Sons of Anarchy is officially a television sensation. You must be hooked. Everybody is required to be hooked.
Numerous print articles and press releases tell us so. For example, a feature article about the show’s ginormous sensationality, by Los Angeles Times auto writer Susan Carpenter, has been popping up in whole and in part in papers around the country for a week. Or, it may just be that many Susan Carpenters are writing the same thing over and over and over until we have no choice but to believe what you read.
All of these Susan Carpenters agree! Sons of Anarchy is the greatest drama since Hamlet! The show averages 5 million viewers each week and it has already been renewed for an additional 13 episodes next year. And, it is an indisputable fact that 5 million people do not go to see Hamlet performed every week. So obviously, whoever is responsible for Sons of Anarchy must be better than that Shakespeare guy.
Reality! What A Concept!
Possibly, your town does not yet have a Susan Carpenter but do not worry. You will not miss anything. What all the Susan Carpenters are saying is that Charlie Hunnam, the dreamboat actor who stars in the series, is “blurring the lines between his fictional role as a motorcycle miscreant… and his real life….”
How very true.
Obviously, most of the people responsible for writing, producing, directing and acting in this stinking, steaming sack of television product do not know how to spell reality, let alone define the concept and use it in a sentence. Everyone working on this show, with the possible exception of Ron Perlman, is infuriatingly deluded.
Charlie Hunnam plays a character named Jax. Yes it is spelled like the little girl’s game.
In real life Hunnam does not own a motorcycle but he aspires to own one. Maybe he will get one after he saves up. Maybe after his credit score improves. Hunnam learned to “ride” after he was cast in this part and according to a web site called “Associated Content,” he “recently completed the test for his motorcycle endorsement.”
A little qualifier must be inserted here. Associated Content is not exactly the New York Times. It describes itself as an “open content network” that allows anyone to “submit content on any subject in any format.” Which can be interpreted to mean, “send press releases here.” But whether Hunnam’s statements are accurate or invented, they are still consistent with numerous, reliably accurate statements that he and his producers have made about the show.
Jax, Hunnam, whoever he is or whoever puts words in his mouth, announced that he was a sufficiently confidant motorcyclist to participate in The Love Ride last week. Hunnam, who plays a “swaggering, bad boy on the show,” told Associated Content that he planned to wear his “colors from the show” on The Ride.
What Is Real
And, that immediately suggests the question of what Charlie Hunnam would do if he had the opportunity to play a war hero on television. Do you think he would he wear his Congressional Medal of Honor to the Veteran’s Day Parade? Would anyone find it offensive if he did?
The outlet for press releases sited above, Associated Content, explains that Charlie wearing his patch is not a big deal because “the show has a member of the Hells Angels on payroll” and “this area is claimed by the Hells Angels.”
And, it may also be possible that most members of the 18 to 20 clubs in Los Angeles all understand that Charlie’s patch is not a “big deal” because Charlie’s patch is for a club that is “imaginary.”
The Sons of Anarchy patch is what artists call a pastiche. It borrows its colors from the Gypsy Jokers and the Mongols. And, it looks an awful lot like the patch worn by the Grim Reapers Motorcycle Club in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee. Officially, the logo was designed by a San Francisco tattoo artist named Freddy Corbin.
The top rocker, Sons of Anarchy, sounds like the Sons of Silence. Members of both the real club and the imaginary one refer to themselves as “Sons.”
The bottom rocker claims California, which might actually strike some old timers as presumptuous.
The patch has been put together, like most of the show, from bits and pieces of common knowledge to serve an obvious end. Sons the show wants you think it is a roman a clef, a real true story that is only thinly disguised. We are supposed to be impressed by the show’s insider knowledge. It does not just want to entertain us. It insists that it is also teaching us. It presumes to define truth for us.
The Television Producer
Executive producer Kurt Sutter, who cast his wife Katey Sagal in the show, said earlier this year that the show was “inspired” by the Hells Angels. More recently Sutter told Carpenter that he “developed the characters and plots by hanging out with ‘one of the bigger clubs’ in Northern California.”
So which club is that supposed to be? Maybe it was the Tophatters but everybody who hears his words is obviously supposed to think that he is talking about Local 81. Sutter just lacks whatever courage it takes to actually come out and say the name. Hells Angels.
A rampant theme in the ongoing promotion of Sons of Anarchy is that the words, characters and themes of this concoction come straight from the lips of a wide selection of authentic American thugs.
The Producer Knows Badass
“The fact that we’re taking this culture and trying to put them in some sort of box and write about it and put it on TV sort of flies in the face of the nature of being outlaw,” Sutter told the Times auto writer. Then this pissant actually had the audacity to claim that he gets, “dozens of e-mails a day from real-life outlaw club members.”
Real huh? Okay Kurt. Like who? Name five?
But Sutter would only tell Carpenter that, “Generally, the feedback has been positive. I’ll just say that most of the e-mails have a picture attached.”
A picture? And what must those emails say?
“Dear Kurt. I think I may have some warrants out in Kansas but I am not sure. Please check for me. I did not know who else to ask so, naturally, I am turning to you. Here is my photo and my email address. Thanks in advance. Your pal. Booger Butch. P.S. Your show is really great!”
The Father And The Son
Forget the outlaw tinsel and the pretty lights. The tree that supports Sons of Anarchy is a soap opera about a tough, insensitive father and his tough, sensitive son. The father is played by Ron Perlman, who seems to be one of the few people connected to the show who actually understands that when he goes home at night, in real life, he is an actor with a job playing a role.
