Rebel in Chief

#1
Meadow walks into her parents’ bedroom to warn them that AJ is expressing para-suicidal thoughts. Carmella is reading a book, and Tony is sleeping. Carmella puts down her book and Tony rouses from his slumber. What is Carmella reading? It’s “Rebel in Chief,” a hackneyed biography of George W. Bush, written by Fox News pundit Fred Barnes.

Carmella’s reading habits always echo undercurrents in the show’s thematic structure (think back to “Memoirs of a Geisha,” the story of a Japanese courtesan or “Madame Bovary,” the story of a bourgeois housewife in search of passion). So what is her reading of “Rebel in Chief” trying to tell us?

What we know about George W. Bush is that he was born into a powerful clan (a Texas Casa Grande); that he was raised with a sense of entitlement; that he was a hard-partying frat boy, a cheerleader and no star athlete; that his grades were, to be kind, fair to middling; that he failed miserably in the oil business despite family connections; that he was a substance abuser who hit rock bottom, was born again and likely became a "dry drunk," that is, he put the cork in the bottle but substituted Johnny Walker with Jesus Christ. His leadership during the Iraq war has caused many to question his sense of responsibility -- reporters have begged him to admit making mistakes in strategy, but he has yet to own up to his shortcomings as commander-in-chief.

So, who is the Soprano’s “Rebel in Chief”? AJ seems like the obvious choice. Tony himself remarks that, despite AJ’s depression, his son is better off than the grunts holed up in Baghdad. AJ, the son of an arriviste family is unfit for military school, and W. skipped out on National Guard service during Vietnam.

But what about Tony? It is he who prods AJ to connect with the young hoods at the Bing, and it is he who fails to deal with the Christopher v. Paulie fracas in a timely manner. As other have mentioned, he is shunting Chrissie aside in the same way as he did Big Pussy in season two. Consciously or not, he is giving birth to one gangster, his soft-headed son, and is hastening the demise of another "made man," his surrogate son Christopher. T is sowing the wind and is about to reap the whirlwind. He will suffer the consequences of his undermining/enabling behaviour.

The tragic figure sees the folly of his ways only when he pays literally or figuratively with his life. This holds true for Oedipus, Hamlet, and Willy Loman. If Tony is to veer from his pathetic arc to become a tragic hero -- and he only has four episodes left to achieve this feat! -- he must suffer for his sins and express contrition. Only then will the meaning of his suffering be revealed to him and the weight of his self-pity lifted from his shoulders. I doubt AJ or Bush 43 has the capacity ever to achieve tragic but ennobling self-understanding.

Re: Rebel in Chief

#2
What if Tony is the underperforming "Rebel in Chief" son (i.e. Dubya) and the father figure that Tony couldn't live up to is that of his father, grandfather and idols (Cary Grant, old-school Italian immigrants, etc.) he has set himself against for comparison?

Re: Rebel in Chief

#3
dad1153 wrote:What if Tony is the underperforming "Rebel in Chief" son (i.e. Dubya) and the father figure that Tony couldn't live up to is that of his father, grandfather and idols (Cary Grant, old-school Italian immigrants, etc.) he has set himself against for comparison?
That's an excellent point, Dad. (“Dad” sounds ironic in this context.) Bush 43's relationship with Bush 41 has always been marked by oedipal conflict. Wasn’t it Bob Woodward whom W. told he didn't seek his father's advice in the run up to the war in Iraq, that he took his advice instead from his "higher father," the Lord Himself? Columnists have made hay documenting the strains between this president and Bush the patriarch (it's pundits' fodder that the elder Bush’s favourite son is really Bill Clinton). You're right too to suggest that Tony's father figures are falling like bowling pins in season 6. Tony, then, is a fine candidate for Rebel in Chief. It's my sense though that mafia culture breeds a lot of rebels in chief, given its patriarchal structure and the aversion of capos and soldiers to the codes of omerta and honour. They are gangsters after all.

