Man cannot live by science fiction alone. Well, that's not entirely true, but it sounded good. Still, perhaps a self-respecting Sci-Fi Fanatic can step away now and again.
I'm endlessly fascinated by the secret society in its many incarnations be it the mafia, Skull And Bones, the Freemasons, Hell's Angels, and in television, the Sons Of Anarchy [2008-present], now heading into its sixth season with seven slated to be the last. Perhaps its the fringe-like nature of those groups and their existence and in some cases the application of that universe especially in science fiction-related film and television.
I had a real opportunity to delve into that world for the 2012 publication Back To Frank Black: A Return To Chris Carter's Millennium. It was the perfect canvas to really delve into the subculture through the character of Frank Black, played by Lance Henriksen and his fragile alliance/relationship to the Millennium Group in the unforgettable, compelling and continually rewarding series Millennium [1996-1999] by Chris Carter.
Over Christmas I took in the first season of popular FX TV series Sons Of Anarchy. It's not a program I'll be writing about outside of this one post, but it was indeed dramatically fascinating television with the cameras, like a window, offering us a glimpse into a world outsiders would likely never get to see, regardless of some of the over-the-top drama. It's not surprising the series draws comparison to the likes of The Sopranos [1999-2007], which was one of the best to explore the furtive world of the mafia family.
Like some of the best written series it takes time for reflection through the lead's narration of his father's ideals for the Sons Of Anarchy as a secret society.
"First time I read Emma Goldman it wasn't in a book. I was sixteen hiking near the Nevada border. The quote was painted on a wall - in red. When I saw those words, it was like someone ripped them from the inside of my head. 'Anarchism stands for liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion, the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property, liberation from the shackles and restraints of government. It stands for social order - based on the free grouping of individuals.' The concept was pure, simple, true. ... Ultimately, ... true freedom requires sacrifice and pain. Most human beings only think they want freedom. In truth, they yearn for the bondage of social order, rigid laws, materialism. The only freedom man really wants is the freedom to be comfortable."
Of course, the irony for any group with a code is that there is no true freedom. Like any group whereby members are beholden to that family rule base, no one is ever truly free. I recall the simple but true lyric of Mick Hucknall's To Be Free from the recording Blue , when he sang, "To be free is to feel free and the first one is a myth." That myth looms large. Even society is governed by norms, social mores, laws - a whole host of guidelines.
The Sons Of Anarchy like many secret groups is steeped in myth and the belief that freedom resides within the family, which is in many ways likewise a prison. The intelligent Frank Black ultimately rejected the secret family group in the series Millennium understanding freedom would be restricted and that strings would indeed be attached. Of course Millennium cleverly infused the series with tropes tied to horror and science fiction, which made that series even more infinitely appealing.
In the real world-grounded Sons Of Anarchy, Katey Sagal's character informs the wife of one of Sam Crowe [the Sons Of Anarchy group/family] that she and the Sons Of Anarchy are family to them and they should turn to them and count on them. This is a familiar refrain within this world echoing Millennium's this is who we are. The secret society as family offers a fascinating window into another world or subculture that works primarily within the framework of society breaking with the established law and rules where required to maintain their own insular place in society. If you ever enjoyed The Sopranos, Sons Of Anarchy is a worthy successor.
Honestly, the secret society as family is something of an endless fascination for me. The mafia has always been a riveting arena for it and has certainly been popularized and to a great extent glamorized in television and film for decades. It's not often one gets a glimpse into the world of the biker gang. Sons Of Anarchy is flawless and infinitely enjoyable television like some bastard cross-section of The Sopranos meets The Shield, while creating something entirely fresh. It's pure addiction for a pop culture junkie.
I would have enjoyed seeing this series before penning my chapter for the aforementioned book, This Is Who We Are: Secret Society And Family Redefined. There are a few ideal quotes to lend even more weight to the arguments surrounding the case of the secret society as family. They would have been perfect. I had a similar reaction regarding the film We Are Marshall  and the tragic events surrounding the death of 37 football players in 1970 and the strength of the football family outside of the nuclear family. While not a secret society the simple parallel was effective when considering that kind of tight-knit fraternity.
Nevertheless, Sons Of Anarchy is as serious as a heart attack, definitely good fun for motor heads, but equally good fun for anyone looking for just plain great television [Breaking Bad]. It doesn't capture the mysticism or darkness on the level of something as poetic as Millennium, with that artistic flourish that Carter brought to the art form, but Sons Of Anarchy presents its harsh world with an equally uncompromising eye too.
Sons Of Anarchy, which immerses us in biker culture, may be an acquired taste or may not be for everyone. I can't say. For me, I purchased the series on Blu-Ray on a hunch that I would enjoy it. I wasn't wrong. It's a brilliant series and ranks as the highest rated series for FX since The Shield.
My flirtations outside of science fiction will certainly continue, but in keeping with the genre to end all genres, here's an enjoyable little Star Trek: The Original Series connection from the solid Sons Of Anarchy, Season One, Episode 4, Patch Over. Not unlike Captain Kirk and Star Trek, Sons Of Anarchy is a complete bad ass all its own - an eventful escape into another world.