I know I am late to the party, but I will sometimes shun something that is universally popular until I’m ready. I waited ten years to watch the movie Ghandi. I never watched Friends, either; though, I get the gist and have watched a few full episodes. This is the case with The Sopranos. It was so popular I just wasn’t interested. But I recently started watching it, and five minutes into episode 1, season 1, I was hooked. Here’s the thing: the other night at dinner I was talking about how fascinating it was that when Tony, exasperated, mentioned to his therapist that his uncle and mother were like little children, she said it’s a good thing to let children have the illusion of control every now and then – and Tony did just that with his uncle. There was a young man at the dinner table, and he’d watched the entire Sopranos series at least six times. He said he’d never noticed that detail before. “I remember that detail but I never put it together,” he said. The next day, I began to wonder why.
It’s not because I think I’m some sort of genius. I am not. Not even close. There’s something else going on. Keep in mind this is only a theory, but I think it’s because I read. I read novels, literary novels, written by writers who are interested in a conversation about the human condition — not just a snappy plot, and this young man does not. I like novels that will make these kinds of connections because the writer is a curious bastard (“bastard” in the most flattering, complimentary way) who can make subtle connections between unrelated things. She has that kind of devious, clever mind. She would see that conversation between Tony and his therapist as more than just an expression of Tony’s exasperation with his mom and uncle — she would see the possibility of it reverberating further into the show. So, this is quiet argument for reading literary novels. Not only will you become more empathetic, this activity can develop comprehension skills that will enrich your viewing of movies, television and so on. I fear there’s a generation of young humans out there who are being raised on YouTube, social media, and gaming, many of whom who will go forth into the world dumbed-down and shallow. Like I said, this is just a theory. But for me it would have been impossible for me to not see that connection in The Sopranos. For my young non-reading friend, it was never going to happen, and I think that’s sad.