You have options …

Curator's Note

Way back in season five with the Sopranos’ marriage on the rocks, Carmela shops with Meadow. Tension breaks out in ladies fashions. Meadow berates her mother for having no thought beyond “being dependent on some man” while clutching clothes that Tony will pay for. The irony of her thinking may be lost on her, so firmly embedded is she in an economic world where everything is possible with a gold credit card paid for by daddy, but surely the paradox speaks to a broader debate raging in our culture about feminism. Few women are able to make the choices Meadow is advocating. As Alison Jaggar (1983) points out, liberal feminism may speak of individual freedom and female agency, but fails to comprehend the oppressions countenanced by others subject to different ethnic and class positionings. So what are the politics represented by Meadow and Carmela? Moreover, does not Meadow’s doublethink speak of being raised with feminist freedoms taking for granted options for women while rooted in an ideology organised around marriage and family? Licensed by liberal feminism does not Meadow fail to comprehend the intricacies of her mother’s situation, judging her harshly as a consequence? Is liberal feminism here functioning as a power policing women and their life choices (Bailey 2002: 138-54)? Meadow is an unlikely ‘feminist governor’ (150). Educated to know better (at Columbia, no less), and saturated in the privileged discourse of feminism lends clout to Meadow’s condemnation of the way her mother appears implicit in her own oppression. Is feminism emerging as a moralising force, shaping the ways in which Carmela’s choices are judged? Pitted against Meadow’s liberal feminist reasoning does not Carmela find herself on the wrong side of the intellectual divide? Or as Carmela puts it: “You have options, I have a lawyer.” Bibliography Cathryn Bailey, ‘Unpacking the Mother/Daughter Baggage: Reassessing Second- and Third-Wave Tensions,’ Women’s Studies Quarterly, 30: 3/4 (2002): 138-154 Alison Jaggar, Feminist Politics and Human Nature. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Allanheld, 1983.

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Maurice Yacowar's picture

Yes but... Carmela doesn't

Yes but… Carmela doesn’t have a lawyer; T has poisoned the well—or from wherever the show’s shysters are dredged. In that scene M even holds Finn up as a model for Carmela, someone who got a job — but T got it for him. As Finn’s father got Meadow her California job the next summer. And as Chris sets up Adriana’s business….etc. I’m not sure feminism is Chase’s issue so much as morality. Livia, Charmaine and Angie Bonpensiero (as she develops) seem to be very strong assertive women who stand apart from feminism. None work out of any sense of sisterhood. They all establish their options, no? The closest Chase gives us to a sisterhood might be the wives’ filmwatchers club, which works thru the AFI Greats List till No 3 Godfather bogs them down. But that’s a parody of sisterhood. At the end Meadow has matured right back into the Family she rebelled against. She’s marrying a nice Parisi but a Parisi — and whose uncle T had whacked — and she’ll follow the champion of justice into the law firm that’s ensuring Justice for the hounded bagmen and bigtime fraudsters. Like Doris Day wide-eyed in A Touch of Neil Mink mayhap?

Janet McCabe and Kim Akass's picture

You are absolutely right,

You are absolutely right, feminism is probably last on Chase’s list of priorities when writing these scenes but they do show a relationship between women (particularly mother and daughter) that replicates how judgemental feminism can be. Who needs men to judge us when we do a really good job on ourselves?

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