Tony and Carmela: Anatomy of an Attraction

#1
I always thought we should have a thread devoted to the "dirty little truths" behind the initial attraction between Tony and Carm, particularly her attraction to him, since I think that's, perhaps, the more interesting and less obvious angle. It would have been appropriate to do so after last year's Mayham and Join the Club, given Carm's confession to a comatose Tony that his displays of brute strength were a supreme sexual turn on to her. And she confided in Melfi that, when they first met, she wasn't sure whether his procurement of expensive things by "breaking arms or worse" was an unpleasant truth she had to overlook or was in fact the cause of why she "loved" him.

Whatever the correct answer to Carmela's own question, and whether it's the same now as it was initially, Soprano Home Movies made clear what Tony thinks the answer is. And that's why this beat down by Bobby, as bad as it might have been had it played out that way in last year's Mr. and Mrs. John Sac . . ., was all the more humiliating and hard for Tony to take because it happened in front of Carmela. His response to the whole thing was disorganized and unwieldy . . . first acknowledging that Bobby whipped him "fair and square", then blaming age and the physical toll of his shooting, then blaming a rug that caused him to slip, then nailing Carm for having first responded to him after he whipped a guy's ass in high school. He's not just facing the fact that he's no longer the baddest guy on the block, which is trouble enough in his line of work. He's questioning the basis of Carmela's attraction to him, whether her love is based on more than his masculine power and the wads of cash and endless parade of expensive gifts that symbolize that power.

The paradox, of course, is that Carmela's love for Tony was never more obvious than it was when he was at his absolute weakest and most vulnerable and at a time when it looked like he might never be a shadow of the same man again. But Tony was oblivious to most of that outpouring, so it's understandable that he's still not sure WHY Carmela loves him. And it's a doubt that was exposed vividly and expressly in season 4, symbolically in Test Dream, and in a new context tonight. I find it a fascinating tangent of the whole fight.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: Tony and Carmela: Anatomy of an Attraction

#2
i found Carmella’s discussion with Janice after the beating pretty interesting…after she had already assured Tony she was unilaterally unimpressed with seemingly pointless displays of brutality. I’m not sure if she said what she said out of loyalty to Tony, some inability to let Janice have any sort of emotional leverage over her…or some other reason – but she seemed pretty defensive when she accused Bobby of basically being completely out of line for attacking Tony. I can’t help but wonder if she would have been equally appalled by Bobby’s show of disrespect if Tony happened to “win” the fight.

Re: Tony and Carmela: Anatomy of an Attraction

#3
Carmella is not going to reveal her real feelings to Janice, being loyal to her husband and also knowing Janice's propensity for "verbal diarrhea."

If Tony's brutality was the basis of their first attraction to each other, it's right out of "Goodfellas." Henry beats up Karen's abusive neighbor and she admits to be turned on by it. The next scene was their wedding.

As to the conversation between Tony and Carmella, Carmella's no teenager anymore. Possibly Tony has a bit of arrested development and his ego is still stuck in those days, even though he's coming to terms that he's living in a middle-aged body.

Re: Tony and Carmela: Anatomy of an Attraction

#7
First of all Hello Fly and everybody else at the beginning of the end....

Well, we have been trough that many times, but the question had never been really asked in the other way:

Why Tony is in love in Carm? Why he needs her so badly?
Because she can speak out? Because she could silence the big bear with one sharp look? Maybe.
But let us look at this differently. All the women whom Tony got infatuated were Brunettes. Isabella, Melfi, Irina, Gloria, Valentina, Julianna. They all brunette. Particularly with Gloria and Juliette, the other big reason of attraction is their independence. interestinlgy they both are very broken figures. Similarity to Tony too? Maybe.

And hey, they were all very broken characters: Irina- suicidal, tends to get drunk, Melfi drinks occasionally, Gloria went to the end of the thether (pun meant) Valentina burns from both sides, and Julianna, well she is sadly the worst.

And also klet's not forget that Melfi once pointed out that Tony looks for the idolized image of his mother with some (if not all) of them. remember the image of Nancy Marchand sitting on a patio, or veranda, and smoking smilingly? She did not look too bad even back then!

Brunettes, brunettes, brunettes. Even Charmaine....

