On The Sopranos (Season 4 Spoilers)

 The brilliance of the moral themes of The Sopranos emerges most clearly in the scene where Tony Soprano murders Ralph Cifaretto. He believes Ralph killed a horse, a crime he never committed. A man who beat a stripper to death was finally put down for killing an animal. Tony Soprano loves ducks and horses, and will avenge them with moral furor, but the pain and suffering of human beings means little to him. He is a hypocrite, but the genius of the show is that any individual’s morality is about more than just that one character being a scumbag. Ralph Cifaretto was just an exaggeration of who everyone in Tony’s crew was, just like Tony’s crew is an exaggeration of what America is. Is there any more apt a portrait of modern America than death and moral hypocrisy right alongside breakfast and family values, with only cognitive dissonance preventing everyone from seeing themselves as moral frauds? Ralph kills a stripper but the only problem anyone sees with it is his disrespect for the club he killed her behind. No one sheds a tear over the loss of life. This is the genius of The Sopranos; its portrait of moral fraud in a specific context that is written and acted so well it becomes a universal story of power itself. It is that connection to the universal that makes it a legendary myth rather than just a show. It’s about a man who is evil and yet lovable, who no matter how many chances he gets cannot break his own cycle of fear, aggression, depression and destruction. And on it goes, this thing of ours…

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