chaseisgod wrote:I'm way too cynical, but I don't think there's much in the Sopranos to indicate that Chase believes free will exists. Or, maybe it does exist, but it doesn't matter, because you're going to keep doing what you've always done anyway. Nobody changed in this show, not really. Characters were routinely punished for even trying. The message, if there is a message, is that you're going to get "reeled back" to your true nature, no matter what you do.
I think both of us desperately want to think otherwise -- to think that these characters might find redemption in some way -- but I think it's wishful thinking. Chase certainly hasn't provided much evidence that he believes they can. And I think that's pretty much his worldview.
It's very, very hard to argue with this. That certainly seems to be the overwhelming truth of these characters.
Yet it explicitly contradicts what Chase has, on several occasions, indicated his own philosophy is, and it certainly contradicts the "meta" message of his ending. He gave the viewer the power to determine what happens after the blackout, indeed demanded that they determine it. And he's made even endings as hopeful as mine in some way compatible with the closing moments of MIA. So he is ultimately demonstrating the "Any Way You Want It" philosophy that suggests supreme belief in free will or personal "choice". And if you buy that God is somehow speaking through this series, with or without Chase's conscious participation, then the message to me seems to be, "We all have the power to write our own endings, to decide whether we will orbit in circles all our lives or move to or away from God, to or away from the sun (Son), whether we want to be part of the end light."
Perhaps it's time to define what's even meant by the term "free will." I've always seen behavior at any given instant as a dynamic vector which represents the summation of any number of competing and/or complementary drives, motives, and physiological/psychological factors within the acting individual, very few of which are voluntary.
For years I had difficulty articulating my thoughts in this area in other terms. Afterall, I'm sensible enough to know that you can take or reject a bribe, buy a blue car instead of a red one, watch the Sopranos instead of Desperate Housewives, or order pancakes instead of French toast.
But you don't choose to want to eat. (And hunger is not even relevant to that anymore!:icon_wink:) You don't choose to want some level of sensory or mental engagement. You don't choose to like blue better than red. You don't choose to want money, a want which spans among people from a want for basic survival (encoded in human DNA, I should think) to a want for unconscionable luxury and social power/status (which is often a cancerous outgrowth of the primitive need for love and emotional security). You don't choose to have an incredibly powerful autonomic nervous system that controls everything from breathing to the release of behavior-affecting hormones. You don't choose to have a physiology that reacts differently to stress than someone else's. You don't even choose what your own brain or body interprets as stress.
When my mother read me an Einstein quote one day, I knew I'd found the words I'd been searching for: "You can do
what you want, but you can't want
what you want."
You start with some core needs and desires and, depending upon any number of factors within you and your environment, you act to satisfy them. Those actions in turn generate any number of reactions, including, hopefully, the satisfaction of reasonable needs and the inculcation by parents and surrounding society of a decent value system. To the extent that value system penetrates, it becomes an additional layer of "wants" in the subject, as a person will generally want to abide by their true values and what they believe is "right."
It's a cliche to say and perhaps represents a more bleeding-heart disposition than the cynic in me really believes, but there would be far, far fewer social misfits (or unfits), far fewer subcultures of criminality and immorality if all children were raised with a balance of real love, the early inculcation of respect and compassion for others, and the elimination of invidious comparisons. The latter are the way in which most "good" parents do more damage to their children, and to society at large, than they will ever know.
Back to "free" will, though. The problem to me is that by the time society wants to really start holding you responsible for your conduct (in mid teen years), you're already a long way towards developing the wants and value-system "vectors" that ultimately determine behavior. I'm one of those who absolutely believes that if Tony Soprano had been adopted, same genetics but raised by a father that was an architect or school teacher or brick mason and a mother that loved him as most mothers love, he would have been a decent guy. And so it's just very hard for me to condemn him for all eternity for things he had absolutely no control over, especially because I do think the desire for change was always there, deep within him. That came out in nearly every dream of the series.
As for Chase's personal views on free will and how that was reflected in the show, consider that he had Hunter reappear in the last episode, played by his own daughter. We learn that drunk, college-expelled Hunter apparently bottomed out and "got her act together", turning her life around and doing something very constructive with it.
In this meta episode, perhaps Chase's personal connection to this character is another indication that he believes in choice and free will but knows it's very, very hard to break the inertia -- or the orbit -- you were put into by your upbringing. He doesn't want to cheapen what I presume was the hard-fought triumph in his own life by offering success to characters who haven't truly worked hard enough or sacrificed enough for it.
I would counter that, no matter how bad Chase's mother and father were, I don't think he ever witnessed one of them chopping off the finger of a guy to collect a debt, nor did his father order him to kill somebody when he was 22 as a test of basic "worth." So I'd say that, for all the suffering Tony inflicted, he also endured a lot himself, enough to have earned him a little more evolution than Chase allowed him.