Does The Sopranos mess with anyone else’s daddy issues?

Earlier this year, The Sopranos was rated one of the best TV shows in history – ever.

It's not really surprising. The storyline (in case you... somehow missed it in the past couple of decades) follows cruel and complicated Mafia boss Tony Soprano through his regular sessions with a psychiatrist, who he goes to (reluctantly) for help after experiencing panic attacks.

It was a series that went for six seasons and many consider it to be about as perfect as as a TV show can be.

That's not to say it's an easy watch. I couldn't get past season 2 – but not for the reason you might think. 

Watch the trailer for The Sopranos season one here. Post continues after video. 

Video via YouTube.

The Sopranos is an intricately woven story – one that, at times, re-visits Tony's childhood to explain his current behaviours – and while the show ended 16 years ago, its impact is still felt by many.

However, that doesn't mean we all loved it. Because however brilliant Tony Soprano might be at being a mob boss, he is one lousy father.

I'm not a TV snob, but when my housemate announced we'd be watching an episode every night until we finished the series, I wasn't sure I was interested.


However, after sitting through two episodes, I admit, I was invested. I needed to know everything about Tony's complicated life and how he balanced his family, criminal activities and personal demons.

He is complicated and heavily flawed and widely beloved by the millions of people who watched his life unravel on screen.

I'm not sure when exactly The Sopranos transitioned from 'enthralling TV show' to 'trauma dump that hit too close to home' for me, but I do know I had to turn the TV off before season 2 even finished. It was too much.

Anyone else who has a complicated relationship with their father might relate. Because while there's no question Tony is a bad man, he is more pointedly, a terrible father.

And, truthfully, he is the most accurate depiction of a complicated father I've ever seen. I know this because of my own complicated relationship with my dad.

Jamie-Lynn Sigler and James Gandolfini in The Sopranos. Image: HBO.


He attends his kids' sporting events, spoils them needlessly, takes pride in their achievements, and is adamant they will not take work in the family business (AKA... the mafia).

And yet, there's all the other... stuff. The murder. The crime. The careless affairs. The gaslighting of his wife Carmella. But most of all, his utter awareness of it. He knows he is capable of good and still chooses to be bad.

He might take his daughter Meadow (played by Jamie-Lynn Sigler) on a university tour, but he dumps her there with no support to go on a stalker-ish, rage-filled rampage. 

He might be overprotective in a way some people find comforting, but to those with complicated relationships with their fathers, it's suffocating.

Like Meadow Soprano, I love my father. Unlike Meadow, my own father is not murderous or diabolical. He is complicated, though – and I felt my relationship reflected in hers with Tony so closely as I watched, because an absent father is an absent father, and all are removed from their children in the same way.


The Sopranos brought up daddy issues I never really recognised within myself until I actually turned the show on. 

Just so we're clear, the term 'daddy issues' is not a medical term or diagnosis — it's simply a way to label the dynamics that happen when a child has a distant or no relationship with their father (or father figure).

And Meadow clearly has daddy issues too, whether the show explores them or not. She knows her father is in the criminal underworld and becomes detached and angry to deal with it. She also develops manipulation skills that could rival her father's.

She doesn't want to be close to him; she worships him and loathes him in the same breath.

For girls who grew up with distant dads, this story is not a storyline. It's real life.

Meadow's dad disappoints her a lot. He is distant, he is angry, he lies – and he does it all under the false pretence of protecting his children. In truth, the lies he tells are only to protect himself.

Familiar, much?

If I think about it for too long, I'll follow the rabbit hole of parallels in my relationship with my father and it will be a hole I can't dig myself out of. So I will, unfortunately, never be able to finish The Sopranos. Even if it is one of the "best shows ever". 


It's not because I can't appreciate a good show when it's in front of my face, or because I can't separate my moral compass from storylines around murder, assault and crime for entertainment.

It's because, at the crux of it, I cannot reckon with seeing a bad father be a bad father – because that is too real. Too upsetting. Too familiar.

Long after I stopped watching The Sopranos, I was scrolling on TikTok where I stumbled upon a clip from the show that stopped me in my tracks. 

In the scene, Tony is staring intensely at Meadow, and when she catches his eyes, he marches right up to her and tells her that he wouldn't be able to live with himself if anything ever happened to her.

Despite being in a room full of people, it feels like just the two of them when he delivers his line:

"You know I love you more than anything else in this world, right?"

For a second, just like all daughters with complicated men as fathers do, you almost believe him.

This author is known to Mamamia and has chosen to remain anonymous. 

Feature Image: Getty.

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