‘The Sopranos’: Lawyers Once Sued the Show for a Petty Reason

Although The Sopranos had fans hooked for six seasons, its plot almost became its undoing at different turns. For instance, the third season faced severe backlash for its gender-based violence. And a group of lawyers once sued the show for its portrayal of Italian Americans.

Steven Van Zandt as Silvio Dante, James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, and Tony Sirico as Paulie Walnuts star in HBO's hit television series, "The Sopranos"
Steven Van Zandt as Silvio Dante, James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, and Tony Sirico as Paulie Walnuts star in HBO’s hit television series, The Sopranos | HBO

‘The Sopranos’ follows an Italian American mob boss

The Sopranos was a show that focused on the life of an Italian American mob boss named Tony Soprano. Tony is based in New Jersey and runs the infamous Soprano crime family. Tony looks to balance his criminal and family life.

He feels overwhelmed by the two and confides in his therapist Jennifer Melfi throughout the show. When he starts going to therapy, Jennifer uncovers that Tony’s childhood and upbringing, coupled with his father’s influence, largely shaped how he ended up as a criminal.

Tony also reveals that he is at odds with Carmela and his children as they uncover that he lives a double life. Later the Soprano crime family discovers a mole in their operation as they are faced with federal indictments.

Tony also gets into an altercation with his uncle Corrado after he orders Brendan and Chris’ executions, all of who are Tony’s associates. Tony then gets ahead of the situation and allows Corrado to be named head of the mafia family but remains in charge under wraps. Corrado soon gets wind of the ploy and orders a hit on Tony, who responds violently. Corrado gets arrested on other charges.

Tony’s mafia dealings, financial worries, and several affairs eventually lead to a strain in his marriage to Carmela. Carmela gets closer to Furio, but his high moral standards don’t allow him to have an affair with Carmela, and he ends up leaving for Italy.

Some people felt the show relied on stereotypes for Italian Americans

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While The Sopranos had many fans, some people thought the show perpetuated the stereotype that Italian Americans are mobsters and criminals. The common complaint was that linking Italian Americans to the mafia casts a shadow over genuinely good and hardworking Italian Americans.

But the show’s creator David Chase defended it. He said he intended for The Sopranos to cover a small criminal subculture and not to place all Italian Americans in one box.

Lawyers sued the show for its portrayal of Italian Americans

In 2001, a group of Italian American lawyers from Chicago sued The Sopranos‘ showrunners, according to ABC News.

The group filed the lawsuit under the “individual dignity” clause of the Illinois constitution, saying “the popular HBO series affronts the dignity of Italian-Americans by portraying them as criminals,” according to the report.

“For most people who don’t know Italians personally, they look at The Sopranos and they think most Italian families are like The Sopranos,” Enrico Mirabelli of the American Italian Defense Association told Good Morning America.

The group didn’t want the show to be canceled; it just wanted a jury to declare that the show was offensive to Italian Americans, according to The Associated Press. However, a judge later dismissed the lawsuit.