Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Secret Society: Sons Of Anarchy

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 [1998], 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 [2006] 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.

9 comments:

Troy L. Foreman said...

SFF,

Sons of Anarchy is a fascinating series and one of my favorites on television right now. I've watched it since day one and really looking forward to the upcoming 6th season. You can boil the series down to basically one major point...this is all about Jax's journey....with the ups and downs that will test his character throughout. Definitely keep watching because it just gets better.

thanks for the great read and I am looking forward to review/thoughts on our book!

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

It is indeed a fascinating journey Troy. I will definitely stay with it. I have the first four seasons on Blu-Ray.

Season One was exceptional television and I rank it on par with my experience watching Breaking Bad and Dexter, when comparing to Season Ones.

While I enjoyed it, I did not love True Blood.

Sons Of Anarchy is truly exceptional. The music is a terrific accompaniment too. I just purchased all kind of tracks from Battleme. Matt Drenik is a perfect fit for the SOA.

English born actor Charlie Hunnam grabbed the role of a lifetime. Thumbs way up on his performance along with what amounts to an absolutely stellar cast with Sagal, Perlman, Coates and Flanagan just to name a few.

Thanks again Troy and certainly look forward to writing about the fantastic publication that is Back To Frank Black. So much to do.

Troy L. Foreman said...

SFF,

yes, the cast is simply phenomenal. Once you get further on into the series, it's one of the best on television right now.

The use of music throughout the series is another strong point as you said. Katie Sagal even contributes several songs to the series.

True Blood had a good first season, but the further you get into the show, the more campy and goofy it becomes. If you want to see another stellar first season, take a look at Homeland. I watch alot of television and I have to say, that is probably the best first season of any show I have ever seen. Just mind blowing. I highly suggest you take a look at that one if you haven't already.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Hello Troy. Enjoy the conversation on this.

I enjoy the Sagal songs as well. I haven't purchased nay yet, but I like a few of hers and will probably break down in the future. But Burn This Town by Battle Me is amazing.

I completely agree and understand. Listen, I was riveted each day. I took about a week off at Christmas and was glued through that first season. I couldn't wait to see the next episode. Much the same way I looked forward to Millennium.

I did buy True Blood Season One and Two but it ends there until I finish what I have because I was not overwhelmed by it.

Breaking Bad continues to be exceptional.

And funny you mention Homeland. You and I must have a lot in common Troy and didn't even know it.

At Thanksgiving, during all of those black friday sales, I bought Homeland for like 14-19 dollars on Blu Ray on a hunch I would enjoy it. The same hunch I had with Sons Of Anarchy. So, YES, I have Homeland and that is up next.

What about Enlightened? I'm intrigued but I need to read more first. It sounds like you are the man to check in with on this. Thanks again for all the input.

And no worries I have SOA Season Five, Breaking Bad Season Five and Homeland Season Two on watch for purchase down the road. Thank you Troy.

Troy L. Foreman said...

SFF,

yes, definitely a great conversation!

I purchased both soundtracks released so far for Sons of Anarchy...just fantastic music and what makes it even better is that once you play a song, you immediately relive the scene that song was meant for..too awesome.

Oh man, I can't wait for you to watch Homeland. I try not to over hype a show for people so they aren't disappointed when they watch it, but wow, Homeland just blew me away. I haven't been that blown away by a first season since Millennium as well. Both Claire Daines and Damian Lewis are on another level with the acting during that first season.

True Blood for me just became more ridiculous the more I watched. I am completely caught up, but it's just not the same. The storylines became a bit too hokey for me, but I'll be interested to hear what you think.

I haven't watched Enlightened but I've heard some good things about it. I am a TV junkie..I have a TV news blog on the side now and I've been getting access to stuff before it's out. With that being said, I've seen the first 4 episodes of The Following that starts airing next Monday..dude...WATCH IT! It will bring you back to the days you first started watching Millennium and Kevin Bacon is superb!!

I know you don't want to stray for from the science fiction genre, but if you want to see a great cop show that isn't your typical cop show, check out the short lived series that Damian Lewis starred in before Homeland called Life. 2 seasons of brilliance. :)

Sorry for the rambling, I can talk about this stuff all day!

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Hey Troy, Non-stop today. Snow storm threw everything off.

Honestly I could talk about this stuff all day.

The only thing separating me from being an unadulterated TV junkie is by virtue of the fact my time is so limited.

Case in point, I'm watching Fringe last night and my One To Be Pitied says, "What are you doing?" from upstairs. I said, "I'm watching a program." She said, "I'l need your help in a minute." I said "Okay."

