Mental Health in the Sopranos

Tony Soprano talking to his therapist, Dr. MelfiTony Soprano talking to his therapist, Dr. Melfi

Currently, I’m watching the HBO classic, The Sopranos, and the premise of the show is a mob boss going to therapy. James Gandolfini plays the main character, Tony Soprano, a tall, no non-sense gangster from North Jersey. But in therapy, he’s anxious, he’s depressed, he’s vulnerable.

The Sopranos was made in the late 90s and early 2000s, one thing I found interesting about the show is their view on mental health. Tony can’t let anyone find out that he’s going to a therapist or else they’d lose respect for him. They’d think he’s weak. Eventually, rumors start to spread that Tony’s in therapy. In one scene, his protege, Chris Moltisanti, says that he questions his leadership after finding out, to which Tony grabs him by the collar and threatens to choke him out.

Watching this show made me realize just how much progress we’ve made in just two decades around our relationship with mental health. I had many friends from immigrant families that said that mental health was a taboo topic in their households. That depression didn’t exist. That it was a sign of weakness. But now, we acknowledge that mental illnesses are real and we need to take care of our mental well-being.

That’s the thing about watching older shows, especially shows as popular as The Sopranos. It’s a cultural commentary on the norms and beliefs in that period of time.

July 27, 2023

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