Big Men on the Small Screen: Masculinities, Catholicism, and Television in the Early Twenty-First Century
Derek L. Hostetter
This essay will analyze popular television programming in the early twenty-first century, focusing particularly on the representation of men within Catholic families. The primary shows in view will be The Sopranos, Ray Donovan, and Blue Bloods. As a necessary first step, I will explain how the historical and cultural conditions of the two decades preceding the twenty-first century made possible the new representations of masculinity portrayed on such shows. Likewise, I will also explain the conditions which made the portrayals of Catholic families on such shows possible. After the historical and cultural groundwork has been laid, I will provide a close reading of key scenes from the television shows themselves. Ultimately, I will utilize Elijah Siegler’s typology of priestly, prophetic, and rabbinic to demonstrate how these television shows offer three distinct models for Catholic engagement with masculinity. I will show how the Catholicism in The Sopranos serves to maintain the status quo with regard to the masculinity that is portrayed, and thus, offers the priestly model. The titular character in Ray Donovan, on the other hand, is confronted with the need to radically reorient his and his family’s lives after committing himself to his Catholic faith, and thus, offers the prophetic model. The show Blue Bloods presents Catholicism as an assumed part of everyday life and as an important subject in family discussion, and thus, offers the rabbinic model. In short, I aim to provide a long overdue analysis of what one of the most important features of American culture – television – tells us about the intersection of family life and religion, particularly with regard to the men in those religious families.
Vincent J. Miller
Primary Advisor's Department
Stander Symposium project, College of Arts and Sciences
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
"Big Men on the Small Screen: Masculinities, Catholicism, and Television in the Early Twenty-First Century" (2020). Stander Symposium Projects. 1998.