Thursday, April 14, 2011

Don't Believe The Hype - Sons of Anarchy

As a general rule, I like to give FX's original programming a chance.  I remember watching the premiere of The Shield and I was a huge fan of Lucky (a show that's still lamentably not on dvd.)  As a network they've got a pretty good track record when it comes to quality programming.

But not every show knocks your socks off with awesomeness.  Nip/Tuck peaked early and got progressively more ludicrous with each passing season. Dirt was a misfire from jump.

And then there's Sons of Anarchy, which is easily my least favorite of FX's current shows.  Let me tell you why.

I wanted to like Sons of Anarchy, I really did.  It had a decent creative pedigree behind the scenes.  Kurt Sutter, the show's creator, was deeply involved with The Shield as a writer and producer.  But then there's the premise.

According to IMDB;
Sons of Anarchy, aka SAMCRO, is a motorcycle gang that operates both illegal and legal businesses in the small town of Charming. They combine gun-running and a garage, plus involvement in porn film. Clay, the president, likes it old school and violent; while Jax, his stepson and the club's VP, has thoughts about changing the way things are, based on his dead father's journal. Their conflict has effects on both the club and their personal relationships. 

That's actually a pretty good plot summary.

One of my biggest beefs with the show is that it was clearly crafted to fill the void left by The Shield.  It follows the same alpha male/tough guy mold set by The Shield.  It's guys using violence and intimidation to get out of jams. They both also operate in a sort of moral gray area of people doing questionable things for reasons that are roughly "right."

But it's so clearly in that mold that it almost feels like biting.  It has a scent of unoriginality that's hard to miss.  It sort of feels like a small town version of The Strike Team, on motorcycles.

My other beef with the show is honestly that it's about a motorcycle gang.  I find it mildly offensive that there's a show about a motorcycle gang (read: white) on cable, when no one would even consider doing a show about a street gang (read: Black, Latino or even Asian.)

I mean, I get that it's constantly going to be an uphill battle to get a Black drama (can anyone even name one.) But does am I the only person who finds it completely absurd that there's a relatively celebrated show on television that's about a white gang?  Isn't that basically saying "when Black people do it, it's horrible, but when whites do it, it's practically admirable."

That double standard really hit home at the end of Sons of Anarchy's third season, when Jax is painted as a turncoat and shunned by his compatriots because he makes a deal with the Feds.  His fellow Sons turn against him and it's clear to the audience that he's violated a gang code.

This bothered me because I remember all of the outrage at "Stop Snitchin."  No one seemed to be able to wrap their head around the idea that people might not want to cooperate with cops.  Yet flash forward a couple years and a white guy cooperating with cops is supposed to be a huge betrayal and a pivotal plot point.

I mean I understand that white people want to romanticize the notion of the "rebel" or "outlaw" motorcycle "club" but it's really just a gang with a designated mode of transportation. To me, building a show around a "motorcycle club" is no different than building a show about a Crips or Bloods or Latin Kings or Vice Lords. So to demonize those entities while this show about a fictional organization gets romanticized, glamorized, celebrated and acclaimed as entertainment rubs me the wrong way.

Eh, but I guess that white makes right.

Some of the minor complaints I've got with the show is how characters seem to lack nuance and how the feds are usually corrupt.   Cops are generally straight arrows.  The Sons aren't bad guys, because they only deal guns, not drugs.  The plotting on the show is decent, but the writing can be cringeworthy at times.

Also, the title sequence feels contrived and the theme song is dreadful.

I'm mildly invested in the show, so I'll probably continue to watch it.  It passes the time and it doesn't require a ton of attention.  And I mean, I watched every episode of Nip/Tuck, so I might as well see this one through too.  

Still, you shouldn't believe the hype about Sons of Anarchy.

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