Sons of Anarchy was based on genuine motorcycle groups, but how realistic was its depiction of them? Let’s look at it.
Through the term MC, Sons of Anarchy transported viewers into the world of motorcycle clubs. But how realistic was the show’s representation of motorcycle clubs? Sons of Anarchy, which Kurt Sutter created, began airing on FX in 2008 and ended there in 2014 after seven seasons. The show garnered positive reviews from reviewers and audiences during its whole run, who praised the plot, concepts, and performances of the main characters, especially Katey Sagal’s.
The television series Sons of Anarchy centers on Jackson “Jax” Teller (Charlie Hunnam), the vice president of the Sons of Anarchy motorcycle gang in the made-up town of Charming, California. The first episode of the series is when Jax discovers a manifesto written by his late father, John Teller, one of the MC’s founding members, in which he shared his ideas and goals for the organization, which were very dissimilar from those of Clay Morrow, the club’s current president and Jax’s stepfather (Ron Perlman). This sets Jax out on a personal quest that causes him to reflect on his life’s purpose, place in the club, relationships, family, and more. Naturally, this leads to a great deal of turmoil and drama.
The show tackled issues like racism, corruption, and brotherhood, among others, and Sutter enlisted the aid of certain specialists to give the MCs the most realistic representation possible. Although certain Hells Angels were in the Sons of Anarchy cast, most notably David Labrava (Happy Lowman), who worked as a technical consultant, how true was the show’s depiction of MCs?
Hierarchy in Motorcycle Clubs
Every club has ranks, with the most famous ones being President, Vice-President, Sgt. At Arms, and Men of Mayhem. Each rank has a unique duty inside the club, and fans of Sons of Anarchy discovered this throughout the series. Sons of Anarchy got one thing about real-life motorcycle groups right: they do have a very clear hierarchy. In MCs, the following positions and titles are recognized with patches: Founder, President, Vice-President, Sgt. at Arms, Road Captain, Secretary, Treasurer, Enforcer, Prospect, Member or Rider, and Chaplain or The Wise One.
Sons of Anarchy included all of these levels and more, although their duties were significantly different. Many of the chores that Clay and Jax completed while serving as president and vice president are ones that, in the real world, these positions wouldn’t perform and would often be left to the prospects, according to viewers. An MC’s president is in charge of running meetings, keeping things organized, and establishing and maintaining relationships with any outside parties or organizations.
The VP acts as a liaison between the President and the other club members, coordinating all committees and overseeing preparations for all club activities. The majority of the actions Clay and Jax became involved in during the series would ordinarily have been left to a prospect, who is assigned with a range of tasks that occasionally entail unlawful activity.
The AMA Rules and Outlaw Clubs
Although SAMCRO would also be an illegal motorcycle gang in the real world, the show’s version of such clubs doesn’t necessarily reflect how such clubs actually function. In truth, for an MC to be classified as an outlaw club, it must create its own regulations rather than adhering to those of the American Motorcycle Association. An outlaw club is not classed as such for breaking the law, murdering, stealing, and committing other crimes. Outlaw clubs, which are the 1% of riders that break the AMA’s regulations, have acquired the nickname “1%ers”; nevertheless, while many of them participate in illegal activities, much like SAMCRO, this isn’t what makes an outlaw club.
Opportunities and the Starting Process
Sons of Anarchy introduced viewers to a few potential partners, with Kip “Half-Sack” Epps (Johnny Lewis), Filthy Phil Russell, V-Lin, and Ratboy standing out as the most notable ones. While people who are interested in joining an MC do have to go through the prospecting phase, the initiation process is far more involved and may sometimes even get severe than what the show implied. Prospects often have to put up with hazing from club members and perform menial jobs like bringing bikes back from police impound lots and watching over all the bikes when the group meets. However, depending on the group, some go through a few initiation procedures that may be rather severe.
These rites can include being made to prepare and consume feces, be urinated on by patched members, or even be tossed in a freezing lake, according to the book Biker Gangs and Transnational Organized Crime. After being elected into the club, a prospect must swear allegiance before becoming a full patch member.
In MC Culture, Racism
One of the main themes of Sons of Anarchy was racism, which is tragically a reality among motorcycle gangs. This was especially true when all the turmoil with Juice (Theo Rossi) started. There are connections between outlaw motorcyclists and white supremacists, and the majority of outlaw motorcycle gangs are virtually totally white and openly racist. There are Hispanic and black MCs, of course, much like on Sons of Anarchy, but unlike in the show, white clubs (like SAMCRO) are far less inclined to collaborate with outsiders since they are perceived as being “outwardly bigoted.”
A actual scenario where an MC member was “violently assaulted when his ‘brothers’ discovered of his race” is said to be similar to Juice’s plot regarding racism in Sons of Anarchy, where he was blackmailed, coerced, and duped into ratting on the club so his mixed background wouldn’t come to light.
The MC and females
Speaking about acceptance and tolerance in motorcycle clubs, the way the club treats women—particularly Gemma’s (Sagal) status in the group—has been criticized by several genuine MC members as being entirely fake. The matriarch of the club, Gemma Teller-Morrow (the mother of Jax and the wife of Clay), has considerable influence. She offers her viewpoint and opinions and even tries to influence some of Clay and Jax’s decisions about club matters.
Women are often not permitted to join MCs since they are viewed as the property of patched members; nevertheless, they are allowed to attend parties and hang out with the club. However, some MCs have a women’s auxiliary organization that doesn’t grant membership benefits to the MC. Some have argued that Gemma’s standing in the club would never occur in reality and that, if it had, she would have been “brought back and ‘corrected'” as soon as possible and as often as required.
Unfortunately, this culture also tolerates domestic abuse. According to some accounts, “brutality against women is acceptable and occasionally encouraged,” and as the majority are still viewed as “prostitutes” even after marrying full patch members, some of them are occasionally pimped out to fund their husbands’ MC lifestyle. There are several “old ladies” stories that prove there is hostility and misogyny in some clubs, even though this isn’t the case in all MC.
Motorcycling groups against motorcycling gangs
A motorcycle club and a motorcycle gang are not the same thing, even though they have similar sounds and are occasionally used interchangeably. In order to defend their territory and to stand by their brothers, members of motorcycle gangs must be “willing to kill, maim, seriously hurt or purport other acts of violence,” according to Charles Falco, author of Vagos, Mongols, and Outlaws: My Infiltration of America’s Deadliest Biker Gangs (via WNYC Studios).
Motorcycle gangs are “more sophisticated than other street gangs” when it comes to violence, he continues, having an organized structure, maintaining files, and conducting counter-surveillance against adversaries so they are fully aware of them. However, when it comes to other criminal activities, they are “less sophisticated than other organized crime groups.” In light of this, SAMCRO would have been a motorcycle gang rather than a motorcycle club, however some contend that gangs only exist in fiction and that there are only motorcycle clubs.
When Sons of Anarchy introduced motorcycle culture to television, it did a lot of things well, but it also modified and added a lot of things in order to make an interesting tale, which it undoubtedly accomplished. Regarding how genuine MC members reacted to the show, some liked it while criticizing how wildly overblown the violence was and Gemma’s role in the club, while others categorically disliked it for these and other reasons.