No Morals, Just "Rules"

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 8

No Morals, Just "Rules"

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 8

No Morals, Just "Rules"
Talking television.
Nov. 4 2002 10:42 AM

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 8

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Hi everyone,

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Well, if you had any doubt about the direction Tony's treatment is taking, this episode makes my case that it's steadily heading south. Tony asks Jennifer about Ralphie's masochistic perversion not out of any desire to help or understand the guy, but primarily so he can shtup Valentina without worrying that Ralphie had been there first. Perhaps we can applaud his honesty when he responds to his therapist's question about poaching on Ralphie's territory, "Guilt? Nope, I don't see that." In truth, his sole motive is the narcissistic one of preserving his honor in his own eyes. No morals here, just "rules."

Jodi wonders what Carmela sees in Furio, particulary in comparison with Tony. Here's where an understanding of "the multiplicity of the self" comes in. Many of us believe that the self is best conceptualized as a compendium of overlapping self/other configurations—that is to say, different aspects of the self are evoked by different "others" we engage with. As a result, I may seem like (or actually be, within limits) a rather different person to my son than I am to my daughter, my friend, or my patient. Similarly, Carmela sees Furio in some very limited contexts—at her kitchen table as he awaits Tony's bidding, at a restaurant dinner table where she's trying to sublimate her attraction to him by setting him up with another woman, etc. In fact she sees a rather emotional, dependent, romantic, one might almost say "feminine" side of Furio, which is "split off" from the sociopathic killer we also know him to be. In this respect Furio is actually very much like Tony. So Carmela's love for (this particular) Furio could represent a diverted love for buried, unreachable aspects of her own husband—which is often what underlies an extramarital affair.

Finally, it seems to me that the writers have settled into using the psychotherapy arc as not much more than a plot device. It was implausible that Jennifer would become more relaxed and spontaneous (as she seemed to be in the first scene), and if nothing else, it is poor technique for her to extend a session simply to give her patient a Psychopathology 101 lecture. We could speculate that Tony's fascination with Ralphie's perversion is a displacement of an unconscious recognition of his own psychic sadomasochism—and Jennifer should have speculated more along these lines herself, rather than diving into the patient's agenda.

Peggy

Glen O. Gabbard, M.D., is a professor of psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and author of The Psychology of The Sopranos, inspired by this discussion. Philip A. Ringstrom, Ph.D., Psy.D., is a senior faculty member at the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles. Joel Whitebook, Ph.D., is on the faculty of the Columbia Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. Margaret Crastnopol, Ph.D., is on the faculty of the Northwest Center for Psychoanalysis. All are practicing therapists as well.