Remembering Tony Soprano (Just the Way He Was)


His complexity made him real. And his eyes…what were we saying again?

Because we ask the world to stop judging us solely on appearance and remind ourselves that we must celebrate ourselves as we are, we at Girl Body Pride took note of the internet response to actor James Gandolfini recent and untimely passing. Gandolfi was not your typical pretty boy by any means. And yet he redefined “sexy” with his portrayal of Tony Soprano by stealing our breath away — and frequently, too.

Gandolfini wad buried last week, and with him another part of my twenties was buried as well.  In a world of pretty boys, and when I was in my twenties—waify heroin chic boys–Gandolfini was a welcome change. Much has been said about both Gandolfini and the character we all know him for:  Tony Soprano.

I always thought he was kind of sexy, sort of in that Charles Bukowski sort of way. Not traditionally handsome or not thin, but making his way into mainstream pop culture on his own terms by choosing interesting and complex characters and playing them that way. He had sex appeal; the look his character would give with his eyes could undress someone in seconds. He showed us what true indulgence looks like and his character seemed to appreciate all things sensuous and carnal in a way we hadn’t seen before: a great espresso, the crook in a woman’s nose, the advice of a therapist, the necessary death of an associate in a play of mob rules.

We loved him for it.

You had the suspicion that he could gain 100 pounds and still be thought sexy and not be hidden away. He made you like him – fall for him, even, – on his own terms. And he made women in their twenties like me, give a second (and third) look to the boys around us with a gut and a smile, because the hairless chests and trendy clothes on the waif-boys were predictable and boring. James Gandolfini made us love Tony Soprano for his complexity and his nuances. He made Tony Soprano a great man, and by default, showed us what a great actor he truly was.

His character was surrounded by strong women, not weak ones. Between a mother who wanted to kill him, a daughter who’d become the first college graduate, a wife that he chose to hold his world together, and a therapist who would challenge his assumptions about his life every step of the way–Gandolfini played Soprano in a constant struggle with both his inner and outer life. Despite Soprano’s complaints about the women in his life, its the women he could be himself around.

Nowadays we have other TV men to pine for with that same level of complexity that Gandolfini started us all off with. Could there be Breaking Bad and Mad Men without Sopranos? So, thanks James Gandolfini, for setting the bar higher and redefining sex appeal. Predicably pretty is boring. And you? Were anything but.

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