Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mourning James Not Tony

The passing of any person is sad. The passing of someone at the still-young age of 51 is very sad. Actor, James Gandolfini, died in Rome on 19 June 2013. How awful to lose a person described as a "good man who never forgot his roots" a "humble, humorous man of immense talent". So I mourn the death of James Gandolfini...but not the death of Anthony John "Tony" Soprano.

I'm fully aware that the part of Tony Soprano is fictitious...kinda. His character is loosely based on real life NJ mobster and street boss, Vincent "Vinny Ocean" Palermo. I didn't like the HBO drama, "The Sopranos". I didn't like the movies, "The Godfather or Goodfellas". I am immensely proud of being an American-Italian. I don't like those of my nationality being portrayed as goons who can't speak a sentence unless it has the "F" word. None of my relatives carried a gun. The men in my family didn't curse. They were gentlemen.
What is it about evil men that much of society idolizes? Why are some of us drawn to those who murder, cheat, lie and swear up a storm? Why are TV/Movie viewers attracted to dark characters? Lucifer is called the Angel of Light. The Ancient One holds a unique attraction for many because of its wicked beauty and cunning ways. I don't want to be in that presence any more than I want to spend precious time watching men with evil dispositions.

Sorry, but even in our enlightened age, there are those who still believe in the stereotypical Italian. Case in point...my nephew attended a southern university. He never had a run-in with the law, never carried a weapon, etc, etc. His college roommate, a home state boy, commented that he tried to get out of rooming with my nephew because he was afraid to share a dorm with a New York Italian kid. You know, a mafia boy. What?

I know that Mr. Gandolfini had many stellar performances aside from that of a mob boss. But the one that many gush over is none other than cafone, Tony Soprano. Tony Soprano was shown as a short-tempered, violent sociopath prone to depression and panic attacks. Do ya think murdering eight men had something to do with his anxiety? How messed up is it when an animal lover, such as Tony, severely pistol whips a man because he had something to do with the death of a horse? Were there animal lovers out there cheering him on? Two wrongs don't make a right.

My father, Paul Cerabona, was a 1st generation Italian-American. He was admired as a "man's man". He never slapped his wife. He never had a mistress. Tony had 4. Ya know what you feared the most about my dad? That you'd lose his respect or his friendship. He often said, "You have two people to fear...me and God up-above." Interesting and much misunderstood are the words, fear of the Lord. It's not being afraid of Him, but respecting Him with humility. You would be mortified to be disgraced in my dad's eyes...& even more of a disgrace... in God's eyes.
Now gaze upon Tom Selleck's character, Frank Reagan, police commissioner in the TV drama, "Blue Bloods". I want to cheer at the end of each episode. He's someone to look up to. Someone our kids can admire and emulate. He's a family man, fair and balanced. He admits he has flaws and tries to overcome them. Jesus is welcomed at his dinner table...saying grace isn't out of vogue in the Reagan household.
I loved Ray Romano in "Everybody Loves Raymond". Ray Barone was a goofus, sure. But he was decent, and family came first...even if it took the whole episode to prove it. He didn't lust after his daughter's Girl Scout Leader, nor abused his wife for her awful cooking. He is an Italian I can relate to.

Okay, so these are actors playing characters. But who impresses our kids the most? Hollywood stars and the characters they portray. Girls get pregnant out of wedlock because their Hollywood idol is with child. The clothes they wear are trampy because the actress they most admire walks around half nude.  I admire the actress that refuses to strip for the camera. That is a real woman. That takes guts. I don't admire characters in shows like, Sex In The City or Desperate Housewives of NJ...NY...Hollywood, wherever. My friends and I don't sit around and discuss the sordid topics they discuss. My sisters and I don't behave in the raunchy way they do. I'm not desperate enough to watch those shows no less enjoy them. But thousands of viewers are enthralled with their antics. Do you know how many can't distinguish between the character and the actual actor? People meeting a TV doctor on the street will ask for medical advice!

In real life, James Gandolfini was a swell guy. In real life, celebrities like Charlie Sheen and Hugh Hefner are unsavory, to say the least. But so many people gush at their names. Our honor is our name. It's what we leave as our family legacy. Throughout history, people have died for their name's sake. I'm proud of both my maiden and married name. We instilled in our son the importance of his last name. He knows never to sully it. He knows to be proud of his heritage, too. I guess that's what bothers me the most, that characters like Tony Soprano are synonymous with my beloved ancestry. So rest in peace James Gandolfini....and may God have mercy on the Tony Sopranos of this world.

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