The Final Ride: How SOA Changed the Way We Watch TV

The Beginning of the End

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As the final is season is underway, there is one question that needs to be asked if Sons of Anarchy hasn’t been a show you’ve watched, why?

FX has pushed the television viewers’ limits on this wild ride for the past six years, giving the audience a show that takes the viewers on a journey through an epic drama filled reality. Although the show isn’t based off of true events or a real motorcycle club, it sure does feel that way, which makes this show so compelling. Also known as Sons or SOA, the show itself has created a culture for its viewers, a culture that requires strength, courage, love, and stress. Sons is entering the final season of the journey and will end in early December, understandably so but unfortunate as well. Sit back and strap on your couch seat belt and get ready to be amazed by the performances, the events, and the bad-ass lives that this show brings and most of all, ride on.

Living a different life from most, Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) is the main character in the show. His life starts off simple by following the footsteps of his late father to one day be the president of SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original). Throughout most of the seasons Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman) is the President of the club and is also married to Jax’s mother Gemma (Katey Segal. Clay proves how tough the President position is through his street side gun running and protection of drug lords and other motorcycle clubs. Among other tasks such as running a “clean” automotive repair shop in order to cover up the true jobs of the club. However, it isn’t always a clean and smooth ride for the club when it comes to handling their business as many distractions, events, and authority figures get in the way of the club. Despite all the drama, the club which is made up of nine members, is a tight knit group and are willing to do anything for the man next to him. But with family troubles in the background of Jax’s life and children coming into play it becomes hard for Jax to keep all of his attention on the MC. Now, I wouldn’t want to give away any spoilers, because the events that take place in the show are so significant to the plot itself. Needless to say, if you enjoy bad blood and don’t mind seeing a casualty here and there, this show is for you.

Kurt Sutter is the creator, director, and producer of the show, he is also an actor in it as well. Sutter uses his twisted mind to deliver a TV drama like no other, and the fans love it. Last week during the season premiere of the final season, SOA reached its most popular TV rating ever and Kurt Sutter could not thank his fans enough as he tweeted, @Sutterink: “S7 PREMIERE CHALLENGE YOU DID IT! CRUSHED LAST YEARS NUMBERS…” Sutter followed up his statement with a link that showed the viewing results of the premiere episode. soa 3

The premiere had over six million viewers when the show aired last Tuesday, about four million of the viewers were between the ages of 18-49. This stat proved that SOA is the most watched and most popular show on the FX network, ever. Fans certainly didn’t hesitate to add their input about the show either, as #SonsOfAnarchy and #FinalRide were the two top trending topics on Twitter the night of the premiere. Comments can also be found about the show on nearly any website that talks about SOA, fans would comment about their love for the show and how excited they are to see this final season. Tweets can be seen all across the twitter timelines when each episode airs, with tweets saying, “Oh my god I can’t believe this!! #SOA”. But the fans also have the opportunity to try and interact with some of the actors in the show that appears after the newest episode, Anarchy Afterword.

SOA is not only one of the best shows on television but it has some of the most loyal and dedicated fans as well. Sons Inside and Out can be found here, where the author talks about the culture that the fans all share amongst each other. The high ratings for the show is just a start to prove how popular the show really is. People have become accustomed to the language the characters use all the way to how they act, and how they handle situations. Para social relationships have been formed as well through out the past six years with these characters. These relationships allow the viewers to make them feel like they are a part of the show due to their strong “like” or “dislike” towards one character, this explains why this show can be so dramatic as well.

Lastly, not only has this show done wonders on air, but off air as well. Members of the cast can be found around the country at conventions to raise money for charities and offer fans the opportunities to buy motorcycles that have  been used in the show. All of the actors in SOA have given back to communities one way or another. Kim Coates (Tig), gives back to an organization that donates money to help children in Africa who have AIDS to get medical care and an education. Theo Rossi who plays Juice, donated numerous amounts of time and money to help his hometown of Staten Island, NY when Hurricane Sandy ripped through the area a few years back.

The bad boys of Charming, California aren’t always the bad boys they appear to be when the cameras are on them. SOA has created a truly good bond with all of its viewers along these six years, and it will be sad to see the show end come December. However, as a fan, I must thank Kurt Sutter and the entire cast for making this show so addictive and so amazing, it truly has been a wonderful experience. Sutter has also done a really good job with allowing so much diversification in his show, which draws in more viewers. The diverse characters also bring a different element to the show, which is why Sutter is so clever with his characters, because they are impactful on the viewers. Here is a sneak peak at what you have missed, and what season seven is bringing to the table.

Gender, Race, and Culture: How Kurt Sutter Keeps Everyone Involved

Sons of Anarchy has shown its characters grow and mature into their proper roles. Viewers have watched these characters of all different races including, White, African American, Latino, and Asian, play their own respective roles. Within each race is a culture in which each of the characters live by, and that culture has changed as well. Thanks to the well done directing of Kurt Sutter, the show has gained more popularity in the genders of its viewers as well. Gender roles and cultural differences has impacted the viewers of this show directly, by using different genders and cultures, Sutter has drawn in more fans from all different races, cultures, and genders.

