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Women in 'The Sopranos' Are Living in the Real World

April 23, 2001

Professor Martha M. Lauzen condemns "The Sopranos" for "glorifying" violence against women ("Don't Forget the Brutalized Women Behind 'The Sopranos,' " April 16), singling out the April 1 episode in which a pregnant stripper was brutally beaten to death. Personally, I think Lauzen's charge says more about her than it does about "The Sopranos." Most normal viewers were probably repulsed by the brutality of that scene, and I would hate to be inside the head of anyone who saw a "glorification" of violence in the stripper's murder.

"The Sopranos" continues to portray violence as it really is--brutal and repellent. There are plenty of shows on TV that sugarcoat violence and shield viewers from seeing the messy, unpleasant consequences of violence. I would humbly suggest that Lauzen watch those shows and leave "The Sopranos" to the millions of us who don't want the brutality of mob violence, and violence against women, glossed over for the sake of political correctness.


Beverly Hills

As a female fan of "The Sopranos," I wonder if Lauzen is watching the same show I am. What's in fact most compelling to watch on the series is the women characters, nearly all of whom are drawn as complex, conflicted people haplessly trying to balance family life with criminal life. I love that these women are not heroines or role models. They don't snitch on their husbands, pack up their suitcases and kids to bravely escape--that would have been the "well-worn stereotype" expressed in Lauzen's Counterpunch.


Santa Monica

Lauzen must be blind to miss just how three-dimensional the women of "The Sopranos" are. She writes that they are "long-suffering," but if she watched the show, she would notice that the women are not suffering. Hello, these women live in the seedy underworld of the Mafia and, like the men, are not supposed to be role models. They are like real women who do or do not have college educations and don't always make the best choices in life.


Hermosa Beach

"The Sopranos" shows us what few women--feminist or not--want to acknowledge: that women collude in their own oppression to a more complex extent than any other oppressed group. On a personal level, heterosexual women are sometimes in love with their oppressors, and on an economic level, women operate in a society that rewards them financially for their willingness to objectify themselves.

Young women learn the social acceptability of such practices and in turn perpetuate them at all levels of society, ironically defending their actions as personal choices rather than reflections of a sexist socialization.

Many of the pillars of our establishment married and have conjugal sex for money, not love. The difference between the women at the Bada Bing, who prostitute themselves and their self-respect for $100 per hour, and Carmela Soprano, who does it for the mansion and credit cards, is a matter of economic and social class, not morality.

How do we move toward an era in which women choose to avoid oppressive, unhealthy relationships and refuse to degrade and objectify themselves for fame and/or the almighty dollar? Certainly not by denying reality.

"The Sopranos" is guided by realism, and a show portraying a gender-equal society unfortunately belongs in the science-fiction genre. A character like Tony Soprano cannot by definition be married to a self-respecting woman or employ self-respecting women. At least Carmela Soprano actively wrestles with her dilemma, as opposed to denying that she has one, like many women do. That's a realistic start.



I have news for Martha M. Lauzen: "The Sopranos" is depicting a segment of society as it really is, not as we want it to be. Criticizing the show for its representation of women is like criticizing "Gone With the Wind" because it portrays African Americans as slaves.



I am dismayed that an intelligent college professor like Lauzen would want "The Sopranos" to be discontinued because of its depiction of women as powerless and abused. Sadly, many women do find themselves in this position and it would seem important that they be portrayed. Certainly our hearts went out to the poor pregnant prostitute who was brutally beaten, and to the psychiatrist who was raped. Both of these characters, as well as Carmela, Tony's wife, are strong and sympathetic.


Beverly Hills

Despite Tony's limited perspective of the women in his life, the writers enable viewers to relate to and sympathize with the female characters because they cannot help but cringe from the violence these women experience. For example, the episode of Dr. Melfi's rape was a chilling illustration of the act, a vivid and dramatic scenario that churned viewers' stomachs--as rape should--and viewers could not possibly condone her attacker's behavior.



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