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June 21, 2013

Photojournalism and Culture as Famously Banal: Remembering James Gandolfini

Maybe it’s L.A. (…where I’m still living for just a few more days before relocating to the Bay area). Either way, what I found hollow and gnawing (like a president had died, or at least a Michael Jackson) was the shock and sentiment on local radio and television over the passing of the actor who played Tony Soprano. Just as illustrative as the historically-infused audio and video accounts were the news photos aimed at bestowing significance on the show, but more so, the man.

You get the best flavor of this from the subject matter as well as the redundancy in the 18 photo Zimbio slideshow. Otherwise, the first photo above depicts the strip club in Lodi New Jersey used for the one in the show. The second features the hospital where Mr. Gandolfini was born. The next enshrines the actor’s high school. (The presence of the flag, to me at least, lending weight to this “uniquely American loss”). Finally, we’re given a partial view, at least, of a restaurant in Westwood, New Jersey, the actor “reportedly frequented.”

I mean no disrespect to the actor, his premature death a true shame, and I don’t in any way mean to deny the vast popularity of The Sopranos or its significance in the annuls of television. Still, it was the “where-were-you-when-you-heard?” quality of the news reports on top of the immortalizing of these landmarks that seems to quietly, if a little too eloquently, reflect on our all-too-celluloid news and entertainment culture.

(photos: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images. caption 1: General view of Satin Dolls, the location used for Bada Bing in the filming of ‘The Sopranos,’ June 20, 2013 in Lodi, New Jersey. Gandolfini passed away on June 19, 2013 while on vacation with family in Italy. partial caption 2: General view of HackensackUMC at Pascack Valley, the hospical where James Gandolfini was born, June 20, 2013 in Westwood, New Jersey. partial caption 3: General view of Park Ridge High School, where James Gandolfini attended. partial caption 4: General view of The Ridge Diner, a restaurant which James Gandolfini reportedly frequented.)

  • bks3bks

    _The Sopranos_ was a genuine U.S. cultural event, up there with _All In The Family_. I hadn’t really noticed an over-reaction. Certainly the “redemption” of Lebron James seems to have garnered 10x the coverage.


    • Michael Shaw

      I don’t imagine the NBA pix, however, or a commemorative slideshow in honor of The Sopranos, as this famously banal.

  • black_dog_barking

    Gandolfini’s Tony is/was the most fully realized fictional character of my lifetime. I watched and re-watched the series for years before it occurred to me one day that Tony was really just a character played by a very talented and dedicated actor.

    The Sopranos dragged television drama into a completely uncharted realm, opened artistic communication on parts of the human spectrum that were simply not available to other media and heretofore unexplored. An amazing accomplishment.

    It also probably ruined any chance Gandolfini had of any further acting roles, just because he was so completely Tony Soprano.

  • Minor Heretic

    For a number of people in our fragmented culture TV characters are often more real and constant than relatives and friends. They are symbols possessing great emotional power.

    Reminds me of something an actress I used to know told me. She had done a short stint on a popular soap opera and was told by an actor who played a villain on the show that old ladies would come up to him in public and berate him or even hit him. People lose track of the line between theater and reality.

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