Our Sopranos Rorschach Test
With an infinite (or “inFinnerty”) number of reasons to love The Sopranos, we all have our unique perspectives. But speaking more generally, I feel like watching The Sopranos is like taking a unique form of a Rorschach Test. I know, I know, you already understand Freud and therapy as a concept. Even so, read on as I explain this whole Sopranos Rorschach Test thing a bit more.
But first, when I say Sopranos Rorschach Test, I don’t mean it in a literal sense. In a standard Rorschach Test, you view a series of obscure inkblot images and describe what you see. Though the test itself isn’t without controversy, in theory, your answers are supposed to reveal your unconscious feelings, motivations, and thought processes.
While a standard Rorschach Test has 10 questions, a Sopranos Rorschach Test has no fixed timeline. I owe this to the random nature in which something may suddenly click for me as I watch an episode for the [X]th time. And it’s not necessarily “cinematic.” It may just be an offhand comment, a sound, or even a glance.
And that’s what I’m referring to here: When you watch The Sopranos and everything starts swirling around in your head—the gut reactions, observations, and lingering emotions—it can get messy, but it’s also beautiful and uniquely your own.
We All See Different Things on The Sopranos
Of course, when Tony references the “Korshach Test,” he incorrectly applies it to a picture hanging in Dr. Melfi’s waiting room. But taking it at face value for a second, Tony saw a barn and a rotted out tree. On the other hand, Dr. Melfi saw a picture she bought in a little Provincetown art gallery. Carmela loved “those country scenes,” and as for me? I saw Uncle Pat’s farm in Kinderhook and maybe a horse stable.
Notably, all four of us are correct, and we can largely apply that to The Sopranos as a whole. By that, I mean the observations and themes we connect on the show aren’t meant to be categorized into right versus wrong. Maybe you did notice a pattern that the writers intentionally inserted in the story, but maybe it’s just a total coincidence. Or perhaps it’s a little bit of both. To me, It’s all enjoyable just the same.
Through the Characters' Eyes
Of course, as with the standard Rorschach test, we don’t start with a blank slate. Part of a Sopranos Rorschach Test involves looking through the eyes of the characters. For example, let’s take Christopher Moltisanti at the gas station in “Long Term Parking” (S5, E12).
Here, Christopher saw his future self and was terrified. Maybe you had a similar reaction to this scene. Or perhaps you thought, “Yeah, it doesn’t look picture perfect, but I’d prefer that any day over a life of organized crime.” As was the case with the “trick picture,” there’s no one right answer.
Conversely, while Christopher couldn’t imagine a life without Tony Soprano, Blanca knew that was exactly what she DIDN’T (did-dent?) want. Though FBI Agent Lipari thought Puss was acting ridiculous with his Tony sandwich scenario, sometimes, a simple glance does speak volumes. I feel like Blanca’s glance (above) while hearing about Carm’s sale of her spec house was very telling.
The fact is, Blanca did not want to be a Soprano, no matter how “beautiful” her future home could be. And speaking of home, did A.J. ever actually ask her if she WANTED to never work again? (He seemed to take it as a given when proposing). Just as we may or may not have seen what Christopher saw at the gas station, we may or may not identify with Blanca’s feelings here. Again, no answer is inherently right or wrong: It’s all about what YOU see.
Moreover, my Sopranos Rorschach also consists of patterns I observe within the larger Sopranos story. One example is when I connect a scene from “College” (S1, E5) with Tony’s dream sequence in “Calling All Cars” (S4, E11) and the scene in “Eloise” (S4, E12) when Carmela stares into Furio’s empty home. We hear crickets as Tony walks up to Febby Petrulio’s shop in Maine, just like the cricket sounds in Tony’s Calling All Cars dream sequence. And when Tony peers inside Febby’s shop, it reminds me of how he peers into the old house in Calling All Cars, just like Carmela does in “Eloise.”
For another example, I’ll turn to “Seven Souls” by William S. Burroughs & Bill Laswell. This Seven Souls opening montage from the start of season six beautifully illustrates the complexity of The Sopranos. For instance, the photo itself shows you there are actually more than seven.
So, what does it all mean? We have Ren (director); Sekem (energy, power, light); Khu (guardian angel); Ba (the heart); Ka (the double); Khaibit (the shadow/memory); and Sekhu (the remains). What is this, the f**kin’ UN now? In a nutshell, when I think about a Sopranos Roschach test, I can’t think of a more prime example.
*Another note about the montage: Carmela is paired with Sekhu, the remains. And what movie did Carmela watch with Father Intintola all the way back in “College“? The Remains of the Day. (See it on YouTube).
On The Other Hand: Universal Human Themes of Identity & Connection
However, though we each view the world—including The Sopranos—through a unique lens, certain concepts, like identity and connection, are universal. Just like Tony asks “Where am I going?” in various dreams, I think we all have that inside us, as well. It’s what makes relating to The Sopranos characters so seamless despite our differences. But it’s not just about relating to the characters. It’s also about relating to one another.
Now here we are at my favorite component of my Sopranos Rorschach Test: connection. Essentially, The Sopranos has led me to connect with people I most likely would’ve otherwise never met. (By the way, I use the term “met” here in a virtual sense, as well). Actually, there’s a good chance you may be one of these people I’m referring to.
All in all, the best part about making these connections is that our different Sopranos perspectives (or “Sopranos Rorschach tests”) don’t have to divide us. In fact, they don’t just not divide us. They actually make the whole experience that much richer. These days, where nearly everything is polarizing, The Sopranos is like an oasis of good vibes, or “escapism,” if you will.
Finally, I ‘d be remiss if I didn’t address that other elephant (or duck?) in the Sopranos Rorschach Test: the D-word. No, not depression (though that often rears its head as a side effect). What I’m referring to here is death. As opposed to real life—where we don’t get to reflect on how “we don’t hear when it happens” to us—by watching The Sopranos over and over, it’s like I’m trying to become more prepared for death by living vicariously through the characters.
In sum, as The Sopranos demonstrates all too well, much is in the eye (or the ego!) of the beholder. And sometimes, it’s not a necessarily a scam or a trick – just our own little Sopranos Rorschach Test. I know that was a lot to take in, but I’d love to hear your thoughts and about your Sopranos experience, as well.
P.S. Speaking of trick picture, here’s a picture I caught in two separate episodes being looked at by two different characters (A.J. and Carmela). In the words of Tony Soprano, “I knew that [photo] was a scam!”