Tag: James Gandolfini

Difficult Men by Brett Martin

Posted October 14, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

Difficult Men by Brett MartinTitle: Difficult Men (Goodreads)
Author: Brett Martin
Published: Faber & Faber, 2013
Pages: 320
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

In the Third Golden Age of television (as Brett Martin calls it) things have changed drastically. With the rise of cable television, channels like HBO, Showtime and so on, are able to push the boundaries not afforded to network TV. Shows like The Sopranos, The Wire and Mad Men allowed the writers to offer something more complex or unpredictable. This saw the rise of the difficult men, characters like Tony Soprano (The Sopranos), Walter White (Breaking Bad) and Don Draper (Mad Men) offered a character study never seen before by viewers.

Brett Martin’s book Difficult Men looks at the stories behind some of the greatest shows of our time, mainly focusing on The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, The Wire and Mad Men. This is a deeper look into the evolution of modern story telling. The male protagonist within the Third Golden Age tends to be an enigma; complex, impulsive and so much more real. The type of characters that frustrates you with their mistakes but you can’t help but continuously watching.

The problem with this book is that it makes me want to watch all these shows. I have only gotten through half of The Sopranos and I haven’t found the time to try The Wire or Treme. All these shows look really great but finding time to binge watch them has become a real problem. I love reading about pop-culture and how it changes over the years and Difficult Men gave me everything I wanted. I enjoyed the insider information and the stories behind the stories. I can only hope that this evolution will start to extend toward better female leads. I would like to see the same treatment the Third Golden Age of television has give  to men offered to woman as well.

What I enjoy about these types of shows is not that the men are difficult but the way they tackle real issues and treat the protagonist as a real and flawed human being. They can explore ideas of life and death, love and sexuality, addiction, race and violence and the protagonist often struggles or makes mistakes. They often evolve as characters but it doesn’t mean they grow, there are times when I think Don Draper (Mad Men) or Hank Moody (Californication) have finally grown as a person but there is often slip ups or a spanner thrown into the mix, this makes for compelling television but also feels more real.

A huge section of Difficult Men is devoted to The Sopranos and James Gandolfini which is worth checking out. Gandolfini, in his own right, wasn’t a stereotypical leading man and there was a big exploration into his mental state. Playing the role of Tony Soprano was a very taxing role and what made James Gandolfini great at the job is how he didn’t act the role, he became the character. This ended taking a huge toll on his psychological wellbeing and this raises some interesting thoughts about the effect a role has on the actor.

Fans of television, pop culture or these shows in general will enjoy this book but I think a look into the psychological effect on the people involved will make this something to sit up and take notice. Hollywood is a complex industry and the effects can be damaging; all you have to do is walk down Hollywood Boulevard to see how it effects people. I am a big fan of the ground breaking changes these shows made towards the television industry but I didn’t realise the side effects. Brett Martin did a good job going behind the scenes and getting the back story.