The Sopranos is the show that changed TV forever. The series became such a massive success for its writing, performances, and thoughtfully curated filmmaking. Its characters are beloved because they are complex, and presented completely in the series, good and bad qualities alike.
New fans of The Sopranos might see Carmela as one of the show’s most innocent characters, pointing to Tony Soprano as one who has aged poorly. However, Carmela is as guilty as any character in the series, and her actions would be taken with even less understanding today.
Carmela’s biggest crime in The Sopranos is her complacency. She claims to want a safe life for her family, but as Tony sometimes points out, she’s unwilling to leave her role as a mob wife.
This idea becomes clearest when Carmela talks to her first therapist Dr. Krakower in season 3. Krakower tells Carmela plainly that she will never be innocent until she leaves Tony. Although she agrees tearfully, she never leaves her husband. The two have a short break later in the series, but ultimately Carmela is unable to leave him.
Carmela lives her lavish lifestyle thanks to the murder, torture, and thievery of her husband’s work, but Carmela has no problem turning her nose up at others. She looks down at those who don’t have as much as she has.
Carmela’s elitism is exemplified in her garish brunch in New York with Meadow, as the two sip champagne flutes with elbow-length gloves. She gossips about Big Pussy Bonpensiero’s wife Angie when she sees her handing out samples for work at a local supermarket, only to envy her when she becomes a self-starter taking over her late husband’s auto shop. She can barely handle Angie’s arc, one of the biggest redemptions in The Sopranos.
Tony and the rest of the Jersey crew are best known for racism in the series. Between Tony’s interactions with Meadow’s African-American boyfriend Noah to Hesh’s conversation with Massive Genius, viewers have to stomach plenty of slurs. However, Carmela isn’t a beacon for tolerance on the show either.
Carmela is less harsh to Meadow when she gets together with Noah, but she doesn’t jump for joy either. Furthermore, when Jackie Junior is shot, Carmela easily accepts the lie that he was killed by “some black drug dealers.” She never speaks from the perspective of non-Italians, let alone non-white people.
Carmela reveals herself to be a pushover by the end of The Sopranos. She catches Tony cheating on her red-handed multiple times, from finding a woman’s fake fingernail in her bedroom to receiving a call from Tony’s mistress Irina. However, after all his indiscretions, she returns to him.
Willingness to forgive is not a bad quality or a weakness. However, Carmela has red flags waved in her face with Tony from the beginning of the series. Her proclivity to bury the hatchet with Tony after all his abuse is frustrating, especially to today’s audience who have been better informed about toxic relationships. Some fans blame Carmela’s mother’s influence, call her one of The Sopranos’ low-key villains.
Carmela certainly works for the money she enjoys from Tony’s criminal endeavors. She cooks, cleans, and handles the lion’s share of parenting for her children. However, her focus on herself leaves details left unattended.
The biggest example of Carmela’s carelessness comes late in the series when she and her father flip a spec house. Carmela doesn’t look into the codes required to build the house, using unacceptable building materials. In an argument, Tony weaponizes her mistake to point out she might kill the house’s owners when the roof caves in due to her carelessness.
Carmela is given so much but still develops green eyes to those around her. Her jealousy can come to light with material goods or the more abstract. When she meets Finn for the first time at Meadow’s New York apartment, she can’t keep up with the conversation and punishes her daughter for knowing more about literature than her.
Carmela’s jealousy is often put on display when she levels up with others who have more than her. When Tony buys her a new Porsche SUV to quell an argument, she’s completely appeased. Furthermore, she can’t help but show it off the Johnny Sacrimoni’s wife Ginny, who has just moved into a bigger house than hers.
Her Lack of Self-Awareness
Carmela very much lives in her own little world. She doesn’t have to think about the worries so many face, like rent, bills, and a 9 to 5 job. Her days spent cooped up in her mansion have made her empathy with others difficult to find.
Carmela’s lack of self-awareness is put on display most boldly when she and Rosalie Aprile go on vacation in Paris. Rosalie is haunted by the loss of her son and husband, and Carmela is too air-headed to keep the subject to herself while the two try to enjoy Paris. Rosalie gets upset and asks her, “why can’t we just have a good time?”
Her Need To Control
Carmela’s life is so dependant on Tony’s actions that any morsel of control she can find, she savors. When her daughter Meadow seems to have things in her life under control, Carmela can’t help but butt in.
Carmela hides Meadow’s letter of acceptance to her college of choice in season 2. Furthermore, Carmela bribes her neighbor’s sister with a pie and strongarms her into writing a letter of recommendation to Georgetown, the college Carmela prefers that Meadow attend. Some fans think this kind of intimidation makes Carmela just as guilty as Tony Soprano.
Mothers can overstep in their kids’ lives, but Carmela can be overbearing. She is incapable of letting them figure things out for themselves, even if she herself doesn’t have an answer for them.
Carmela’s son AJ isn’t the easiest child to raise, but instead of working to guide his upbringing, she forces him into the path she thinks is best. She insists AJ goes to college, despite his academic weakness, ignoring other paths which might better suit his future.
Fashion changes with the times, but Carmela is proof to viewers that no one can buy taste. The Sopranos Mc Mansion is curated with no personality and almost appears as if in staging for a real estate sale. The house presents Carmela’s lack of taste, even if it is one of the most iconic locations from The Sopranos.
Furthermore, Carmela decorates the house with items based on their value, not their adherence to any theme or curation. She even warns AJ not to break one of her figurines in front of his girlfriend, Devin. She can’t resist after saying “I don’t even want to tell you how much it cost,” pausing for a moment before revealing “three thousand dollars.”