Charlie Hunnam, Jax, the dreamboat, is the son. And another obvious question rises here like signal smoke: Why is this father character even in this show?
Being an outlaw, sympathizing with outlaws, just getting the idea of an outlaw, begins with a deep conviction that all of authority, all the power is on one side and you are on the other. Doesn’t it? And in general, there are exceptions but in general, isn’t rebelling something you to do rather than something you inherit.
Isn’t the outlaw mentality pretty much the same as the frontier mentality? “Tell your damn King George to shove it. I’m running to Kentucky.”
Yet the outlaws in Sons of Anarchy never really talk back to anybody. In fact, in the town of Charming, California they are the official authority. They are the oppressive government.
On top of that, this motorcycle gang acts like a fraternity of Hollywood punks. And, the lead role is a punk with father issues. So, what is that about? Why, as they say in Hollywood, that artistic choice?
Let’s take a look.
The Linson Family
Sons of Anarchy is a product of the imagination of a guy named John Linson.
For about 30 years, since he had a small part in the 1976 movie Car Wash, playing the role of “the foolish father’s son,” John Linson has been the not terribly successful son of the very successful producer Art Linson.
Art Linson, the father, is the kind of producer people think of when they think of a movie producer. He has known everybody and cast them in his films. Art Linson produced The Untouchables, Heat, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and the original film about Hunter Thompson, Where the Buffalo Roam. That is not a comprehensive list. That is just a random sample. Art Linson is a big deal in his world.
And, like many good and successful fathers, like the father many of us wished we had had, Art Linson taught his son John Linson the business. John Linson has worked for his father many times and he has produced two films on his own: Sunset Strip in 2000 and Lords of Dogtown in 2005. Unfortunately, both of the films he produced on his own were kind of flops.
Reportedly, John Linson likes motorcycles and he talks about himself as if he is a tough guy. In a very cagey way, he seems to insinuate that he has been at least a hang-around with an outlaw club.
The Pitch Meeting
It may be that John Linson is one of those guys who has had to find himself. And the medium he used to broadcast his found identity was a television show that he and his Dad started to pitch to Hollywood together after Lords of Dogtown flopped. The very successful father and the less successful son pitched the idea for this semi-autobiographical television show to the successful television producer Kurt Sutter.
You know. The guy who now gets all those emails from outlaws. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Somewhere, somehow the unspectacular but still rich movie producer John Linson had become a motorcycle outlaw with an “insider’s” knowledge of the outlaw world. Sutter was impressed. Who wouldn’t be? It was like Senator John McCain’s son announcing that he had joined the Bandidos.
Sutter gave a fairly explicit account of that pitch meeting last July at a gathering called the Television Critics Association press tour. The Television Critics Association is an organization of about 220 print and web journalists who write about television in the United States and Canada.
“I had lunch with John Linson and Art Linson two years ago and John had this notion about doing a family drama set in the world of outlaw motorcycle clubs. John was completely immersed in the culture, well-versed in the area,” Sutter explained. “He had friends and associates who were living the life, and what he offered me was a front-row seat. I didn’t want to get involved with anything that I felt I could not do authentically and, you know, I can’t mention any organizations, but one of these organizations sort of opened their doors to me, and I got to see it firsthand.”
The Ginormously Sensational Television Show
Originally, the show was called Sam Crow. It was how you were supposed to pronounce SAMCRO, which was an acronym for Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original. Halfway through development, Fox changed the name of the show to Forever Sam Crow. Eventually, the network changed the name of the series to Sons of Anarchy.
And now, it is John Linson’s first, indisputable Hollywood success. It has to be. It is uniquely his. It is not his father’s. It is John Linson’s story because John Linson has been there man. He has been there. John Linson has seen shit that would curl your teeth.
Or, so we are all supposed to think.
Apparently, this show isn’t about making money. It isn’t about motorcycles or outlaws or the gun business. Sons of Anarchy is about a Hollywood scion named John Linson emerging from the shadow of his successful father by getting everybody to agree that he is a working class rough neck.
Them And Us
And that is either the most endearing or the most insulting thing about this show.
John Linson was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He started his race in life about three feet from the finish line. He never enlisted, dropped out or got caught. He has never been layed-off the week before Christmas. He never had to sell his motorcycle to pay the rent. He has never been bullied by the police.
He has never been really down on his luck and had some moron come up to him with the most half-assed criminal scheme in the history of half-assed criminal schemes and replied, “Yeah. I’m in.”
Never once has he been in that other conversation. You know, the one where some guy you don’t even like that much goes, “What’s the matter? You scared?”
And, you go, “I ain’t scared of shit.”
John Linson doesn’t need a club. He already has a club. It’s called a country club.
But, like many children of the super rich John Linson has always known that if he just keeps telling the same ridiculous lie brazenly enough for long enough eventually everybody who knows the truth will get tired and quit arguing with him.
The stubborn lie John Linson is telling this time is that he is the Harley badass who has the inside scoop on all the other Harley badasses. He could have bragged he was anything-a fireman, a pimp, an astronaut or the inventor of penicillin. Instead, for whatever social or psychological reason, what he really, really wants is for people to think he is an outlaw.
You can decide for yourself if you are flattered or insulted. The show airs Wednesdays at ten.