So how does Carm comes to the picture? if you think about how manipulative her own mother is- if you rmember her in Marco Polo. Carm also backs out from many fights too fast when it comes to AJ.

Still her level of caring is unlike anybody else's (and for this I always love the bedroom scenes fir their quietness.... )
But it is really worth to think about. Why her? And how? This episode gave a new piece of info about how they became high school sweethearts.
But we will never get to know the answer how and why....
You can't have everything- Where would you put it? -Steven Wright

Re: Tony and Carmela: Anatomy of an Attraction

#8
Brunettes, brunettes...interesting and observant comment. Do husbands (or wives) look for the opposite of their spouse in affairs? the cliche is that they look for what is relaxing and easy for them, which just might be the opposite of the person who is all wrapped up in their life with all it's problems.

Carmela is certainly blonder this season. In fact, she looks blonder, younger and sexier than I can remember. She has discernable muscle definition in her arms and back, she's tan. Her face in the close-ups with the blond bangs, lets her eyes shine. She has an energy about her that the filming of this episode brought out. They even showed her breasts looking sexy in the swimsuit, and there was some definite lingering on her from behind in her shorts. All in all, Carmela seemed a woman comfortable and confident with herself, her sexuality and her life. Still goes down on her husband, and I took that scene to show more about Carmela than Tony. She is still a sexual girl. Even better, she's a sexual woman with her husband.

Throughout the episode she seemed strong. She had things going on with her work, the spec house came up a couple times. She took care of things as he got arrested. She brushed the monopoly piece off his face. In all the dialogues with Janice, Carmela spoke her mind simply and strongly. Carmela seemed strong in her own right, and therefore seemed strong with and for Tony.

All that said, I have never been a strong fan of Carmela. I've found her over the last seasons to be swept up into a life she fell into without ever making much of herself or taking responsibilty for where she is. I haven't liked her past yelling at or judging of Tony because it seems like weakness and more a frustration with her own self for letting herself be in this position. Which as a rich wife, is really not an end of the world position to complain about. Except that she didn't earn it and doesn't own it on her own. My last proud point for her was when she manipulated Tony into doing something for the spec house last season -- I can't remember the details. I think her best breakthrough was with Melfi, and that is echoed in this episode. Except that Tony brings it up, and Carmela disagrees.

Tony brings up the mirror to what Carmela brought up in Melfi's office (as I recall). What is Carmela's attraction to Tony? As he tells it and therefore as he thinks it is -- she noticed him because he beat up a boy in highschool. Because he was strong. Right or wrong, doesn't matter. This is what he thinks. After all these years together, all this life shared, he still believes she loves him for being that strong boy, something he's stayed for the most part and even gotten better at as life went on. He's the boss. Now when he's feeling vulnerable, if he loses this, does he lose her love? He has no memory of what she said to him in the coma.

Meanwhile, Carmela is feeling stong herself, and her love for Tony is at least somewhat based on the life they've lived -- all the things they've been through and done. They are not teenagers now. For whatever reasons she was first attracted to him, they've lived a life together and she loves him. Maybe for his faults and weaknesses that only she gets to see. She's the only person that can look back at all the detail about him from highschool until now openly.

I did not see Carmela think less of Tony in the fight with Bobby because he lost. Tony though seems to think he's less in Carmela's love because he lost. Carmela seemed protective of Tony.

Tony, however, sees himself as less. So where will this lead him? This brings us back to the question we discussed when Tony came out of the coma. Is he reformed? Will he be faithful? He was. But now it is a more of an internal dilema for Tony -- is he strong enough to be faithful given that he is aging and feeling weak? Carmela is stronger than ever, looking great. Will Tony take what she has to offer him, or will he again pick up a lover?

The cover of Vanity Fair has Tony with a naked blonde. This season's other woman? we dont' know yet.

I loved this episode. Every comment seemed to me to have impact on something before and something to come.

Re: Tony and Carmela: Anatomy of an Attraction

#9
The cover of Vanity Fair has Tony with a naked blonde. This season's other woman? we dont' know yet.

End of Alice: note the similarity of the blond girl's to the season 5Lebowitz poster's with all the dead girl. I don't think they would just splash it on the cover just like that ehile every info is well hidden. In one of my previous post relating to that cover, I was thinking that it's maybe Ade. The newest dead girl in the mud.

