Saturday, October 30, 2021

TV Quote of the Day (‘The Sopranos,’ on Carmela’s Relationship with Her ‘Good Man’ Tony)

Carmela Soprano
[played by Edie Falco, pictures]: “He's a good man. He's a good father.”
Dr. Krakower [played by Sully Boyar]: “You tell me he's a depressed criminal, prone to anger, serially unfaithful. Is that your definition of a good man?... You must trust your initial impulse and consider leaving him. You'll never be able to feel good about yourself. You'll never be able to quell the feelings of guilt and shame that you talked about, so long as you're his accomplice.”
Carmela: “You're wrong about the accomplice part, though.”
Dr. Krakower: “You sure?”
Carmela: “All I did was make sure he's got clean clothes in his closet and dinner on his table.”
Dr. Krakower: “So ‘enable’ would be a more accurate job description for what you do than ‘accomplice.’ My apologies... Take only the children—what's left of them - and go.”
Carmela: “My priest said I should work with him, help him to become a better man.”
Dr. Krakower: “How's that going?”— The Sopranos, Season 3, Episode 7, “Second Opinion,” original air date Apr. 8, 2001, teleplay by Lawrence Konner, directed by Timothy Van Patten
I have not yet seen The Many Saints of Newark and am not sure when I will. But it is hard for me to imagine the prequel to The Sopranos matching the original in quality. The above dialogue, in its emotional anguish and clear-headed moral insight, illustrates why.
The aging Dr. Krakower is one of the few mental-health professionals who recognize early on that it is not possible—certainly not at this stage—to “work with” Tony. 

Carmela is right in only the most limited sense: her husband is capable of love, both towards herself and their children. But that only proves that he is human, not that he can be changed.
Dispensing with the jargon of the latest edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Dr. Krakower speaks in old-fashioned terms about guilt, shame, and, without explicitly using the words, “fidelity,” “responsibility” and “complicity.”  
He does not say what viewers increasingly recognize as the series goes on: that, for all her anger at her husband, Carmela will not make the irrevocable decision to leave her husband because, with her beautiful house and the implicit power he gives her to harm others to cross her, she benefits materially from her association with him.

"Blood money," the phrase that the psychiatrist uses to explain that advantageas well as his own refusal to accept her money from this session—inverts the label used by the faith Carmela cites as her thin fig-leaf for sticking with Tony.
There are no monsters as frightening as those that exist in our reality. This Halloween weekend, with geysers of blood spurting on TV sets and across screens, it is worth bearing in mind that Tony Soprano and his kind walk among us.
They might not have been concocted from the lab of a mad scientist, but—through whatever combination of genetics, culture or personality experience—they have become sociopaths, with enormous potential to spread their infection throughout society. (To see the characteristics of this type and how Tony fits it, turn to Alex Li San's 2020 post from Medium, Are You a Psychopath?”)

In fact, Tony’s longtime therapist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi, finally breaks with him when she realizes he not only fits the definition of “sociopath” but also that his very sessions with her have—to borrow Krakower’s term—“enabled” her client.
As a mobster, Tony can wield power unavailable to Dracula, Frankenstein or the Wolf Man: he can direct the resources of a criminal enterprise as far-reaching and populated as any business to affect how people work and even whether they live. But his status only makes him the ultimate example of a particular form of sickness.
Consider that description by Dr. Krakower: “depressed criminal, prone to anger, serially unfaithful.” That describes a brand of toxic masculinity found far more often than just in the netherworld of organized crime. It is also shorthand for the domestic abusers in every socioeconomic niche in American culture.

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