Charlie Hunnam is no stranger to the motorcycle world, which is apparent by the ease with which he plays Jackson "Jax" Teller in the hit TV series, Sons of Anarchy. But is the zero-Emmy winner TV series all that truthful when it comes to the lives of a motorcycle gang in small-town California? There have been tweets traded between Kurt Sutter (the creator of SoA) and a certain "Sandman" (apparently a member of a real California motorcycle gang, so profiled in a Discovery channel program) where Sandman called SoA completely make-believe and miles apart from what a real-life motorcycle gang is like. So is that true? Here’s what we think SoA got wrong about motorcycle gangs.
Sometimes some scuffles lead to violence between motorcycle gangs — but the 153-body count that SAMCRO, aka the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Originals, racks up in its seven seasons seems way more inflated and violent than what would happen in most real-life motorcycle gangs. Jax’s tally of 46 kills is a little excessive. This many people getting popped off would put the authorities on the tail of any motorcycle gang, something they likely want to avoid.
The very idea of a motorcycle gang revolves around the motorcycle. All gang members are hardcore motorcyclists and not only is motorcycle a means of transport for them, but it is also their life and soul. Without a motorcycle, a motorcycle gang would just be a gang — minus any specialty. But in Sons of Anarchy, while they do go on motorcycle runs when they need to escape or carry out a purpose, SAMCRO doesn’t seem to be on motorcycles all that much. The love of motorcycles in SAMCRO seems to be missing, and it is one glaring discrepancy in a show all about a motorcycle gang.
When Filthy Phil Russell, Half-Sack Epps, and Eric Miles want to join SAMCRO as the newest recruits, they were labeled “prospects.” Their “hazing” includes building playgrounds and not being trusted as much as the long-term members. This is so far removed from the actual initiation into motorcycle gangs, that it's not even funny. Most motorcycle gang members undergo violent beating, stomach-churning humiliation or have to commit acts of violence, before being considered part of the motorcycle gang. What SoA shows is too soft and unrealistic.
Gemma Teller is the queen of SAMCRO and gets away with most of her shenanigans — though Clay Morrow does beat her in Season 4. Even so, she is respected and even loved by many of SAMCRO’s members. But this is not how women are treated in most motorcycle gangs, and it’s a sad and tough truth. Motorcycle gang members are dominant males — they don’t treat their women as equals, more like chattel.
The biggest star of a motorcycle gang isn’t the leader — it’s the motorcycle. And while gangs are violent, and involved in many illegal activities (though some motorcycle gangs are claiming to be family-oriented now) — they still take time to tinker with their motorcycles. This is not something you see the SoA characters do a lot; they are too busy plotting, making deals, saving each other and getting involved in emotional turmoil than actually making their machines as awesome as they can. This is where Fast and Furious gets it right, showing all characters constantly tinkering with their rides, as opposed to SoA where the motorcycle is ridden and then parked.
In SoA, SAMCRO allied with other gangs of Hispanic, Chinese and African-American ethnicities to further their cause of the day. Most outlaw motorcycle gangs are not so tolerant of people of color or ethnic nationalities — most are all Caucasian and even bear tattoos that could be perceived as hurtful and inflammatory to other races. Motorcycle gangs are not joined by your average Joe. The men in motorcycle gangs live by some stringent rules and may not like to give an inch to what forms their core belief system of color supremacy.
In SoA, things spiral from bad to worse pretty quick, and the revenge stories are equally disturbing, like when Gemma murders Tara for being a rat, and then Jax kills Gemma, his mother, as revenge. Or when Tig kills Damon Pope’s daughter as revenge for shooting Clay, and Damon Pope retaliated by killing Tig’s daughter. In real life, just a nudge, a broken beer bottle or an accidental boot stomp is enough for motorcycle gangs to go on an all-out brawl and rampage. But mostly, violence is limited to brawls only, not complicated revenge. More than planning any retaliation, they simply believe in having their revenge served steaming-hot, then and there.
In Season 6, Jax wants SAMCRO to turn over a new leaf. He wants SAMCRO to leave behind the big, bad world of weapons trade and substance trafficking and enter the world of adult films and paid company — that said, the former is legitimate business while the latter can get you thrown in prison. But in the world of SAMCRO, this still counts as living on the right side of the law. However, most motorcycle gangs don’t care about going legitimate.
Throughout the series, SAMCRO keeps up a game of one-upmanship with the authorities, be it the local police or the Feds; things often go the Sons' way. This is apparent through the seasons where none of them are ever caught or imprisoned for their crimes. Even at the end, when Jax opens fire on the patrolman to sacrifice himself, none of the 20-odd police vehicles can catch him. In a very Tarantino-like scene, he races (slowly) towards a trailer coming his way to end his life. The scene ends with the police cars coming to a halt, and a pool of blood flowing down the highway.
Finally, while Sons of Anarchy may not have won Emmys and or other awards, it was a hit series. Even Harley-Davidson faced a revival of sorts with people again wanting to go for their choppers and Dyno Street models since SoA managed to paint beautiful vistas of them on screen. In real life, no motorcycle gang has ever been able to garner the interest of the general public to the scale where motorcycle sales start shooting up. Probably why Harley-Davidson has a special SoA Limited Edition motorcycle for diehard SoA fans.