Famous Italian Americans Mafia Pop Culture

Cut to Black

June 10th, 2007. It is a night that continues to live in controversy. It was the airing of the final episode of The Sopranos; quite possibly the most discussed and questioned television show ending of all time. And to this day it is still hotly debated.

Don’t Stop Believing

Everyone I know was home when the episode was airing. Everyone also knew no one was going to answer their phones while it was on television. David Chase was masterful at building the tension and suspense. Meadow has trouble parking her car. The family munches on onion rings. A guy walks into Holsten’s in Bloomfield wearing, of course, a Members Only jacket. All while “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey plays in the background. The bell rings as someone opens the door and walks in, Tony looks up.

Cut to black.

Like everyone else, I gasped out loud, thinking the cable connection was lost. After a minute, the credits begin to roll in silence. My husband and I sat slack-jawed staring at the television. Then the phone calls started.

“What. Just. HAPPENED????” It was the question heard around New Jersey. I feel like I almost went through the seven steps of grief: shock, anger, denial… I’m not sure if I ever fully hit acceptance.

Like many others, I looked for hints. I thought about the episode when Tony and Bobby Bacala are out fishing and talk about handling business. I thought about the guy in the Members Only jacket heading to the bathroom and wondering if he was pulling a Michael Corleone; picturing him standing in the bathroom doorway, firing a single bullet as Tony looked up and met eyes with Meadow before he was killed.

A few days after the finale aired, I thought about how Tony looked up when people walked in. That he was facing the doorway instead of facing the back of Holstens. I wondered if the end of the episode was indicative of how the rest of his life would have to play out – he would always need to look over his shoulder.

Love and Hate… but mostly Love

The Sopranos logo

As I have talked about in the past, those of us of Italian ancestry have a love/hate relationship with Mafia-focused moves and shows. They offer familiar aspects of our culture. Big families, Sunday dinners, and drama. But they also paint us in a negative light, continuing to bring attention to a century-long stereotype that most individuals of Italian ancestry are “connected.”

I know there are those of Italian ancestry that refuse to watch entertainment like The Sopranos. Organizations like Order Sons of Italy in America and UNICO felt it perpetuated negative stereotypes of Italian communities.

I’ll let you in on a secret. As much as we hate how we are portrayed, most of us still watch these shows and movies. We know it isn’t real. We know it isn’t who we really are as a people and a community. And we also know if someone says something stupid to our face, we are going to “re-educate” them on who we really are.

So love these shows and movies or hate them. Love that ending or hate it. I think we can all agree the ending of The Sopranos will continue to spark debate.

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