By Anna

“The TV said: ‘And other trends that could dramatically impact your portfolio … If our complaints have a focal point, it would have to be the TV set, where the outer torment lurks, causing fears and secret desires.” –Don Delillo’s White Noise

For decades authors have introduced the television as a character in novels, films, and most recently television itself. In 1985, Don Delillo interjected the television’s voice in the lives of his characters in White Noise, overtly expressing the lifelessness of his characters because of over saturation in media. The characters critiqued the constant voice of the TV, but could do nothing about it. Such was the ritual of their lives and turning the television off didn’t seem to be a choice.

My roommates and I frequently reference Patti from Millionaire Matchmaker or talk about the Kardashian sisters as if we knew them. We become so accustomed to the actors and storylines that if one of us were to see Patti on the streets of LA we’d probably say hello like we know her.

In 1971, Stanley Kubrick severely critiqued media conditioning in his film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange. Alex, the protagonist, finds pleasure in Beethoven, rape and violence; therefore, only distasteful media images combined with chemicals can “fix” Alex’s love of violence. What are we to do with violence in the media?

Here, I turn to HBO’s The Sopranos. If any show cloaks itself in sex, drugs, and violence it’s The Sopranos because a show about the mob without sex, drugs, and violence hardly does the mob justice. The plot follows Anthony (Tony) Soprano and his mob life. Nearly every episode references some movie or television show, and the TV is constantly on or focused on, particularly in Tony’s bedroom in which the TV sits on a white Grecian pillar. The television motif continues: Tony’s uncle, under house arrest, gets hooked on a soap opera, Tony frequently retells plot lines from television shows to his therapist, and Tony’s wife watches multiple old films usually alone.

Breaking down the television motif has not been easy because there may not be one answer to its place in The Sopranos, but it’s obvious the creators have a point to make.

  1. What viewers know from television still isn’t real life. Even mobsters have therapists because mobsters have bitter multiple personality mothers.
  2. Television is like a god in our culture, and it’s time to critique TV with itself.
  3. People are constantly wary of what TV violence will do to their children. It’s not the violence from TV the parents should be worried about, but it’s what their kids do with that knowledge and how parents address violence and television that really matters.

These are all off the cuff ideas about the television motif and I have found little answers via a quick Google search as to why The Sopranos frequently references TV, but I it’s a smart show by not ignoring TV. After all, we could use a few more Delillo’s in the world stirring the melting pot of media.