I’ve recently returned to watching The Sopranos and I find it oddly still resonating 13 years after it ended. As a fan of mob stories I shouldn’t be too surprised, but in such changed world from the start of the millennium I do find it interesting. Maybe nothing’s changed, maybe everything has, but one thing that appears to echo in both the show and in reality is the overarching sense of loss. It’s the sense of something good has reached it’s end. And it isn’t just me; a quick Google search will show you that record numbers of viewers are streaming the show for the umpteenth or fist time. Still that is not what interests me the most.
I view Tony Soprano as a flawed character but one with a strong sense of morals. Let me say here that I do not mean morals in the sense of right or wrong, but in the sense of a strong moral code that informs situation A always results in action B. This is where he gets himself in trouble as his conscience, aided by the prodding of Dr. Melfi, is in conflict with his actions. This is a timeless situation in fictional characters that makes for some memorable stories. Does awareness of this situation make Tony Soprano a likeable character? Perhaps. He’s certainly a relatable one. While we all face choices between right and wrong as do our characters it is how that choice is arrived at that makes the situation.
In Dungeons and Dragons terms, characters have two morality paths: one is lawful or chaotic and the other is good or evil. In the middle sits neutrals which provide an out sometimes but for my point here I’m going to ignore that. A lawful evil character is one whose actions are never for the good of all but at the same time always conforming to a set code. It may only be a code that is set by this character but it is set. A chaotic good character is one that does good deeds but there is no logic, no rhyme or reason to them. In many instances the outcome is by accident it just happens to not hurt anyone. I view Tony as a lawful evil character. One whos actions are only for the good of himself or those closest to him but are very costly for others.
Good and bad are subjective, what is good for the lion is bad for the gazelle. But in our writing we have a code of conduct that all our characters must follow as it’s one of the few connection points to our readers. Our reader may not be a mafia boss but they can relate to one who struggles to follow his moral code. So yes one could learn a lot about morality in The Sopranos, and not just the lack of it. Are their any books, movies, or TV shows that taught you something about creating morals in your characters? Let me know in the comments.