Women Riders

Oh, Kurt Sutter, What Hath Thou Wrought?

Written by  August 1, 2013

When Sons of Anarchy debuted in 2008, it was like nothing ever before shown on TV. A combination of soap opera and crime drama, it resembled Shakespeare’s Hamlet as told through the world of a 1%er biker club. People compared it to The Soprano’s with its conflicted main character and his crime syndicate, trying to balance the love of family with killing people. And like The Soprano’s, Sons of Anarchy has become not just a “cult” favorite, but a writing and acting force to be reckoned with. Katey Sagal has reinvented herself once again through the character of Gemma; actors that were previously just footnotes in movies and other TV shows have been relegated to god-like status.

The last TV show to feature a motorcycle-riding protagonist before SoA was Then Came Bronson in 1969, so I suppose it was a long time coming. But Bronson wasn’t a criminal, although he was a loner with an unspoken past. The show ended after one season in 1970, but still comes up in conversations today. It was the antithesis to the previously released Easy Rider and earlier “biker” movies that showed bikers as irresponsible low lifes who only cared about drugs, riding and getting laid. If ever we needed another Bronson, now would be a good time.

When something becomes a massive hit on TV or in the movies, it apparently is a law in Hollywood that everyone with an AmEx card and a camera jump on the proverbial bandwagon. It is with this in mind that we have now been visually assaulted with two shows on the Discovery Channel: Devil’s Ride and the new Warlock’s Rising. The former is about a wannabe 1% bike club, the latter about a long in the tooth 1% bike club.

There have been rumblings through the Internet that Devil’s Ride is fake or full of bit actors. Some rumors have been that the Laughing Devils MC was created for television. I have tried to watch this show, really I have. But it is ludicrous to me. Everyone gossips about other members or “former” members like teenage girls at the food court. They talk trash and puff their chests threatening to beat each other down and rarely, if ever, do. (I couldn’t stick around long enough to find out if any threats were carried out.) Discovery Channel actually had this show back for a second season. Let’s hope there isn’t a third.

Warlocks Rising is the new entry onto the “aren’t bad bikers cool?” SoA coattails. The Warlocks was started in the late 60’s, so they have some bragging rights, but only “some”. They’ve been reduced to a page in motorcycle club history, competing with the like of Pagans and Hell’s Angels for bad biker status.

There is nothing redeeming about these old criminals, but the producers certainly try. One man wanted to visit his dead wife’s grave in peace, but wears his colors and goes with his brothers, also in full “rags” to do so, prompting the local MC to show up and ride by. And so it goes in every scene; apparently no one can live a private life without having to wear his club’s rockers everywhere. Another portion of the show features a member and his three-year-old son, born with Spinal Bifida. He tells us how he defied the doctors’ predictions by walking his son all the time and how, unlike his own father, he will make it a point to always be with his son. Cut to him buying this three year old his “first motorcycle”. He puts the kid on it with no helmet and lets him go. Of course, he falls off and everyone laughs and laughs. What part of this segment pointed to his being a “good father”?

In attempting to show the “real life” answer to Sons of Anarchy, what the Discovery Channel has done instead is to affirm for those who don’t like bikers exactly why they feel that way. I guess they felt that following a group around who isn’t into crime or rowdiness or even pissing contests wouldn’t be much of a show and they are probably right. Most of us just want to ride, not fill our lives with more conflict and stress, even if it is staged for cameras. So thank you, Discovery Channel, for setting the attitudes of the American public back five decades.