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Trigger Warning: mentions of rape, domestic violence, sexual abuse

I’m not much of a television binger. I spend most of my time on my phone watching TikToks or scrolling through some other sort of mundane social media app. 

When the holidays rolled around, they brought a level of boredom unlike the rest of 2020. The summer of 2020 was filled with hope –– maybe something will get better by the end of the year? However, with talks of a “dark winter” at the beginning of September, my mood was already low going into Christmas and New Year’s. 

[bf_image id="3kbhgw779z98436wjbnrws5q"] Without friends to see or places to go, I sat at home listening to my stepdad watch The Sopranos in the other room. I became intrigued. At the start of the millennium, when I was still a small baby, this was the show to watch. I was intrigued by the idea of broadening my pop culture horizons and maybe getting a break from the monotony of the day. I started watching the show every night.

In the first season, I was awash with pre-9/11 hope and naivete. I watched Tony Soprano take his daughter Meadow on college tours and fondly remembered the few college tours I went on years ago. Tony’s initial distaste for therapy reminded me of my own, an issue I struggled with throughout 2020 while having Zoom therapy sessions. It was relaxing to see a slice of life that was disturbing in all of the ways that life is, coupled with the added stressors of mafia life. 

The most interesting part of the show was its handling of societal issues and concepts, mainly regarding instances of rape and domestic violence. I feel like, as of recently, shows are less liberal with the way they portray these issues; there is a cut-away from the camera, or the incidents are implied. The Sopranos does neither of these things. In a world where trigger warnings and blurred images are the norm, it was shocking to see such displays of violence and horror without any sort of editing. 

I took into context the time period in which the show was set. I think, in the late nineties and early aughts, these instances were more grounded in fantasy, in the realm of television where the everyday viewer does not exist. Now, with #MeToo and the subsequent outpouring of support from communities for sexual abuse survivors, the issues of rape and domestic abuse are not taken as merely a plot point. The viewership has grown up and even become jaded.

[bf_image id="q6e2et-14w9jk-fy1g0w"] Not only has the viewership grown up, but it has a voice. Social media users tune into their app of choice to discuss episodes, characters, and plotlines. Twitter hashtags and interpretations have become a central part of media consumption, and The Sopranos never had to reckon with such a force.

I would argue that The Sopranos would’ve survived 2021, but I don’t know if the more nefarious aspects of the show I mentioned would’ve been included. Ultimately, we can never know how the show would’ve panned out without any of these scenes. However, instead of asking if something would exist the same way, I think it’s better to examine the way that completed works of art change through time. I feel this is a crucial aspect to enjoying movies and television. The signs of the times are just as essential as the film or show itself.   

Isabella is studying History and English at the University of California, Davis. She is currently a second-year student trying to navigate the tumultuous world of online learning. She enjoys watching horror movies, playing Trivial Pursuit, and trying to master the art of a good banana bread. Her career aspirations range somewhere between the field of journalism and academia, but she's still trying to figure it out (as we all are).
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