This December will mark a year since the wildly popular FX show Sons of Anarchy finished up its seven season run with a bang, ending the Shakespearean level tragedy of Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) and the SAMCRO motorcycle club.
ScreenRant ran an article recently about what they thought was the most hilarious complaint received regarding Sons of Anarchy and it's pretty great, the best part being that the complainer believed that one of the characters (presumably Ron Perlman's Clay Morrow) was actually called Sam Crow (and you can read the ScreenRant article here).
But it gets better (or worse, depending on how you look at it). Via MuckRock news we were able to get a look at scans of documented complaints made to the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) regarding the show. Some are verging on reasonable whilst others are overreactions or misunderstandings, but some are outright insane...
Complaint Pertaining To Season 3 Episode 3: Caregiver
"The program showed women's butts and in one case showed a woman squatting on the floor with her back to the camera, wearing clothing a stripper would wear, while facing a man that had his pants down. The depiction was clear. Need I say more."
No! Not women's butts! The horror!
"And we wonder why our young people are turning out the way they are ... this is what they have as an influence!"
Young people, always ruining everything! At least now we know it's actually all Sons of Anarchy's fault and nothing to do with parenting or the vast array of other internal and external influences at play in a teenager's life. Hang your head in shame Kurt Sutter.
Complaint Pertaining To Season 4 Episode 9: Kiss
"i am appauled and upset about yous using gods name in vain on tv. more people would watch if would stop using god n jesus name. it's a obanation 2 our father in heaven n our jesus christ. we need 2 stop such language on tv."
So far so standard. My favourite is the misspelling of abomination as "obanation". What did Oban ever do to you? It's a lovely town and makes damn fine whisky.
But then the whole things takes the crazy train into dark territory...
"gays are obination n you show them on tv. there are children watching more these days what is wrong with yous/.you are commiting a crime againest god n jesus .if you cant sell your movie with out using god n jesus that is sick . choose another cuss word. you are making money off cussing n damning our father n jesus. people voted out god n jesus in schools. i didnt. i love god njesus for ever amen."
I don't remember there being a particular gay agenda in Sons of Anarchy, a show primarily concerned with hegemonic masculinity, did I miss it? I know there was a lot of speculation about Juice Ortiz (Theo Rossi)'s sexuality from a throwaway comment made by Gemma Teller (Katey Sagal), but I don't think that was ever confirmed. I guess you just see what you want to see.
It's probably a good thing this viewer didn't stick with the show long enough to see the relationship that forms between the fantastic Venus Van Dam (Walton Goggins) and Tig Trager (Kim Coates). I'm sure they would've considered that representation of a transgender woman having sex with a man an "obanation" too.
Also it's a TV show, not a movie. Do your research at least.
Complaint Pertaining To Season 2 Episode 3: Fix
"My wife and I saw the lead character in one scene was standing up receiving oral sex. You could not tell whether this was real or simulated. This was depicted so well and looked so real that you could not tell."
Wow I know right? It totally looked like real oral sex, it's like the people simulating it are professional actors or something? Weird.
Complaint Pertaining To Season 2 Episode 1: Albification
"This is program is the most sadistic program on TV. It shows women being hung in handcuffs in a cage and graphic killings. It is all about the hatred and sadism of a bunch of bikers and there is even a dark color to everything. I turned it off but before I did I saw a group of bikers getting ready to do who knows what to an average guy in a suit. It is frightening and destructive to our society. I hate to think that people are watching this and we walk among them."
Clearly the first part of this is pertaining to Gemma's kidnap and rape by the white supremacists and they're right on one point: it was a horrific scene. It was supposed to be. You will never ever catch me or any other morally sane person trying to justify the glorification of real or simulated sexual abuse, but whilst Sons of Anarchy may be guilty of the glorification of violence on occasion this scene was certainly not an example of such.
The complainer also makes out like Sons of Anarchy is full of handcuffed women being hung from cages, but viewers will know that this isn't quite the case. The sign off is perhaps the best part though, the Pod People are amongst us, 9.26 million of them according to the final episode viewership figures. Save yourself!
So, Are These Complaints Justified?
Sons of Anarchy was an incredibly violent show, there's no getting around or defending against that claim. But violence is inherent in many aspects of our society and inescapable in the media. Not talking about and not representing it isn't going to make it go away. It's the oldest argument that spans television, film and video games, but to take the stance that watching violence makes people violent is insulting to viewers of the show, the vast majority of whom know how to draw a line between reality and what is represented on-screen.
Whilst taking a glance at a stand-alone episode Sons of Anarchy may have seemed to glorify violence at times, but those who actually watched the series through to its conclusion will know that is about one man who tries to escape the circle of violence he was born into, and ultimately sacrifices his own life to prevent his sons following in his footsteps.