Boy.

Since he's in the diner to at least suggest a mob-directed threat at Tony's life, there's a kind of symmetry in that Tony unified killing a father and killing a son in a single act. In the diner, the specter of his killer was a composite of his father and his "son".

The point about AJ leading MOG into the diner is a good one, but note their paths diverge and their jackets, while perhaps similar, are ultimately different. AJ is NOT wearing a Members Only jacket. Hence, with one son (Chris), Tony continued the tradition of bad fathers raising bad sons. With the other son (AJ), Tony got it as right as a guy like him is likely to get it.

"Psychic asbestos": brilliant take on the symbolism, imo.

You mention in your thesis about that maybe the catharsis coud have been done less messy in the therapist's office. Somehow- the defective or maybe ineffectual relationship he had with Melfi, prevented this i think. Sort of professionally un-consummated. Not entirely unsuccessful, but unable to get Tony over a certain hurdle or to a leap of faith, which would be outside the realm of psychotherapy, imo.

As the story goes, even Jesus went to the desert for 40 days and encountered and conquered all sorts of evil, temptations, etc. The desert is a common theme for a good location for renewal, re-birth, a new life, a new start. Maybe Melfi got him as far as she could, and then he was prepared for the Higher Being in Tony's life to enter his consciousness. Finally, he showed up Coach Molinari- He was prepared, and he got it.

i think you are right about the glee and euphoria Tony experiences- it's post-patricidal ecstacy. Short-lived, but long-lasting effects, imo.

Re: Tony’s Vicarious Patricide

#24
CamMan wrote:I agree with your analysis of Tony's resentment of Johnny Boy. I just think it has more to do with what Harpo talked about, the corruption of fathers to sons and how that is passed down. I am even open to the idea that Coach Molinaro suggested Tony "is not prepared" to kill his father or father figures. I am just having a hard time seeing Christopher as a Johnny Boy stand in.


Perhaps you should consider it less Tony identifying Chris with Johnny and more him identifying himself with the phantom child in the carseat, whose father happened to be Chris, a man with many similarities to Johnny. Obviously I'm not contending that Tony saw Chris at all as a father figure. In the moments after that crash, however, he saw Chris as a father to someone, and his perverse compassion was for that unfortunate child.

I'm curious if you accord any weight to the Cleaver symbolism vis-a-vis Tony? The bloody meat cleaver itself as the quintessential symbol of his lost innocence at the hands of his father?

I mentioned the scene between Chris and his AA sponsor as it makes the point that a cleaver meant nothing in particular to Chris. It could just as easily have been scissors or a ball-peen hammer, and none of those evoke a pivotal moment in his history. But for Tony, a cleaver evokes the event that caused him to have his first panic attack and that was literally instrumental in the way that meat continued to trigger panic attacks even into his middle age. And when Tony came within a hair's breadth of killing Paulie in what was clearly related to the agitation of his paternal hatred in Remember When, the instrument he first eyes on the boat is a hatchet that looks very, VERY similar to a meat cleaver.

Ask yourself why Tony was giving away Cleaver hats to Beansie and Hesh even after he paradoxically recognized and denounced the movie as a manifesto of Christopher's hatred towards him. Why was he so preoccupied with that hat and logo? Why was he drinking his coffee from a Cleaver mug every morning? Why was the hat so prominently on Christopher's head the night of the crash, pointing directly at Tony when the car came to rest? Why, especially, did Tony and the audience get a prime view of the hat on the gurney carrying Christopher's body in the hospital?

Why give the Tony character in the Cleaver movie a name that is so syllabically similar to "Johnny Boy"? Why the funny, odd look on Tony's face when he said the words "Jackie Kennedy" as Kelly walked by at the wake?

These are all prime indicia of the patricidal angle IMO.

I think Tony did want to help Chris but once he realized Chris was high and had actually risked Tony's own life, it was enough for Tony to take him out.


I read that much differently. If you haven't seen K & H in a while, I urge you to go back and look at the scenes immediately preceding the crash. When Chris starts sniffing and widening his eyes and fidgeting and fiddling with the radio, Tony recognizes in that moment that he's high. "Comfortably Numb", the quintessential song about heroine addiction, is rising in the soundtrack at that very moment. Tony turns his head in disgust before trying to change the subject, and just a split second later the crash occurs. I think Tony pretty clearly knew Chris was high before the crash ever occurred but didn't perceive it, obviously, as life threatening (to him) at that moment.

