Re: Tony’s Vicarious Patricide

FlyOnMelfisWall wrote:I was never terribly captivated by the question of how much of that was just Phil reflecting and dutifully enforcing the societal conditioning of his times in the much more violently intolerant and macho milieu of the Mafia and how much may have been a reaction to cover latent homosexual feelings or guilt for perhaps having secretly availed himself of homosexual contact while in prison all those years.
The gay phil theory has never held much water with me. I wouldn't be surprised if he got some butt in prison, but the fact that this made him uncomfortable and magnified his homophobia seems like just another symptom of Phil's central character trait, his projection and self-consciousness of his own moments of weakness.
FlyOnMelfisWall wrote:The aspect of Vito's story which most interested me and that I think was uppermost in Chase's mind had to do with Tony's desire (which he chickened out on) to let things be and not pursue any kind of "vindication" once Vito left town. This was clearly a departure from what Tony would have been willing to risk or associate himself with before his shooting. And it was meant, I think, to portray Tony's desire to change and evolve against all his conditioning and the pressures of the social/power structure he was part of. But like Vito himself, he would not change because he ultimately was unwilling to endure the risks, suffering, and sacrifices that change requires.
I definitely agree this was the underlying theme of the Vito arc as a whole, but my argument is that the simultaneous Phil storyline, as addressed in Johnny Cakes, represented the unforgiving old-school mob father mentality that Tony struggled with in regards to AJ, with Phil acting as a subliminal surrogate for Johnny Boy.
arrjay wrote:In the "IN CAMELOT" episode...Tony has a sit down with Johnny Sack to settle his claim to a racetrack owned by his father, Hesh, and Phil Leotardo :icon_eek:
"In Camelot" is definitely another episode where I can see parallels between Phil and Johnny Boy, and it also happens to be the episode wherein Tony's conflict with Phil begins. Based on the psychological content of the episode, it seemed like Tony settling Fran's business straight was another attempt to please his mother (she may not have reminded him of Livia the way Gloria did, but as an older woman his father used to fuck, there definitely are some parallels). Since later that episode we find that one source of Tony's underlying resentment for Johnny is his neglect of Livia in her time of need, it may be that assaulting Phil was a subconscious outlet for that resentment - Phil was neglecting Fran financially, and Phil reminded Tony of his father. Note how quickly Tony entered a high-speed pursuit of Phil. There was already some kind of resentment there, even though they didn't really know each other at that point. Tony may have looked at Phil ignoring his commitments, and seen Johnny ignoring Livia when she was having a miscarriage.
Taps, lights out, 2200 hours. What's missing? Give up? Television.

Re: Tony’s Vicarious Patricide

Fantastic posts, Dr. Melfi!

Don't you think some of T's resentment and anger towards Janice relates back to her straightforward attitude about their father? You discuss that Tony is speechless with Christopher's opinion of his father, Dickie, and the way he is able to debunk all of the mythology surrounding his dad--"your old man sure did bring the heat to them there up North." Janice seems to have a completely different opinion of her father than Tony holds; Cold Stones touches on Janice's feelings a couple of times in the wake of her arrest. (See e.g.,"Sandy, what does she do? You sit around and talk about how you were bullied by your father," and "You don't know what it's like, your father was a sweetheart. In my house, it was dog eat dog.")

I found most of your analysis about Tony's repressed feelings vis a vis Johnny Boy spot on, again, great posts.

Re: Tony’s Vicarious Patricide

Ok now i've found another part of the series where this theme seems to be addressed. In "Whoever Did This", i believe Tony's motivation for murdering Ralph was not really about the horse, or even about the stripper, at its center.

In this episode Ralphie, arguably the most detestable mobster of them all, suddenly becomes a very sympathetic and possibly redeemable character. Ralph starts showing signs of what might genuinely be a chance at redemption. Was it really? Does it matter? No. As in Dr. Melfi's office, all that matters is Tony's perception of these events. Tony doesn't want to believe that Ralph can truly change, because that would not be cohesive with Tony's own self-image, the idea that he was born into this lifestyle and never had a chance to change his ways.

Tony is starting to realize that it's entirely possible Ralph can be a better man, but he's terrified at the possibility and doesn't even want to consider it, because this would make Tony culpable for his own actions, he couldn't just blame it on his father anymore. This has been in his subconscious the entire time. He was clearly unsettled when Carmela talked about Ralph sympathetically, and when he learned that Ralph actually talked to the priest.

When Pie O My was killed, Tony finally thought he had found evidence that Ralph hadn't really changed, and he jumped on it. This is why he went to Ralph's house, he wanted to see the prick confess. If Ralph had confessed to it, he probably would have lived. Tony could leave, satisfied that Ralph was still a monster, and therefore Tony's Freudian excuse remained in place. But the problem is, Ralph continued to assert that it wasn't him. Again, does it matter whether or not Ralph actually did it? No, it just matters that Tony was starting to be convinced. This agitated Tony and his defense mechanisms kicked in, he started accusing Ralph with more aggression and certainty, and finally things become physical when Ralph mentions meat.

Tony's murder of Ralph was quite similar to his eventual murder of Chris, in that it was seemingly impulsive and non-sequitir. Plus, the second half of the episode is dedicated to Tony and Chris disposing of Ralph's corpse. At one point Chris actually uses a cleaver to cut off Ralph's hand, and it seems like this particular event was something that inspired Chris to write Cleaver the movie. This, accompanied by Ralph's "beef and sausage" comment, gives us some call backs to Fortunate Son, and Tony's resentment towards his father.
Taps, lights out, 2200 hours. What's missing? Give up? Television.

Re: Tony’s Vicarious Patricide

This is a wonderful post!

If KnH was Tony symbolically murdering his father, I think it also ties into the Oedipal aspects of the show - Tony's attraction, transference, etc with Melfi and the constant mixing of his girlfriends, mother, and Melfi in his dreams.

What really makes me feel that way is the context in which Tony flies off to Vegas and sleeps with Christopher's stripper "friend." It's around 32:50 in the episode that Tony is looking down from a balcony at Kelly beginning to breastfeed -- he is *clearly* (IMO) ogling her breasts (another woman who fits the Valentina/Irina/Gloria etc physical model too), and the moment he sees the baby begin to nurse is when he "catches himself" and runs off to book a room in Vegas. That seeing her so clearly as Mother instigated that reaction is significant to me.

Re: Tony’s Vicarious Patricide

Welcome to the forum, Trotting Tortoise, and great observations on the mother angle of K&H. IIRC, when I first saw the episode, the breast feeding thing made me think of Isabella because of the dream Tony has of her nursing an infant in that episode and the positive maternal projection he had on her. So you're right. Livia is ever present in the show.
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

The flashback in Fortunate Son had me thinking last night, that seeing Satriale's finger cut off by Johnny Boy (cutting off finger=cutting off penis?) and then Livia's acquiescence to his sexual advances in the kitchen, triggering Tony's first panic attack, induced some state of Oedipal panic in young Tony's mind. Johnny's use of violence to discipline his son was no secret.

This might have been posted in the thread already, but anyway. I come back here a lot. It's really amazing work.

Return to “Sopranos Symbolism and Subtext”