The Incandescent Statue
The visual key to the episode, in my view, is the incandescent statue of the hunter or soldier brandishing what appears to be a gun during the scene in which Phil upbraids Tony for failing to whack Vito. Isn’t the statue manhood personified, looming in judgement over the two bosses?
Phil, the quintessence of “old school” mafia macho, is apoplectic because Tony is not foaming at the mouth (like the rabid dog in Melfi’s season-three, rape revenge dream) over Vito’s queerness. After all, Vito’s homosexuality besmirches the family honour in general and Phil’s in particular. It is an affront to the mascolinità of the mob. Is it a coincidence that Frank Vincent, who plays Phil, is the author of a Guy’s Guide to being a Man’s Man?
Johnny Cakes is a commentary on tormented masculinity. AJ seeks to avenge his father’s honour and to assert his own virtù, his prowess, by stabbing Junior. Notice that AJ’s Van Helsing locks are shorn. Long hair is an archetype of virility; AJ is quaffed like the boy of seasons one and two.
And unlike the ram, the symbolic alpha male of the Mezzogiorno, Tony fails to couple with Juliana. He puts down his pen; he goes limp, so to speak. He fulminates to Carmella about turkey meat when he skulks in the door, but he is cursing himself for behaving like the impotent Billy Goat of the Neapolitan hillside.
Could it be that Vito is the mobster most comfortable with his masculinity? He at least tells himself the truth, and has his Broke Back moment in the sun.
I believe the statue is one of actor/comedian Lou Costello, just off Main Street in the south ward of Paterson, NJ, Costello's home town/neighborhood. I believe he has a baseball bat in his hands. The statue was put up by boxing promoter Lou Duva a number of years ago. Maybe a clue how Vito will be killed?
A boxing promoter, Lou Duva, raises a statue of a baseball batter. In a strange way, this is in keeping with the episode’s theme. Sport is the ritualization of warfare, the arena in which masculine honour is contested. Baseball bats represent the weapon principle (AJ’s Bowie knife is the real thing) that is synonymous with one-on-one and group combat, e.g. boxing and baseball. To the untrained eye of a Canadian who has yet to visit Paterson, NJ, the statue appeared to be almost an incandescent red. On my screen, the comic Costello looked like a brooding stand-in for the nineteenth-century Italian freedom fighter, Giuseppe Garibaldi. Go figure!