Reaction by Professor Gloria Gadsden

Considering the hubbub surrounding The Sopranos, and the nation's concern about sex, violence, and drugs on television, one would think viewers of this program might have some strong feelings about its content. But they do not. Most viewers, whether they live in New Jersey or not, do not find the show incredibly violent, sexually explicit, or insulting to Italian Americans. Even female viewers and strong conservatives fail to believe the show glorifies organized crime or depicts Italian Americans in a negative manner. Most viewers don't seem to have a strong opinion about the show's content at all. Additionally, viewers who watch most of the episodes do not consider crime and drugs to be social problems as often as the nation at large.

What might this suggest? It could indicate that viewers have become desensitized to graphic violence and sex, much like theorists and researchers talking about a "mean world syndrome" have suggested over the past 20 years. Or it could reflect that viewers realize this program is just that, a program. In fact, the data show that most viewers think of The Sopranos as "just a story" and not "the truth". Maybe this is just an enjoyable television show that has captured a decent share of its target audience and nothing more. Rest easy parents of America, your daughters and sons probably won't aspire to join the mob or shoot up a school watching this New Jersey based program.

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Comment by Fairleigh Dickinson University's Dr. Gloria Gadsden..

Gloria Gadsden (Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania) is assistant professor of sociology at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She specializes in deviance, race and gender. Dr. Gadsden can be reached at 215.474.4144.


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