I am really afraid that Ade death will bring a real split between Carm and T.
You can't have everything- Where would you put it? -Steven Wright

Re: Tony and Carmela: Anatomy of an Attraction

#10
Wonderful post, End of Alice.

I had long wanted to do a really deep thread on this issue but never quite found the time. Now since we've got one rolling, I'm just going to throw things out as they occur to me.

In Carmela's Mayham session with Melfi, she was surprisingly honest about herself on this point. She admitted knowing on some level, at the very beginning, that Tony employed violence and brute force to get his gains and further admitted that she wasn't sure how essential that fact was to her attraction to him. As you point out, Tony certainly perceived that it was highly essential, thus his vivid recollection of the Dominic Tedesco/Pizza World story and his need to keep rationalizing to or in front of Carmela why he lost the fight to Bobby.

But Carmela's spontaneous outpouring in the hospital carried a different message. She said that it was Tony's physical strength that always turned her on, his extreme masculine power. She specifically mentioned the ease with which he could pick her up and throw her over his shoulder. So the display of strength that seemed to make the biggest impression on Carmela did not have a victim and did not involve violence.

Pronounced masculine strength is an aphrodisiac to the vast majority of women, particularly those who, like Carmela, are petite and for whom such massive power is so personally foreign and awe-inspiring. Of course I would argue that sublimated in all such attractions is an appreciation that the greater the physical strength of a male, presumably the greater his capacity to whip the ass of other males. Thousands of years ago, that meant the greater his capacity to protect and provide for a family, itself the ultimate basis for the attraction. But that’s an uncomfortable truth for most women (and men) to confront because it underscores that our most primitive mating impulses share quite a lot with those of the animals we see on Wild Kingdom.

In modern society, earning prowess/financial means have taken the place of physical strength as the ultimate measure of masculine power and, of course, is the reason that Bill Gates could command a million times the number and variety of romantic conquests as a 6’4”, 250 pound construction worker. In Tony’s case, the physical/financial line blurs because of how he “earns” a living. The money and property he obtains are somewhat symbols of his physical strength (how symbolic is open to debate since firearms pretty much level the playing field, are used extensively in Tony’s business, and since, for years, most “enforcement” has been done by others on Tony’s behalf). Once obtained, the money/property itself is or represents his power. So even though I believe Carmela’s initial attraction to Tony was based on his sheer physical strength and overt masculinity, in her youth and given his way of life, that could have led to confusion as to whether it was his strength or the violent uses of it that were actually turning her on.

The table for this has actually been set for some time. In what I presume was a deliberate act of physical casting, Carm’s father is a very small man, her mother comparatively big. And the size dichotomy there translates to power within that relationship, as most would agree that Carm’s mother wears the pants in that household. She even humiliates Hugh a bit by revealing that he once got down to 90 pounds (while suffering diverticulitis) in the Navy and was unfit to see any “action” (read, wasn’t man enough to fight).

Hugh, obviously in some measure because Tony is physically everything he himself longs to be, is wild about Tony and seems to derive a vicarious sense of masculinity through him. He loves to regale him with old stories, refuses to attend a special birthday party Carm has worked hard to put on unless “the man” of the house is there, beams over the manly toy (firearm) Tony gives him, loves to eat Tony’s grilled sausage (enough said), and proudly introduces him to his Navy buddies, who can relate tales of a day when Hugh himself took care of “Krauts” with cherry bombs, etc. If Carmela naturally lusts after big, strong men (Furio and Vic Musto continue the trend while Father Phil is physically much more like Carm’s father), she only inherited or learned the lust from Hugh. And given the emotional indifference sometimes expressed by Hugh towards Carm (e.g., end of Sentimental Education), I’m not surprised that she might seek emotional and physical security from a man that is his polar opposite.

From Tony’s perspective, it’s easy to see how he could come to believe what he believes about Carmela. As a kid, his first panic attack occurs after seeing his mother sexually aroused while carving a roast that Johnny got earlier in the day from a man Tony watched Johnny pin down and de-finger with a meat cleaver. Tony confirms that his mother was always in a good mood when “free” vegetable and meat deliveries came and that she probably only ever submitted to sex with Johnny on those days. The message here is that the violent, forcible procurement of goods to support a family are a means to please and even sexually arouse a woman. For a boy that will remain on a lifetime, futile mission to please and win the love of a borderline mother, that’s a powerful message.

