This isn't charming

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, September 12, 2012 10:18 PM

Last night one of our favorite television shows had its season premiere. Sons of Anarchy. It is raunchy, nasty, dirty, profane, violent, and mean. There isn’t a single likable character; some are just less unlikable than others. Essentially it is the story of a motorcycle club/gang that functions much like a medieval band of knights. Kurt Sutter, the creator, has said that he based the premise on Shakespeare’s Hamlet and in some ways it is very much Hamlet, even Shakespearean in its lyrical, tattoo-laden violence.

The de facto king in the story is Clay Morrow. In Hamlet, he would be Claudius. His queen, who was instrumental in the death of her first husband, is Gemma. In Hamlet, she would be Gertrude. The tortured son is Jackson Teller, known as Jax. He has never truly trusted his stepfather and has longed for his real father. There is no ghost, though. In this tale, there is a manifesto written by the deceased father. In it, he tells of his dissatisfaction with the club, with Clay; even with his wife. It is written to Jax, and once Jax discovered it, he became determined to end the reign of Clay.

Along the way there have been drug deals with “the Myans” and “the blacks.” There is gun running with “the Irish” and others. It is one gang against another. There is a lot of sex, much of it down and dirty. It should probably be on HBO, Showtime or Cinemax. We’re always a little amazed at what they seem to get away with on F/X. The violence is brutal. Everyone is out to screw everyone else. And they all ride big black Harleys. They all wear baggy gang-like clothing and leather vests or jackets emblazoned with the Sons of Anarchy logo. They smoke. They drink. They curse. They kill.

But they’re also married with children. They have barbecues and big dinners with the family; pot lucks. They love their kids; they change diapers. And they’re fiercely loyal to each other. They’re more loyal to the club than they are to their wives, and they will torture people to death for real and perceived crimes against the club.

The club is SAMCRO. Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original. They are the ones who started the gang, though there are other chapters in other places. Occasionally we get to visit those places. Several years ago, we went to Ireland while Jax hunted down the men who kidnapped his baby. While they were there, we couldn’t understand a word that was said.

With all of its profanity and violence, the show can be difficult to understand at times. Some of the guys have accents. They talk fast. Some mutter. They sneer through facial hair. Kevin and I look at each other every few minutes and say “what did he say?” Most times it doesn’t really matter. The visuals will tell the story that the dialogue was meant to enhance.

As I said, there is no one in the entire show that is likable. They’re horrible to their women, they kill at will. They’re mean. They are murderous thugs who sit around their rectangle table in the clubhouse to discuss who they’re going to kill, and how, what they’re going to sell, who they’re going to screw, literally and figuratively.

It takes place in the fictional Northern California town of Charming, but it is the antithesis of charming. It is brutal. And we Can. Not. Take. Our. Eyes. Off. Of. It. We wait for it. We are glued to the television when it’s on. And when each episode is over, we look at each other, incredulous. How can it be over already?!

Why do we find it charming when it really isn’t? It doesn’t make our lives better; it doesn’t enhance our sense of right and wrong. It doesn’t really celebrate the poetry of Shakespeare though perhaps if Shakespeare was writing today, his main characters might be motorcycle gangs. Maybe we like it because it celebrates the outlaw, the west, the desire to live on the edge and to get away with it. To not show fear; to not allow anyone to dictate the confines of one’s life.

I suppose that’s all very possible, maybe even probable.

But I’m going with the motorcycles. 

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