Sunday, June 03, 2007

My Favorite Anti-Hero

Only one more episode. Sigh. It's hard to believe after eight years there will be no more Tony Soprano.
Is the Sopranos the best tv show of all time? I don't know, but it certainly would be in my top five. Much has been written about what makes it so spectacular, and I won't try to summarize it here, but the one thing that has always fascinated me as a writer is the appeal of the anti-hero. How is it possible that I could relate--and at times sympathize--with someone as morally corrupt as Tony Soprano?

Therein lies the brilliance of the writing, particularly in characterization.
Tony is the quintessential "anti-hero." According to Wikipedia an antihero is defined as: An anti-hero in fictional works will typically take a leading role, performing acts which might be deemed "heroic" (at least in scale and daring), but using methods, manners, or intentions that may not be so - indeed they are often underhanded or deceitful.
As the head of his family, Tony is the heroic "alpha" male: the tough, take-charge leader with a strict sense of duty and responsibility. As Tony himself said: "All due respect, you got no fucking idea what it's like to be number one. Every decision you make affects every facet of every other fucking thing. It's too much to deal with almost. And in the end you're completely alone with it."
But he is also a vicious, cold-blooded murderer who compulsively cheats on his wife. The "anti" part of the equation and qualities that I don't usually find compelling in a hero. :) This odd duality was brought succinctly to a point in a recent episode when a rival wiseguy threatened Tony's daughter at a restaurant. As viewers we could all sympathise with the fear of what Tony must have felt to have his daughter threatened. What did Tony do? What any hero would do and took care of it--in this case by beating the guy up. But he did it with such brutality and violence that there was no hiding from fact that Tony is not, and can never be, a hero.
But I'm going to miss him.