Because I can no longer watch, I am now Reading the Sopranos, edited by David Lavery. It's a collection of critical essays about the show, written by academics in Film Studies and contributors to journals of TV and Film Studies, etc. My favorite essays so far have been "What Has Carmela Ever Done for Feminism? Carmela Soprano and the Post-Feminist Dilemma," by Janet McCabe and Kim Akass, (answer: inconclusive); and "From Columbus to Gary Cooper: Mourning the Lost White Father in The Sopranos," by Christopher Kocela, a very moving exploration of Tony's search for American role-models who can justify his lifestyle and give credence to the man he has become.
I needed to buy this book, I realized, not because I'm really dying to hear these academics' perspectives, but because I need a dialogue about the show, whose heyday has long past. Last month I watched the last episode, rewinding about eight times to figure out what really happened to Tony, and then desperately searching on the Internet for commentary, even falling for Youtube videos titled "The Real Ending to the Sopranos," which reproduced the last six minutes or so of the series, but replaced the black-out with an image of Earth exploding in outer-space. The moral of the story is that I discovered criticism's real function: an extension of the joy of art itself, a way to postpone the end of the experience of reading or watching art.
And what of my catching on a little late to the phenomenon that is The Sopranos? In the age of Netflix, one wonders if there is any longer such a thing as a heyday, an event of its time, and if you can truly miss out. When I was eleven reading Jane Eyre, I was commended for my precocity; twenty-three, obsessing over The Sopranos nearly a decade after the show's pilot, am I viewed as someone who missed the boat? The reality is, nobody says nothing; instead, I am left alone in my room to watch the discs, one after the other as they arrive based on my contract with Netflix, the enabler.