Although I generally agree with her review of the show, I also think she fails to complain about the real problems with it. In fact, its arguable that the show jumped the shark from the word go.
The same thing could be said of virtually any show that treads new/interesting territory and/or depending on how mangled you want to make the pitch. As an example - Confederate space cowboy Robin Hood smugglers (who also happen to have a hooker) sheltering a psychic, mentally unbalanced human weapon and her metrosexual doctor brother from a fascist state? Sounds like Fonzie's strapping on those water-skis now. But I thought Firefly
As I've reiterated from the outset, the Sons of Anarchy's premise (Hamlet in a bikers club) is completely at odds with its execution (the idea of legitimacy through lineage). Passing the crown down to the more legitimate heir does not sit well with its outlaw status, and we are given little reason to see why the state of paternity - of being a good son - is compatible with anarchistic principles. The fact that the rest of the 'sons' buys into this premise is risible at best.
I don't believe that the Sons - even John Teller's idealized version - were ever anarchists, in that sense. And while "Hamlet in an MC" might be an easy shorthand, I submit that none of these guys is as thumb-up-his-ass-won't-take-any-active-measures as our boy the Danish prince. These guys are all much more Othello in their makeup. I think, however, the idea of being a good son and a good Son play into the familial bonds that are at the center of the MC. Screw the Man and his government - be a man, keep your word, protect your family, and you are fit to lead. That's what I got as the Sons' ideal, and the story is (to me, anyway) about Jax living up to that ideal, then figuring out where to lead. Conceived that way - as anti-statist, not anti-order - I think it makes some sense. They're choosing their own government, which is why there's so much loyalty to their own system and code of morals.
The other problem I have with the show is what is genuinely good about it - having a strong matriarch (and potential mothers) at the center of the drama. Since the Sons of Anarchy is really about family relations and dynamics, it conveniently displaces the misogyny that lies at the heart of biker culture. Men might want to own their pussy, but they also don't want to be seen as pussies.
That, in particular, seems to be the most fictional element (based on Sutter's summary of his time in Sonny Barger's company). I have less of a problem with that, because I'm really only looking for plausibility instead of hard-core reality in all facets. If Sutter needs to change that part for dramatic license purposes, I'm all for it. It also means I'm fine "liking" these characters in the sense of enjoying watching them on TV, but not in the sense of normative approval of their behavior or any wish to encounter people like this in real life.
I also question the moral relativism inherent in the show, if only because it really trades in moral absolutes when dividing audience sympathies and loyalties. The only reason we sympathize with these characters (and not say Zoebelle's gang of thugs or Ally Walker's henchmen ) is because it makes us extended members of the 'family' - and the execution of a convenient Mayan at the start of the season is a prime example of morally questionable behavior. The writing required us to side with the murder of someone else's son, if only to preserve the bonds of our default family (the show made a point of showing us that this outlaw was dealing drugs at a school).
I disagree that the show trades in moral absolutes. It trades in moral relativism, and personally, I try to keep a big distinction between "hero" and "protagonist." I might even root for the latter, especially if his antagonists are more evil, but I'm not going to approve of morally questionable behavior simply because the protagonist engages in it. On the other hand, I do see a distinction between what's legal and what might actually be just (in the retributive sense only, or not) in any given situation. Sometimes, killing someone is the just response (at least in my moral structure). For example, if you gave me a gun and Osama bin Laden in a room handcuffed to a chair, I probably would judge that shooting the fucker in the head would be just, on balance. Sure as hell wouldn't be legal. Not sure I could do it personally. But that's where I seem to be, morally. I tend to be grayer on the use of force than the rest of my political leanings would predict. I'm certainly no pacifist.
So my feeling is that the writing is undermined by its own sleight of hand.
Since I don't see what you've listed as sleight of hand, exactly, I would disagree here. But I think Wacoshade
and I have similar expectations for the show in both structure and entertainment. I'm not expecting everything out of it, so I'm plenty happy with what it gives me. For the most part. Zobelle getting away like that doesn't make me very happy.
, I think I understand much better where you're coming from. I don't think we actually disagree that much on the particulars; I just reacted badly to the "melodrama" label. Still not liking Havrilesky's review, but I think we can agree to disagree on that one.
Edited by ZeroForce, Dec 8, 2009 @ 3:12 AM.