LC Van Savage
Blood, Gore And More, Please!
Are you as concerned as I about our huge national love affair with film
violence? All kinds, all varieties involving living and inanimate things? For this
column however, I’m speaking specifically about the very violent and bloody “The
Godfather” films and “The Sopranos” TV series. “The Godfather” movies are now
considered great classics, works of art, creative masterpieces worthy of any kind
of award out there. And now, ditto “The Sopranos.”
Wait a second. Wait. Have we become a nation of violence worshipers?
Of course we have. For many of us, pain as entertainment is the new national MO.
I mean look how we support, watch and laugh wildly at things like, “Funniest Home
Videos” where children get to smash their faces into metal poles after a long sled
ride for example, or people trip and fall horribly onto cement. And of course
there’s always the obligatory male-child-or-adult- man-gets-hit-in-his-privates
scene. How very very amusing.
How very very upsetting that these types of shows where people are hurt do not
ever lessen in popularity. In fact they get renewed in perpetuity. Yes, we’ve
become a nation who laughs at and genuinely loves the sights and sounds of pain.
Those Godfather movies. Did I enjoy them? Do I have to tell the truth
here? No? Yes? Well, the truth is yes, I love them. I’ve seen them all about 3
times and they mesmerize me. The music is fabulous. The scenery and sets are
gorgeous. In fact a great deal of the first Godfather movie was filmed at my old
school chum Judy Kastner’s huge brick home and family compound on Staten Island
where I spent many sweet hours for many sweet years. When I sat in that dark cool
livingroom, hangin’ with all those red headed Kastner kids and their great
parents, I never for a moment thought that the shrugging Marlon Brando would be
acting in that very same room with cotton in his cheeks, his voice high, rasping
and menacing, or that Al Pacino would be sitting in the very chair I sat in,
staring silently at his next victims with those cold, darkly reptilian and long
lidded eyes of his.
Movie brutality oddly doesn’t seem to faze or upset us. I don’t even blink or
gasp when I see it. I don’t even think my pupils dilate although I’ve never
checked. In other words, I accept those scenes with the same emotion as I accept
an army of moths bashing against our outdoor lights and falling down dead. I’m
pretty sure my pupils don’t dilate then, either.
Do those scenes of gruesome and random violence on screen turn us into
non-caring, non-reactive voyeurs when we see these things happen in the real
world? I wonder. When I worked in New York City, I looked up a slight incline as I
walked one of the city’s great avenues and saw a man fall to the sidewalk, having
either a seizure or a heart attack. The crowds of New Yorker passers-by just
simply divided themselves and walked around him. He was alone on the sidewalk
while this huge sea of humanity walked past him, not looking, not caring. I am a
cowardly wimp by nature but I made a charge across the street toward him, and was
enormously relieved to see that two good Samaritans had finally stopped to help.
I was thankfully off the hook. I’ll never, ever forget that.
Did this experience change my life? Maybe a little. But, am I OK with the
murders, the beatings of both men and women, the gruesome, horrific tortures and
punishments meted out by The Family in “The Godfather” films? Da boyz? I am not
proud to say that I guess I must be, as long as they’re on screen and not in my
Did I get hooked on the HBO series “The Sopranos”? I did. That menacing, cold
hearted, huge and very sexy thug Tony was fascinating. Who can forget him in
that role? His wife Carmela, big haired and big nailed, skin tight clothing,
knowing all and mostly choosing to ignore all, until she’s had it with Tony’s
philandering and he philanders a lot. Frankly watching that groaning, grunting,
sweating Tony performing those philanders always in his undershirt might be a way
of getting our young people to not philander themselves. Schools and churches
should maybe consider --- no, I kid. But really, it’s gross.
Carmela Soprano is all Northern New Jersey, and this good actress has nailed
the accent and mannerisms perfectly, as have all her girlfriends and her kids.
Daughter Meadow, cool and whiney, struggling to go her own way while taking
Daddy’s money, gradually seems to be getting sucked into the Mafia mystique,
knowing but not really wanting to know what her father does to earn all that cash.
She doesn’t mind that she’s got everything on earth a human should have; huge
blond brick home, landscaped gardens, new cars, great clothes and a college
education at Columbia, paid in advance with money stained in blood.
The whacked-out son AJ, loved, but a major disappointment to Tony in both
physical size and his non-chipofftheoldblock pursuits. To his parents’ horror, he
dates a Puerto Rican single mother. Tony of course philanders with women of all
persuasions but apparently forgets that. In this series, there is no double
standard. There is a quadruple. The parents, the henchmen who beat the crap out of
anyone who crosses them, the great shrink Dr. Jennifer Melfi, who taught viewers
more about the power of the silent non-answer than any other actor ever, but who
in the end couldn’t pull Tony out of his wicked, wicked ways. My favorite thug,
Silvio Dante who had all the moves, shrugs, expressions, everything a member of
the Jersey Mafia would do and say, smarmy Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri with those
cold expressions, thick hands, big white wings on his temples, Prince-in-Waiting
Christopher Moltisanti (Christafuh), Corrado “Junior” Soprano, cold, cold Johnny
“Sack” Sacramoni, Phil Leotardo; what a great bunch of actors, nearly all of them
acting their ways through some sort of hideous scenes of violence upon them, while
we watched, drinking it in, hoping for more. And to our great joy and loud
laughs, all those characters came to nasty, bad ends.
Like all TV series will, “The Sopranos” finally closed down the Bada Bing. We
all drooled for a final majorly huge scene of violence on the last show, a Can You
Top This? scene of brutal blood and gore and baseball bats. Yes we did. We
wondered how a final scene of carnage could possibly top all the ones we’d watched
so faithfully. And so we all gathered in front of our TV sets that night. I for
one thought Tony’s end would come while he lay in his expensive summer chaise next
to his pool, snoring in his bathrobe , huge belly barely covered by that
undershirt. I was so sure it was then he’d suddenly be offed by the black bear who
occasionally showed up near his swimming pool.
But no. The series ended in a small, non-descript New Jersey restaurant. No
bear. No violence. Nothing happened. I know America was deeply disappointed.
Please, what is wrong with us?
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