I think his demeanor changed after Chris admitted in the car that he wouldn't pass a drug test not because it was news that he was high but because it showed just how screwed up Christopher's priorities really were. Despite all the lofty talk about "smelling the roses" and how important fatherhood was to him, all Chris was concerned about, at a time when he was inhaling blood, no less, was not having to face the legal consequences of getting caught. If that's what this guy is thinking about now, the argument goes, how in the world would he ever really put his daughter's interests above his own? It showed in an instant how unprepared Chris was to be a good father.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: Tony’s Vicarious Patricide

#25
Well, I have read the whole thing now and you've convinced me. The take on the cleaver and memory of the finger being chopped off seems perfectly spot on. One might even say that he killed his father in an attempt to kill that portion of himself he subconsciously despises, but of course, it does not work in the end. It's not an outright conscious act (as I always assumed you posited) but an act based on the subconscious rage he holds not only at Johnny Boy, but so too at himself - the orbit/everything is everything quality raised.
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Re: Tony’s Vicarious Patricide

#26
Detective Hunt wrote:Well, I have read the whole thing now and you've convinced me. The take on the cleaver and memory of the finger being chopped off seems perfectly spot on. One might even say that he killed his father in an attempt to kill that portion of himself he subconsciously despises, but of course, it does not work in the end. It's not an outright conscious act (as I always assumed you posited) but an act based on the subconscious rage he holds not only at Johnny Boy, but so too at himself - the orbit/everything is everything quality raised.


That's gratifying to hear, since your healthy skepticism was part of the reason I delved into this so deeply.: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: Tony’s Vicarious Patricide

#27
FlyOnMelfisWall wrote:
Perhaps you should consider it less Tony identifying Chris with Johnny and more him identifying himself with the phantom child in the carseat, whose father happened to be Chris, a man with many similarities to Johnny. Obviously I'm not contending that Tony saw Chris at all as a father figure. In the moments after that crash, however, he saw Chris as a father to someone, and his perverse compassion was for that unfortunate child.


Well put. For some reason, i never quite got it before that you were meaning it this way, and i was confused, since its hard to imagine Chris in that instance as Tony's father.



I'm curious if you accord any weight to the Cleaver symbolism vis-a-vis Tony? The bloody meat cleaver itself as the quintessential symbol of his lost innocence at the hands of his father?

I mentioned the scene between Chris and his AA sponsor as it makes the point that a cleaver meant nothing in particular to Chris. It could just as easily have been scissors or a ball-peen hammer, and none of those evoke a pivotal moment in his history. But for Tony, a cleaver evokes the event that caused him to have his first panic attack and that was literally instrumental in the way that meat continued to trigger panic attacks even into his middle age. And when Tony came within a hair's breadth of killing Paulie in what was clearly related to the agitation of his paternal hatred in Remember When, the instrument he first eyes on the boat is a hatchet that looks very, VERY similar to a meat cleaver.

Ask yourself why Tony was giving away Cleaver hats to Beansie and Hesh even after he paradoxically recognized and denounced the movie as a manifesto of Christopher's hatred towards him. Why was he so preoccupied with that hat and logo? Why was he drinking his coffee from a Cleaver mug every morning? Why was the hat so prominently on Christopher's head the night of the crash, pointing directly at Tony when the car came to rest? Why, especially, did Tony and the audience get a prime view of the hat on the gurney carrying Christopher's body in the hospital?
....

Per bolded font above- i would point out that Christopher also has cleaver-based history: When he chopped up his first Russian victim on the chopping block at Satriale's. i recall that Chris also had a surprisingly relaxed, detached and calm but focused attitude about proceeding with his task. It was also a pivotal point in Christopher's life and advancement in his mob career, and could have inspired his choices in movie titles and leading "man"/zombie appendages.

i think part of that use of cleaver symbolism was Chase's way of exhibiting the old axiom/biblical truth that:

"if you live by the sword (cleaver), you die by the sword (cleaver-Tony)".

Still, your point holds.

Re: Tony’s Vicarious Patricide

#28
badabellisima wrote:
FlyOnMelfisWall wrote:
Well put. For some reason, i never quite got it before that you were meaning it this way, and i was confused, since its hard to imagine Chris in that instance as Tony's father.


Yeah, apparently I had not done so hot a job up to now of making clear that this was all subconscious on Tony's part and that it was unacknowledged, displaced rage at his own father(s) (which is a close cousin of his compassion for abused/endangered children) driving the action of killing Chris. It's really not much different than when he beat Georgie over the phone thing even though it was clear that he was displacing anger/hatred towards his mother onto Georgie. He certainly didn't confuse Georgie with Livia, but Georgie became the target of the unconscious rage because of circumstances and triggers (seeing Georgie struggle with the phone, which was very reminiscent of his mother's inability to use the phone properly).
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: Tony’s Vicarious Patricide

#30
THank you Fly!
First of all, I took the time to read the entire post before I decided to reply. This by far is your most impressive synthesis of the inner mythology that makes up the sinew of the Sopranos. It takes time to reflect on a masterpiece and sometimes it takes an artist to descipher another artists masterpiece. In other words, you articulate the subtext of this show so well my paranoid mind is beginning to suspect you are secretly a part of this show. All of what you said is truth. There is no arguing, just a subtle adjusting of certain skewed angles on my part. Please, please continue and take this to the end. Im along for the whole ride from NYC to Atlantic city via the Blue Comet!!
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