Myles McNutt of cultural-learnings.com notes, “…gradual 10%-15% increases per season-is the fact that ratings for the season six premiere among women 18-49 and women 18-34 were up 35% and 43% respectively”. Now entering its final season, SOA is at an all time high in ratings, this week according to the chart and statement provided by Sara Bibel of tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com, Kurt Sutter’s production beat out some tough competitors yet again, “Sons of Anarchy was Tuesday’s top cable program, with a 2.3 adults 18-49 rating, even”. The show even beat out the American League Championship series and the BET Hip Hop Awards, pretty impressive. A popular show for sure, certainly brings its audience to the edge of their seats with the constant cycling of roles with each gender, but the question is, does each role provided to the character fit it’s natural culture?

The Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club is made up of all men, and each man has their own role defined by the patch that is stitched into each of their cuts.

The roles range from President (initially Clay Morrow) Vice President (Originally Jax) Sergeant of Arms, and so on, and each patch requires the man who wears it be brave, strong, and significant to the club. Roles vary between the patches such as the fact that the President has the almighty say in anything the club does, business wise. Lower ranked members may be required to make long rides for the club to pick up luggage, guns, and money. As the show carries on throughout its seasons, roles change frequently for each character Jax has the biggest role change of all by upgrading to President of the club in the later seasons.

The maturation of Jax by becoming President and a father, shows the power of masculinity, and this draws in the viewers attention by making the viewer relate the role of the character to the roles of genders among society, considered to be an ideology. Are men supposed to be expected to provide for their family? Yes, but are men expected to be out selling guns and drugs? Most likely not. The audience may look at these roles and wonder if they’re normal to society. This tough and rugged biker club also has family involved in the show. The females that have a relationship with a member of the club need to be trusted by all of the members and they also help the club out as well by doing charity work and taking care of children. Gemma, Jax’s mom, takes on perhaps the biggest role of all the females, by being the mother and wife of the President and taking care of each member. With females involved in the show, different roles are expected by each gender.

The club is a family, and each member’s personal family plays their own role for the family of the club. Women range from all different ages due to the different ages of the members, however nearly every woman involved with the club plays a motherly role. Gemma’s initial role in the beginning of the show was to help the club out with work at the shop they own, and help the members with any needs they may have. Other females in the show such as Tara and Wendy are mothers to each one of Jax’s sons, and they take care of the children throughout the show. Having these women playing the roles they do makes female viewers appreciate the power a woman has, strong and courageous, which can have a positive output on the females who follow the show.

Leigh Kolb of btchflcks.com says that woman can see how powerful women can be amongst a group of men, “Bad-ass mothers- Gemma, Tara, Wendy, and Venus- show us that women, and the feminine, can be a powerful force in a sea of masculinity”. Kolb later notes, “They have prominent story lines and important roles”. Even in a show full of power within the male population, the women are just as important to the show. The women tend to show strong family support throughout the seasons, and give off a strong motherly presence over the young children and the men of the club.

The club itself is made up of all men that are all white, except for one, Juice. Juice comes from an interracial family, his mother was Puerto Rican and his father was African American. Throughout the beginning seasons of the show, Juice is accepted due to his mother being Puerto Rican, he told the club that he never met his father and it was unknown where he was. This all changes when documents of Juice’s birth certificate turn up and it says that his father is indeed African American. The club always prided themselves on being a white only club, and when some of the members found out about Juice’s father, Juice had to prove his worthiness and honor to the club.

Theo Rossi, who plays the character of Juice, explained in an interview at Comic-Con in San Diego that his character really went through many ups and downs in the previous seasons going into season six. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQR74vJ7yRI The white race plays numerous roles from police officers, biker club members, mayors, and murderers. The club tried to stick with strictly keeping their city of Charming safe, and keeping other races from hurting the society.

Other races in the show have their own roles and cultures that the characters live by. The African American’s in the show play roles as police officers, friendly biker gangs, and gangbangers. Asian’s roles primarily live on dealing weapons to the club, due to the strong weaponry that is available in Asia. Latino’s play roles of federal agents and a rival biker gang, who are mainly involved in selling drugs. Latoya Peterson of racialicious.com says SOA allows the audience to see a character of a certain race act the way they are in the real-world, and that is a good thing because media normally portrays races as particular characters like villains. Races in SOA play important roles and they are not all stereotypical roles either, which draws in more viewers of all different races.

Today, media impacts our lives to a great extent. Popular shows bring in more people to use other forms of media like Facebook and Twitter to talk about the shows and interact with one another. More often than not, certain roles are given to certain races and genders among different shows, but Sons of Anarchy uses these roles evenly amongst the races and genders. Prominent and lead roles strike among different genders as well in Sons, which impacts the viewers. Some shows portray women as stay at home mom’s or housewives, but Sons allow these women to live life on the edge, with tremendous power and strength. So how much of an impact can these characters make? Keep Scrolling.

