I found a person who has never watched a Sopranos episode all the way through, but knew a bit about the hubbub from simply living in America. This is not someone’s granny, however.
Subject: Hot 36 year old babe, smart (salutatorian of her class). Journey fan.
I gave her a bit of background. Not much. I told her it was the last episode, and the people involved in the scene were all a family. I told her that Tony was a mobster.
That’s right…I only showed her the last scene. I let it roll and shut up.
- After the black screen (at which time she looked up at me and asked ‘is that all?’, which I met with silence and pointed back at the screen until the credits came up), I asked Subject what she thought happened.
She thought the ending meant they continued their lives as normal. I think this was really typical of the majority of viewers–until they thought about it more.
- I asked Subject what was the very last shot she remembered seeing.
Researcher was very pleased at the results. In fact, researcher lost his professional detachment and started laughing with delight. This was the first time I’d heard that this strange effect could be reproduced in fairly controlled conditions.
She had not read my analysis and didn’t know about the details of the controversy. She definitely didn’t know the issue that some of us have picked up on (but, still, not major media) about how funky it is that we remember different endings.
I replayed the same end again at her request, then asked her about the last shot, which she remembered correctly the second time. She said that what got her was the danger “the daughter” was in out there on the road, and how the SUV seemed like it was going to nail her.
Subject, who has a degree in psychology, mentioned how trauma victims sometimes have similar gaps in their memory following a stressful event.
The lesson of the day is The Misplaced Meadow effect is demonstrable. Or, more generally, even a television show can cause viewers to exhibit trauma victim symptoms. Or, more directly, David Chase is a big ol’ traumatizer.