And Johnny does his part to scar his son by actually expressing pride in Tony for not running away and “crying like a little girl” when he saw the hideous act of violence. Emotional indifference to violence, collecting debts by force, providing for one’s family, these are the express lessons of manhood that Johnny imparted to Tony that day. As Melfi points out, it’s no wonder that Tony fainted when he made the connection that, as a male, he would one day be the one “bringing home the bacon”.

It’s also little wonder that he might find initial attraction to a girl that seemed “blown away” when he beat the crap out of somebody at Pizza World. It was, afterall, only reinforcing what he’d learned in his own household about the attraction of women to men. The fact that Carm was undoubtedly awed more by the power than by the violence was a detail he was insensitive to.

Tony’s dreams have offered the most cogent evidence of the role Carmela (and Livia) play in forming his own gangster identity. In Calling All Cars, Carmela is at the wheel of his father’s car or, in other words, is the one driving and dictating the gangster lifestyle he leads. It’s her material appetites, her image of him as a tough guy and supreme provider that he’s trying to satisfy. It’s also the woman who used to ride in that car, his mother, that he’s trying to satisfy.

Even in this dream, though, there’s an uncertainty, a questioning in Tony’s subconscious if it is in fact really Carmela dictating their path or he himself. Though Carmela is driving, Ralph, representing a “changed” gangster after the tragedy with Justin (i.e., representing what Tony might become if he takes personal “change” for a “test drive” as Gloria suggests before morphing into Svetlana) is the one holding the map and dictating where they go.

In Test Dream, there is a duality to Carmela throughout the dream that underscores Tony’s doubt about who she really is and upon what basis her love for him is built. The black, funereal attire by real Carmela is counterpoint to the all-white worn by Annette Benning as “alter Carmela”. While real Carm remains mesmerized by an alter Tony (Makazian) who “sings” (pours out the truth in his heart, which, I submit is that he doesn’t wish to continue in the gangster lifestyle), alter Carm becomes gradually disenchanted and finally downright hostile to him. Alter Carm wants him to remain “Bugsy”, i.e., stick it out in situations that would overcome most gangsters. He then literally flees the mob and cuts his ties to them symbolically by sporting a cut necktie in the ensuing scene. Among the mob chasing him in the Frankenstein sequence is real Carm, indicating that Tony believes she was a key part of what created the “monster” (read mobster) that he is today.

When he tells Coach Molinaro that he has a “wife” living in the big house he bought, Molinaro asks “do you?”, a question I took to mean “do you have a wife if you are not Tony Soprano, rich gangster”? Would she drop you like a rock if you were no longer that kind of man?

Tony went back to high school, back to the place where he met Carmela, to quell fundamental doubts about himself and about her. The Coach played his demon of doubt about the two identity crises in front of him. And Tony went there to silence that demon (the gun with the silencer), i.e., to decide once and for all who he and Carmela really are. Was he, in his heart, a “leader of sport” . . . as in football? Was he longing for a “normal” life like that of a high school coach? Or was he in fact a leader of “sport”, as in a leader of mob guys in their deadly game and would therefore have to stick it out and make the difficult decisions that leaders in any field must make? And was Carmela a loyal wife to only the second of those two Tonys?

Tony fails the test, fails to shoot the coach, fails to silence his own doubts, fails the task of picking one, true identity, and thus is to remain doubtful beyond this episode about who he, and Carmela, really are.

Carmela’s complete abandonment of vanity and financial concerns (except as it related to his rehabilitation) in the days surrounding his shooting illustrated, to the audience if not to comatose Tony, that her love for him is based on far more than how much money he earns or whether he can beat someone up in a fight. She possesses a deep, inalienable love for him, one with a markedly nurturing, maternal quality, which in itself explains what I believe was the single biggest element in Tony’s initial attraction to her: the sense that she would make the kind of mother he would like to have had himself.

The coma “dream” leads us to believe that Tony was able to absorb some of the outpouring of love Carmela showed during his hospitalization. And he certainly absorbed all of her nurturing during his lengthy recovery. So he may be closer to realizing who Carmela really is, which may help him at last resolve his own identity crisis.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"
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