In 1999, a show debuted on HBO that would become one of the best TV Dramas ever written. The Sopranos. Tony Soprano was a New Jersey Mafia boss – and he was in therapy for anxiety attacks. His character was compelling (as were the other characters in the series – the writing was superb), because of the disconnect between his work persona: hard, violent, ruthless – and the undercurrent of the family man who was constantly afraid and over-the-top protective of his family. The show was like a car accident: brutal and horrific in places, but the viewer could NOT look away.
Still, Tony Soprano was not an admirable character. He was amoral, narcissistic, mendacious, racist, misogynistic, and vicious. So, I was amazed when the men that I worked with became obsessed with the show. They would have daily contests over who could recite dialog from a recent show in the best “Joisey” accent. They would dress like Tony. One guy put in some effort to discover what brand of cigar Tony smoked, made a decision, and suddenly the whole group smoked cigars. It was so obvious – these supposedly gentle guys wanted to BE Tony Soprano. Why?
My answer – (and no, I have done no research, I’m just rambling) is that Tony had everything they wanted. He was rich. He was powerful – the BOSS – give an order, and underlings would say “Yes Boss”, and jump into action. He had nice cars and a huge house and a wife and two kids that he could ignore most of the time. He set his own work hours, mostly at night. His “office” was in a strip club. He had all of the good food, cigars, and booze he wanted. He had a never-ending supply of hookers and mistresses. He killed anyone that got in his way, and his henchmen got rid of the evidence.
The guys I worked with were law-abiding family men. But something inside them clearly wanted to be free of bosses, free of obligations and constrictions, and longed to be – a king. An ultimate authority. Rich, powerful, in control (in public, anyway), and above the law.
I spoke to one of them years later and we talked about Tony Soprano. I presented my theory. He agreed with the assessment – males (Boomer generation anyway) are all about who is best, who is the leader, who has the power – power is everything. And, (he said with a wry smile) “power corrupts. But we still really want it.”
There are an awful lot of similarities between Tony Soprano and Donald Trump. Just sayin’.