By Marisa Demarco
“Sopranos” Debate—I'm not here to talk about whether you were satisfied with the ending to the long-running TV series. These days, that subject's reserved for the unending parade of columns and commentaries swarming newspapers and TV stations everywhere.
My last name's Demarco, spelled without the capital M because when my grandpa came over on the boat, that's how the immigration lady wrote it down. Half my family is Italian and Maltese. Malta is a little island off the coast of Italy.
I'm not connected. I don't know any mobsters. My dad, before completing law school a handful of years ago, had every blue-collar job one could imagine: bathtub repainter, used car buyer and seller, car painter, gas station attendant, security guard, taxi driver. He's not in the Mafia. My grandpa and uncles have all at some point made their livings as mechanics. None of them are made guys, either.
But America loves its "Sopranos" so much that the show's closure made above-the-fold headlines in the Albuquerque Journal on Sunday and Monday, and lived in news stories long into the week. If I see one more headline with "fuhgeddaboudit" in bold, I'm going to ... sit quietly at my computer and type away.
I've never seen the show, and neither has my dad, though I've been exposed to plenty of movies in the genre. I try not to spend my money on an industry that turns my heritage into a violent, cartoonish parade of cursing tough-guy morons.
My cousin loves it. I'm sure I have extended family that lapped up the stories heralding the end of their favorite show. I probably even have relatives that say "fuhgeddaboudit" without a trace of irony. But they're mechanics, too.
I guess Italian-Americans aren't exactly a minority group. Still, when it comes time to check that ethnicity box on any survey, I'm never really sure what to do. Caucasian doesn't seem quite right, either. But there is a minority group that protests loudly when depicted as overly sexual, morality deficient, violent people. Just ask 50 Cent or any of the news and entertainment outlets that can't seem to stop themselves from portraying low-class ethnic minorities as scary thieves and murderers, or "spicy" hot-tempered nymphos.
So why is it OK to cheer on a team of writers because they made their Mafia toon slightly more complex than the clichéd incarnations that came before it? And why the hell is it on the front page of my local newspaper?
I'm not arguing for a safer, PC version of mobster cinema. I just wish media, local and national, had the wherewithal to add something substantive to the "Sopranos" debate, like a questioning of where all the hardworking blue-collar Italian-Americans are and who's going to write the show about violent, nasty upper-class blond dudes offing one another in the name of machismo, family and pride.
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