Cognition & Reality

Thursday, 20 January 2011

“The Sopranos,” Gay Rights & The Velocity of Social Change

Filed under: Sex & Love,Television — drtone @ 11:47 am

I’ve been re-watching “The Sopranos” for some time. Occasionally, things emerge in the show that feel dated. After all, the first episodes appeared exactly twelve years ago, in January of 1999. Now I’m watching the sixth and final season. I had forgotten that one of the themes in several of the episodes revolves around the discovery that, Vito, one of Tony Soprano’s mob “captains,” is gay. The episodes in question appeared in April and May of 2006. Less than five years later, the issues they tackle already feel as though they’ve stopped mattering.

When Tony finds that Vito is gay, it offends his “old school” approach to the world. On further consideration, however, he realizes that Vito is  one of his hardest working and most loyal people. Tony’s other captains simply want to put Vito to death. forcing Tony  to take a courageous stand in Vito’s defense. As is often true in “The Sopranos,” the creators have taken a current social issue and explored it within the structure of the show, treating the Mafia, fairly or not, as a gloss on American corporate culture.

Not having a regular job, nor having my finger on the pulse of our society, maybe I’m all wet, but I suspect that, were these episodes of “The Sopranos,” written today, they would unfold differently: Instead of wanting to kill the gay captain, most of  Tony’s  other captains, although perhaps personally offended by homosexuality, wouldn’t care enough about the guy’s sexual orientation to be interested in getting rid of him; the plot would revolve around dealing with one or two captains who still want the guy “gone.” Translating this to real life, I have the impression that the issue of gays in the workplace has shifted from whether they are accepted at all to making a few adjustments in the attitudes of .the intransigent few who still cling to “old school” values. That is a huge change in only five years.

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