“It’s All a Big Nothing” The Nihilistic Vision of The Sopranos Karla Toledo Nihilism and Noir • • • • • • • The Sopranos is influenced by the moral vision of nihilism. Nihilism is an existential attitude or orientation according to which the activities of selfcreation and the search for self-knowledge either are forsaken or undertaken against a backdrop of rejected values and decaying institutions. Nihilism means “nothing in particular”, “nothing matters”, “nothing makes a difference”. The show also portrays the style and the content of those classic movies labeled as “film noir” and “neo noir”. Friederich Nietzsche was one of the first thinkers to point out nihilism as a cultural, oral, and historical phenomenon. Nietzsche states that nihilism means- That the highest values devaluate themselves. According to Nietzsche : - Passive nihilism, or negative “incomplete” is a rejection of seemingly fixed values and institutions without the spiritedness that allows one to become an individualistic self creator. - Active or positive nihilism “complete” is the process of becoming a creative individual while rising above the mere resentment and lifenegation, thereby acquiring the principle of life-affirmation in the face of existential and spiritual crisis. • • • • • • • The Sopranos acts in a “passive” or pathological” form, it’s style and content is rooted in films noir. Tony Soprano is shown enjoying noir classics such as “White Heat”. His mafia colleagues ( Paulie Walnuts and Big Pussy) are always comparing their experiences with the “Godfather” trilogy. Film noir as Nietzsche defines it reveals passive nihilism, hinting at missed opportunities for the cultivation of creative individuality. Most classis noir film underlie devolution or dehumanization of the main character. The lives of the main Characters in most noir and neo-noir films, such as Tony Soprano are characterized by alienation, disorientation and indifference. These anti-heroes lack clear moral values, their own and their family’s. “Gary Cooper Is Dead and Gone” • • • • • • • • • • Major theme of the series: Tony Soprano believes he inhabits a world of collapsing values. He tells his therapist mob members have no values and that he is plagued by feeling of decline and loss. Tony laments the loss of the stoic hero of yestyear.: “Whatever happened to Gary Copper- the strong silent type? That was an American. He was in touch with his own feelings-he just did what he had to do.” Tony thinks he has virtues that vary between criminal and conventional life, like loyalty, respect and honor but then recognizes thus virtues are declining in his everyday life. Nihilism signals a collapse of values and the loss of personal unity or wholeness. A relativist believes that all knowledge and experience result from personal perspectives. Anthony Jr . suffers from rejection of absolute truths and inhristic values. He is influenced by his new high school English teacher. He starts annulling his parents with nihilist opinions he learned from Nietzsche. H e states “ There is No God”. He has no fear for death, in the other hand Tony has a sense of fear for the meaningless and nothingness which he associates with his fear of death. “Back to the Rathole” • • • • • • • • Tony controversies his moral character appears sometimes as passive nihilist, while at other times as life-negative. According to Nietzsche the passive nihilist is one who refuses to rise above his negative life. The active nihilist or “master” results in acts of self-overcoming. Later on the series Tony wants to overcome his own moral weakness and inner emptiness becomes more intense. H e is not successful overcoming his own defects. Tony characterizes a noir anti-hero. At the end of the day he stays as a passive or “pathological”: nihilist. He uses his therapy to weave together the fragments of his disjointed and seemingly purposeless existence. At the end tony senses a felling of accomplishment just by managing to survive in a broken world.