Men Loved The Sopranos Like No Other Show (Except for All the Other Ones)

What Women Really Think
June 24 2013 5:38 PM

Men Loved The Sopranos Like No Other Show (Except for All the Other Ones)

170936316
The waitresses probably don't even know who he was.

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

In the wake of James Gandolfini's sudden and untimely death last week at 51, thousands of words, many of them beautiful and heartfelt, have been published in his memory. But some observers have jumped to rather odd conclusions, including Los Angeles Times critic Mary McNamara, who throws out television history to suggest that The Sopranos somehow made it OK for men to talk about television.

"Even as the NBA Finals moved toward a thrilling and decisive Game 7, ESPN sportscasters were talking about nothing but Gandolfini's death, reminiscing about The Sopranos with the tones of sorrowful obsession usually reserved for the passing of an iconic coach or star athlete," McNamara wrote. "The Sopranos is regularly touted as the show that begat the creative shift that lifted television over every other narrative art form including film. It did this in many ways, but perhaps the most significant is the simplest: Gandolfini's Tony Soprano made it possible for men to obsess about a TV show and not feel like a geek."

Advertisement

It did?

I suppose that "not feel like a geek" is McNamara's attempt to distinguish The Sopranos from Star Trek, which has had a hugely active and significantly male fan base since the 1960s. A decade before the debut of The Sopranos, Matt Groening created The Simpsons, though maybe that's disqualified on geek grounds, too? When J.R. Ewing was shot, did only women care? One thing's for sure: I've never heard a guy quote Seinfeld.

More from McNamara:

"The Sopranos" made serialized storytelling manly. Suddenly it was cool for even those men who deplored the metrosexualization of everything to follow a TV show avidly, raptly, and in communion with other men.

Wait, so did The Sopranos metrosexualize TV or not metrosexualize TV? I’m not following.

McNamara's idea, presented entirely without evidence, that The Sopranos somehow let men bust out of the television-watching closet seems more like a stretch for a second-day story than proof of an epochal shift in television viewership. The Sopranos did herald a new era of obsessive TV watching, both for regular viewers (men and women) and for the burgeoning episode recap business from which so many of today's television critics (female television critics prominently among them) sprung. To distill its impact to some sort of male bonding exercise belittles the show and its audience. And it ignores a whole lot of television history.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 16 2014 11:46 PM The Scariest Campfire Story More horrifying than bears, snakes, or hook-handed killers.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.