This seems strange, but maybe it isn't: The two large cable and satellite TV companies, boasting names such as Yes and HOT, are both running promotional campaigns using fictional mafia characters. Yes chose Tony Soprano, and HOT opted for Israel's original imitation: the Arbitrator.
Why would two companies that appear to be competing with each other use these kinds of role models - thieves, drug dealers, robbers, pimps and murderers - to advertise their services?
Some culture scholars will tell us that the fictional crime families on the large and small screens, like the "Godfather" series and "The Sopranos," offer criticism of the capitalist system that is both subversive and lethal (in a metaphorical way, of course ). Much like stereotypical robber barons, these mobsters will do anything, including sending people to sleep with the fishes, to reach their highest goal, which is simply making as much money as possible. Still, it seems that precious few of the millions of viewers are prone to reading these kinds of culture critiques, which might explain why they have yet to internalize the anti-capitalist message.
Moreover, the heads of the fictional crime families are zealous about some of the values promulgated by Jewish leaders as varied as Ze'ev Jabotinsky and Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav: family, country, heritage and tradition. Some, depending on their country of origin and ethnicity, also honor the mezuzah, the Virgin Mary or Mohammed.
In other words, if you sell drugs to kids, or women to prostitution, and you made a bundle, that's just fine. But if you cheated on your wife or didn't say kiddush on Friday night, you had better watch it. Like real-life tycoons, on-screen mobsters have their values, you know.
And these are the people we truly look up to, or else the cable and satellite companies wouldn't be wasting their money on them. These companies conducted research before making their choice, using all possible survey methods. It's no fluke that they chose Tony Soprano and not Dr. House, the Arbitrator and not Israeli author Hanoch Daum to promote their services and make as much money as possible.
These are the people we want to emulate. We hope to be like these big criminals who have values. The social protest activists have no idea what they're talking about. Nobody really wants a fair wage, to be paid as much as his neighbor and to have some dump to live (or park ) in. By no means! We all want to be Tony Soprano or the Arbitrator, or at least the prime minister, so we can make lots of dough, never mind how, and determine peoples' fate with a wave of our hand - while, at the same time, believing in values such as God, family, the Land of Israel and all that. At the very least we would like to be clerks at the National Insurance Institute, so that, just like Tony Soprano, we too can force some invalid to dance just to prove the man can walk without a prosthesis.
This is the very illusion that commercial television promotes: that we can all be Tony Soprano. It sells better than the bitter truth: that we can all end up like Moshe Silman. And this illusion is for sale because commercial television, if you haven't noticed yet, is capitalism's propaganda machine. Enjoy!
The writer teaches screenwriting and is a former writer for the sketch comedy TV show "Nikui Rosh."
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