That Awkward Moment When You Love The Bad Guy

Topics: The Sopranos, James Gandolfini, Martin Scorsese Pages: 8 (2542 words) Published: March 22, 2014
“That Awkward Moment When You
Love the Bad Guy”
A Critique of the Protagonists in the Mafia Genre: The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire

Nadine Mohamed

"Do you spend time with your family?
Good, because a man that doesn't spend time with
his family can never be a real man"
~ Don Vito Corleone The Godfather

That’s really what the Mafia genre is really all about- virility and italianita (Nochimson. MP, 2002: 2). As a sub-genre to the Crime and Gangster genres, the Mafia genre is relatively new. Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972) has paved the way for the Mafia Genre, which is considered to be a sub-genre to the gangster genre. The film, considered to one of the best films in world cinema (BFI Film Forever, 2013), is the prime example of the Mafia genre, not only in films but in television shows. The genre aims to glorify the rise and fall of the patriarch, which is prevalent in the modern texts The Sopranos (1999) and Boardwalk Empire (2010).

The genre presents the protagonists, who are usually corrupt, as heroes and so they are received by audiences. The Sopranos is considered to be one of the most addictive television shows, raking in about 3.7 million viewers per episode (Yacowar.M, 2003: 9). Mafia genre television turns from programme to cult (Yacowar.M, 2003: 10) It can be speculated that the reason as to why these characters are praised as heroes because they represent the reversal of the American Dream, which speaks to the oppression of the middle-class American man. Through a comparative discussion of Anthony ‘Tony’ Soprano and Enoch “Nucky” Thompson as characters in mafia texts, it can be justified as to why and how their characters relate to American society.

Mafia television; it’s been thrown around enough times it’s starting to sound like a tongue twister. The Mafia genre is a sub-genre to the gangster and crime genre, starting as a

That Awkward Moment When You Love the Bad Guy
A Critique of The Protagonists in the Mafia Genre: The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire MHMNAD011

relatively new genre to film and television. The fathers of the mafia genre are directors such as Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino as they have defined the genre through their works. Often the protagonist is portrayed as megalomaniacal, materialistic, street smart yet self-destructive. It reveals their life pre-empting their mortality. It’s a chronicle of their rise and falls as the protagonist, who is the patriarch. Often the character gets attached the identity of the actor, creating an icon of the actor thus allowing the character to live on beyond the realms of the show. The Sopranos(1999) created by David Chase is an HBO based on the New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano, played by the recently late actor James Gandolfini, who finds complications in dealing with his domestic life and his obligations as the head mobster. His difficulties and struggles are highlighted and critiqued by his psychiatrist Dr Jenifer Melfi, played by Lorraine Bracco. There are other arcs of his life that are portrayed, such as the relationship with his wife Carmella played by Edie Falco and his younger family protégé Christopher Moltisanti by Michael Imperioli. The Writers Guild of America had awarded the noted it as the best-written television series of all time. (Complete List:; 2013) Boardwalk Empire(2010) is another HBO Gangster drama set in the 1920’s during the time of the Prohibition Era, created by Terence Winter . Steve Buscemi plays Nucky Thompson, based on the historical Enoch Thompson, the Treasurer of Atlantic City who is the city’s main bootlegger. It is based around Nucky’s inconsistency in his life and how he deals with the forces that attempt to bring him down from his acclaimed ‘throne’ of the Boardwalk. As aforementioned, the aim of the mafia text is to glorify the rise and the fall of the patriarch, which can synonymously be explained by the theories documented by Sigmund Freud in...

Bibliography: June 2, 2013.
The Changing Face of Organized Crime in New Jersey A Status Report
Freud.S, Totems and Taboo, 1913 Routledge Classics 2001, United Kingdom
Halperin,S; Ginsberg, M" 'Boardwalk Empire ' Theme: Series Creator Explains Decision
to Use Contemporary Music". The Hollywood Reporter.. September 25, 2011
Retrieved November 14, 2007.
Gorman, B (December 7, 2010). "Sunday Cable Ratings: 'The Walking Dead, '
'Boardwalk Empire ' Finales Rise; 'Sarah Palin 's Alaska, ' 'Dexter, ' 'The Hasslehoffs ' &
Perkins.W, Art Of The Title: Boardwalk Empire (2010), 3 July 2012, available at:
Roush, Matt (July 1, 2013). "A Soprano 's Swan Song". TV Guide. pp. 18–21.
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