Re: Rebel in Chief

#5
Or maybe she was just shown reading it to underscore how she spends the bulk of her life becoming "Comfortably Numb" to that giant piano hanging over the head of one of her family members. In an episode where their son is hopelessly depressed and giving off indications of suicidal thoughts, Tony is sleeping and she is reading a book (coud just as easily have been Memoirs of a Geisha or any other popular book de jour) that has absolutely no consequences for the crisis within the household. It's Meadow, the girl who broke down the doors at 16 to her parents' facade and flat out asked her father, "Are you in the Mafia?" who comes into their room and lays cards on the table about the seriousness of AJ's plight.

Immediately after Meadow's warning, Tony goes downstairs, sits with AJ and is next seen in Melfi's office rescinding his prepared farewell speech to therapy and talking about how he has "infected his kid's soul" while Carmela is out getting a referral for a psychiatrist for AJ. Message: Meadow roused her parents out of their comfortable denial about AJ.

Avellino, the rest of my thoughts on your post will be communicated privately. Please consider them carefully before responding any further in this thread.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: Rebel in Chief

#6
[quote="Avellino"]But what about Tony? It is he who prods AJ to connect with the young hoods at the Bing, and it is he who fails to deal with the Christopher v. Paulie fracas in a timely manner. As other have mentioned, he is shunting Chrissie aside in the same way as he did Big Pussy in season two. Consciously or not, he is giving birth to one gangster, his soft-headed son, and is hastening the demise of another "made man," his surrogate son Christopher. T is sowing the wind and is about to reap the whirlwind. He will suffer the consequences of his undermining/enabling behaviour.

[quote]

Great stuff as always, Avellino. I always look forward to reading your thoughts.

As for Tony, he is doing what he thinks is right, given the circumstances. If it were not for Meadow alerting Tony and Carmella, I don't think that Tony would have gone to these measures to get AJ back in the saddle. Similarly, it was Johnny-Boy who only told Tony of the lessons of gambling when his hand was forced, as Tony saw the gambler's finger being chopped off.

Re: Rebel in Chief

#8
I hope I don't anger anyone by saying this, but I think Carm's choice of bedside reading reflects just how deluded they really are. It would make sense that sheltered, rich, marginally oblivious Carmela Soprano would be a 30-percenter. I mean, if there's anyone who knows how to go along with the party line and build up the conflated ape in the seat of power, it's Carm. They're deluded in everything else, of course they'd be politically deluded, too.

Plus, hasn't Tony made a few remarks about how Dubya is good for business?

Re: Rebel in Chief

#9
hecatae3 wrote:I hope I don't anger anyone by saying this, but I think Carm's choice of bedside reading reflects just how deluded they really are. It would make sense that sheltered, rich, marginally oblivious Carmela Soprano would be a 30-percenter. I mean, if there's anyone who knows how to go along with the party line and build up the conflated ape in the seat of power, it's Carm. They're deluded in everything else, of course they'd be politically deluded, too.

Plus, hasn't Tony made a few remarks about how Dubya is good for business?

If you have to start a post about "sheltered, rich" Carmella being "politically deluded" with the phrase "I hope this doesn't anger anyone", it probably comes close to being the type of political post that is bound to anger some members. I understand your point about how Carmella's choice of books might give some insight into her character's state of mind on the show and that is a valid point. But going further to generalize that "rich" and "shletered" people hold a certain political viewpoint in real life, or that only someone who is deluded may agree with (or be supportive of) a particular politician takes the point beyond an analysis of what is going on in the show and infuses it with your personal political beliefs and perceptions.

Re: Rebel in Chief

#10
OK, point taken, I apologize if I've offended. I'm sure there are Bush supporters out there that aren't rich, sheltered, or deluded.

Anyway, I tend to think the book choice is insight into their mindset. I injected my own biased opinion beyond that statement. Didn't mean to start any sh#t!
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