The Sopranos is in many ways a time capsule for the ’90s and early 2000s. From the emergence of Starbucks to fads like the infamous Big Mouth Billy Bass, the show can often seem like it was meant to teach viewers about the time in which it was filmed.
As such, a rewatch of The Sopranos will remind audiences of how much American culture has changed since the days of Tony Soprano, Paulie Walnuts, and Artie Bucco. Some fans even think Tony Soprano himself has aged poorly. Most fans didn’t approve of everything their favorite gangsters did in the series, but some aspects The Sopranos‘ first season haven’t aged with the same grace as its lasting legacy.
Tony’s First Collection
There are dozens of beatings on The Sopranos. Nearly every main character in the Jersey crew has to rough up “degenerate gamblers” for not paying what they owe at one time or another. In the pilot episode of the series, “The Sopranos,” fans see Tony rough someone up for the first time.
There is often a notable difference between a TV show’s pilot and its subsequent episodes, and The Sopranos is no different. However, Tony’s first collection with Chrissy Moltesanti comes off as a little too brutal, and takes place in a wildly public forum, in front of an office building with plenty of witnesses. After watching dozens of episodes of the show, fans know Tony is more careful than that.
Recreational drug use is a running theme throughout The Sopranos. Chrissy struggles with heroin addiction, Richie Aprile tries to sell cocaine behind Tony’s back, and Adriana La Cerva gets arrested for moving drugs in her club. However, in season 1, the discussion of drug use can feel dated.
In “Denial, Anger, Acceptance,” Tony’s daughter Meadow seeks out methamphetamine to help her study for her end-of-year exam. Meadow turning to a powerful street drug to study seems dated today when the popularity of prescription medication to help with problems of attention is so highly publicized.
Mental health awareness has made a massive jump from the time of The Sopranos to today. Therapy apps are advertised on major networks, and discussion of the issue has never been more widespread. However, therapy was much more “taboo” in the ’90s and early 2000s.
Tony Soprano is a special case, of course, as mobsters are meant to keep their mouths shut and not discuss their feelings in therapy. However, Dr. Melfie’s sterile tank of an office presents the idea of therapy as a brooding and intimidating one. If that isn’t enough, these days most therapy sessions occur in the privacy of one’s home through telehealth.
Suicide comes up again and again throughout The Sopranos. Vin Makazian jumps off a bridge in an iconic scene, Meadow’s friend Ally Vandermeed attempts suicide, and Junior places a hit after Rusty Irish sells drugs to his tailor’s grandson, leading to his suicide.
However, the way suicide is discussed in season 1 sometimes feels dated. Although it is simply many of the conservative characters’ opinions that suicide is “a sin,” today there would probably be some discussion about the connection between suicide and mental health.
The stock market comes up frequently in The Sopranos. Carmela buys stock in “A Hit is A Hit,” and Chrissy develops a stock market scam which is seen in the season 2 premiere, “Guy Walks into a Psychiatrist’s Office…” Chrissy’s scam doesn’t work out, but at least it isn’t one of the factors leading to one of The Sopranos‘ most tragic deaths.
Some of the plotlines dealing with the stock market in season 1 don’t age well simply because the stock market is different today. It is still relevant, of course, but if the show was made today, perhaps the crew would come up with a way to launder money through cryptocurrency.
Discussion Of The Music Industry
One of the most short-lived characters on The Sopranos is gangster rapper Massive Genius. He only shows up in “A Hit is A Hit,” and his plotline involves getting back-paid royalties he claims Hesh stole. He’s introduced after Adriana tries making her way into a music industry career, a Sopranos storyline that was soon dropped.
The discussion of the music industry in the episode is dated, as the industry has evolved exponentially with the development of streaming since the time of the show. Sampling, a hot-button issue of the time, is harped on most.
Tony Soprano’s perhaps most lasting and iconic mistress Irina Peltsin is introduced during season 1. It’s no secret that many of the characters on the show are culturally insensitive, so it’s not a surprise she is most often referred to as “the Russian.” However, the way Irina is introduced seems dated today.
Irina is shown to audiences as a bit of a stereotype during the first season of the series. She is shown as overly emotional, and almost always drunk with a bottle of vodka close by. She wouldn’t be developed until subsequent seasons.
HBO series like Sex and the City and Euphoria don’t shy away from sexual discussion, and The Sopranos is no different. This becomes clearest in season 1 during the episode “Boca,” which finds Junior Soprano the subject of gossip thanks to his giving nature in the bedroom.
What is considered taboo in “Boca” seems extremely conservative today. Of course, the Jersey crew is overly macho, and it’s not a surprise they think pleasing their partner is a weakness. Furthermore, reports say the way the mobsters are portrayed on The Sopranos is very accurate to the real deal. However, there isn’t much of a counterargument by other characters, making the discussion seem dated.
Carmela And Father Phil
One of Carmela’s earliest plotlines showcases her relationship with Father Phil. The two have a romantic friendship which almost crosses the line after the two have dinner when Tony spends the night away from the house.
However, in the season finale “I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano,” Carmela confronts Phil, telling him he manipulates “spiritually thirsty women, and [she thinks] a lot of it is tied up with food somehow.” Carmela buries a lot of her feelings throughout the series, and her telling the audience what has been implied word for word deviates from the subtly of the show. Furthermore, it doesn’t fit with the Carmela of the rest of the series.
Tony And Meadow’s Trip
In the season 1 episode “College,” Tony and Meadow drive up to Maine to visit some colleges. There are several aspects of the episode that seem dated by today’s standards.
Meadow tells Tony she took methamphetamine to help study for her SATs on the trip up. Tony gets angry but doesn’t take any actions to reprimand her, let alone get her professional help for experimenting with such a serious drug. From Tony’s use of payphones to the then massive importance of the SATs, the whole episode feels like a blast from the past.