This is a show about a white biker gang and I accept that authenticity means presenting the characters as being unenlightened about women's rights, gay rights, and racial equality. But there comes a point when you're watching such a show that it suddenly ceases to be about white males who are racist, misogynist, homophobic and amoral, and simply is all of those things. Because when we see no point of view other than that of the white male protagonists (and sometimes the two white female leads, Gemma and Tara), then our sympathies always, automatically, reside with a white male point of view. No matter how disgusting that point of view might be.
Clay is one of the most repulsive characters in television, and Tig seems to be a case study in sociopathic misogyny. It's interesting to me that Tig has accidentally killed (at least) three women, and I wonder if there exists some sly social commentary in that narrative choice: Tig is a hard, watchful man with no love or respect for women, just occasional sexual desire, whose closest relationship is with another man (and the screamingly homoerotic dynamic between Clay and Tig cannot have escaped anyone's notice I'm sure). He doesn't hate women enough to murder them, and yet three women are dead because of him. What does that tell us? That, perhaps, Tig's casual misogyny has farther reaching consequences than is superficially obvious? Is Tig's misogyny related to his sociopathy? Clay and Tig are the most vocally hateful about women, and they are also the two most obviously amoral. Jax is shown to love, respect and care about women, as is Opie, and they are coded as the heroic, "moral" centre of the club. Therefore, misogyny = amoral. Of course, I'd be more on board with that reading of the material if the show wasn't so jam packed with women being murdered, raped and beaten. Just saying.
The treatment of racism is similarly irksome. The only characters of colour in the show are bit parts, and I believe all of them are criminals. Piney was openly racist in his dealings with the 9'ers - using the n-word a number of times - but remained a sympathetic character (and in fact he's one of the "good" SAMCRO guys). I personally found that jarring: we, the audience, are essentially on this man's side. His daughter in law was murdered and he, understandably, wants revenge. So for him to use that most offensive of racist epithets on more than one occasion, his visceral fury very much something we feel connected to, strongly implies the show is expecting us to be understanding of his racism. To let it slide. Because he's angry and grieving you see? And sometimes a person's bigotry is exposed when they're angry, and we should be okay with that. Am I making sense? Does that seem like irresponsible writing to anyone else? I'm just really not comfortable with how much this show expects me to sympathise with racist women haters.
Like, for example, Clay and Tig. Personally I find Clay too repugnant to ever side with him, and I suspect that's because Ron Pearlman doesn't possess the requisite charm, but Kim Coates' Tig is a dangerously appealing and compelling character, and while I am never intellectually on his side I'm emotionally committed to his story. He is everything I hate in men and yet Sons of Anarchy presents him as cool.
What is the value of a show about the evils perpetrated by white men in our society from only the white male perspective? Is exposing their misogyny and racism while also asking us to care about them worthwhile, or just offensive? Look everyone, white men are fucking scumbags. Check out their emo pain! And don't even get me started on the murder of Opie's wife. I've decided that every time I see yet another female character put in the refrigerator I am going to mention it. Because it enrages me. Ellie was nothing but a plot device. In fact, her death set up a number of really great new stories. Thanks, fuckers. Next time why don't you just rape the main female character so at least she gets to witness the way her violent debasement affects all of the poor men in her life? Oh shit. You did do that. I'm actually stunned. What, was Gemma too goddamn smart, strong and beautiful to not get raped? Did she need to be taken down a peg or two? Are there any women on the writing staff? [aside: I am all for stories about rape in drama, but only when that drama isn't already full of misogyny. Further, in this case, as Gemma herself points out, the rape wasn't even ABOUT her. It was about the men. She was raped as a way to get to them and while I know Katey Segal is going to continue blowing me away with her acting this season I still just cannot fucking believe the show went there.]
I'll keep watching because I'm certainly not bored. But I no longer think it's great drama. In fact I'd go so far as to say that Sons of Anarchy is a well written soap opera with no moral compass.