Brokeback Sopranos

What hath Annie (Proulx) wrought? The gay Vito subplot on The Sopranos, now concluded with his beating death, seems an homage to Proulx’s landmark New Yorker story of 1997—and the Ang Lee movie that was based on it. How many Brokeback quotes did you catch? I noticed the rear mounting in golden light in bed on the last episode, and the sad, no-closure interstate phone call between the doomed gay lovers in the latest. But really it was the storyline: Vito’s delusion about having a family life ending with a savage homophobic beating. That’s what happened to Jack Twist, ‘way down in Texas in the Proulx story.

The borrowing’s fine. But it’s symptomatic of a problem with The Sopranos. The writers and producers are straining at the form. It’s not enough to have a Jersey Mafia story anymore, they have to have shafts of otherworldly literary light pouring in from out of nowhere at every turn. I mean the Lorraine Bracco shrink—abruptly, finally—challenging Tony about the violence in his job. “We’ve been dancing around how you live for years.” Sugar, why now? And ethically, are you allowed to bring up stuff the analysand doesn’t? I found it intrusive. Then there were Carmela’s art-inspired epiphanies about the brevity of life in Paris. Paris—on the Sopranos. They should leave that stuff to Merchant and Ivory, and just let the Sopranos be the Sopranos.