A half hour goes by and she says, "Where are you, what are you doing?" I said, "still watching a program." She said, "I told you I needed your help." I said, "Oh I thought you were going to let me know when." She replied, "No you genius. Come now! How's that!" So that ended my viewing experience for the night. HA.

Anyway, funny you mention The Following. I was just telling the One To Be PItied that looked very good. We both want to watch it. I think that is going to be a hit.

It not only looks really good, but Kevin Bacon is money.

Also, I loved Band Of Brothers with Lewis. I want you to know based on your recommendation and the fact it's clear we have a lot in common as far as taste goes I will definitely be purchasing Life on your recommendation so thank you.

Any thoughts on OZ? The old HBO show. I came close to that once and never pulled the trigger.

Also if you have an opinion on The Wire and Generation Kill. I would love your input on those since I know you share my taste.

Thanks Troy
G

Troy L. Foreman said...

SFF,

Snow? We are suppose to get some tonight..don't know how much though. Hope you guys are ok there and didn't get snowed in!

Don't worry, I totally understand. I was in the same boat as well for a while, but now that I am single for the time being, I can watch all I want and explore new shows. I call myself the King of cancelled shows. All my favorites..well, most of them only last 13 episodes or a season. Chicago Code, Brimstone, Firefly, NYC22, Flash Forward, Kidnapped and Haunted to name a few. It's my gift..it's my curse. :)

Oh man, I am going to be so bummed when I watch the series finale of Fringe Friday night. That show has truly entertained me. It has its rough spots, but overall, great television.

Well, about the shows you mentioned. OZ..LOVED IT! It's funny you say that, I was looking at buying the complete series the other day. The only reason I had HBO at the time was to watch OZ. Fantastic show. Now The Wire...OMG man...probably, no definitely in my top 5 TV series of all time. I can't sing that show's praises enough. Simply brilliant television. One of the characters names Stringer Bell from that show was played by actor Idris Elba. Watching The Wire made me dig more into his career. I found out he's British and has a Millennium type show on the BBC called Luther..another fantastic drama. Add that one to your list as well. Dude, do you know what you've started? You'll never get though all this television i am recommending!

So happy you are picking up Life. It's probably my favorite cop show. It's a bit different than your normal cop show and Damian's character is shall we say, a bit quirky, but awesome. I think I've done about 3 rewatches of that series. I have recommended it to at least 10 people and they all have purchased the series after they borrow my season 1 set. Do me a favor, when you get Life, watch the pilot episode, then immediately jot down your thoughts on the episode and send it to me. Would love to get your initial thoughts!

Whew, I can go all day man...love talking about this stuff!

Troy L. Foreman said...

SFF,

Snow? We are suppose to get some tonight..don't know how much though. Hope you guys are ok there and didn't get snowed in!

Don't worry, I totally understand. I was in the same boat as well for a while, but now that I am single for the time being, I can watch all I want and explore new shows. I call myself the King of cancelled shows. All my favorites..well, most of them only last 13 episodes or a season. Chicago Code, Brimstone, Firefly, NYC22, Flash Forward, Kidnapped and Haunted to name a few. It's my gift..it's my curse. :)

Oh man, I am going to be so bummed when I watch the series finale of Fringe Friday night. That show has truly entertained me. It has its rough spots, but overall, great television.

Well, about the shows you mentioned. OZ..LOVED IT! It's funny you say that, I was looking at buying the complete series the other day. The only reason I had HBO at the time was to watch OZ. Fantastic show. Now The Wire...OMG man...probably, no definitely in my top 5 TV series of all time. I can't sing that show's praises enough. Simply brilliant television. One of the characters names Stringer Bell from that show was played by actor Idris Elba. Watching The Wire made me dig more into his career. I found out he's British and has a Millennium type show on the BBC called Luther..another fantastic drama. Add that one to your list as well. Dude, do you know what you've started? You'll never get though all this television i am recommending!

So happy you are picking up Life. It's probably my favorite cop show. It's a bit different than your normal cop show and Damian's character is shall we say, a bit quirky, but awesome. I think I've done about 3 rewatches of that series. I have recommended it to at least 10 people and they all have purchased the series after they borrow my season 1 set. Do me a favor, when you get Life, watch the pilot episode, then immediately jot down your thoughts on the episode and send it to me. Would love to get your initial thoughts!

Whew, I can go all day man...love talking about this stuff!

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Ha. Love your input. I have a friend at work who is constantly braging to me about life as a single man with a kegorator and xbox. : )

Anyway, I'm in on OZ and The Wire too. Boy, I'm never going to be able to watch all this but I'll try.

Anyway, love talking up this stuff myself. I will definitely write you and write some reflections on LIFE when that day comes. Speaking of life that's sort of in my next post.