 The Final Goodbye

The episodes are winding down and things are beginning to escalate in the final chapter of Sons of Anarchy. From season one the characters of this show have grown up, both literally and mentally, and as each character has grown, relationships from the audience have been formed. It is easy to get attached to media today because it is always available and we as consumers like to put ourselves into the characters situations. So why do we as the audience form these relationships with the characters? The gratification theory, which is defined as a theory that assumes that individual differences among audience members cause each person to seek out different messages, use those messages differently, and respond to them uniquely (Bryant et. Al P. 122). What this means is that when we watch these shows, we associate ourselves with the characters and become an active audience, active in a way of relating the character to us, and using other media devices as a way to show our relationships. We can also look at the social cognitive theory, which Bryant defines as, a framework that allows us to analyze the human cognition’s (or mental functions) that produce certain behavior. Social cognitive theory allows the user to come up with their own thoughts and actions that are closely related with the human’s cognitive ability. Relationships can form in all shows, Sons always seems to capture its viewers into the plot that the characters are acting out, which can lead to us fans being a bit crazy.

As the audience, we are always finding ways to relate what we see in media to our own daily lives. For example, when Jax Teller decides to take his club out of the gun-running business, we as the audience can relate that decision to a decision that we may have to make in our life, such as whether or not we may consider entering a new career. These characters however don’t live the every day life that we most citizens do. Selling and distributing guns, smuggling drugs, forming gangs, and killing others because of a street beef isn’t typical in most American civilian lives. Jax is easily one of the characters that tons of fans associate themselves with. Starting off as just a young biker club member, Jax grew up with his life surrounded by the reaper which resembles the club, his father was the original President of the club. As his life changed through his father’s death, many audience members can relate to the loss of a parent, just as Jax had gone through. Jax is seen looking through old photographs and written letters from his father throughout the show, which is normal and what most people do over the years after losing someone. This proves the gratification theory to be a correct theory to apply to this particular show because the audience members who have lost their father can relate to the pain that Jax feels. Gratification is shown from the audience feeling a sense of loss or despair when they watch the scenes of Jax looking through his fathers collectibles.

Social cognitive theory can also be shown here, because the audience uses Jax’s thoughts and relates his thoughts to theirs. Claudia van Kruistam, author of Youth Media Lifestyles: Human Connection Research, notes that there are two ways to look at media relationships, what the media does to people, and what people do with media. When comparing Jax to the audience it is clear that the media that is being delivered is impacting the viewer in an emotional way, while the viewer may be using this media to cope with the loss of a father or a loved one. There are also some life lessons that we as the audience can take away from what Kurt Sutter puts in his show, one lesson would be that family is everything. Chris King from tvovermind.com created a list of 20 lessons we as viewers have learned from Sons of Anarchy, and he says, “Above all else, above any hopes, dreams or desires you may have, even above your own well-being: family should and always will come first, as we’ve seen the characters on Sons of Anarchy illustrate so many different times through their actions, which they hope will somehow aid their loved ones”. In fact, this lesson is very true, and Kurt Sutter makes it evident in each show that family is always first. One particular case from the show that proves this is when Jax is close to narrowing in on a deal with another street gang, but his phone rings and his mother alerts him of a family necessity that needs to be attended to, Jax walks away from the deal and immediately adheres to his mother’s request. The audience can learn from this show that family will always matter and should always be the most important factor in our every day lives, and we all may wonder where Jax gets this from, perhaps his mother, Gemma.

Gemma has always held a high respect in many of the audience members eyes due to her loyalty, love, and commitment to keeping every character happy and safe. Katey Sagal, who plays as Gemma knows that she is truly lucky and blessed to be given such a great character to act as in Sons of Anarchy. Gregg McQueen of theacquarian.com was able to sit down with Sagal and ask her some questions about her life in music and her life in acting, Sagal said, “I’m not sure why, but they’re characters that have really stuck with people. I think what people relate to in any type of art form is what they see in themselves. We laugh at what we see in ourselves, we feel compassion for others through that. So, I’m not sure exactly why my characters resonated, but people must feel connected somehow”. Sagal is aware of the relationships her audience members form with her character, and although she may not understand why, the gratification and social cognitive theory tells us why.

Gemma is not only the ultimate woman of the show, but she also has a side that many audience members didn’t expect her to have, pure evil. At the end of last season, Gemma committed an act that caught tons of viewer’s by surprise, but that one particular act wasn’t the only thing Gemma was ridiculed about, as she has had many mis-haps throughout the show. Chuck Barney of mercurynews.com wrote an article about women and their roles in TV shows in which romance novelist, Rebecca Maher wrote, “Tony Soprano could get away with anything, and we’d still root for him. But when it comes to female characters, we usually judge them more harshly. We still tend to want them to be young, feminine, one-dimensional and basically good. It’s harder to forgive their misdeeds”.

Although most female characters play lesser roles than male characters, Gemma still has one of the strongest roles, and because of that role the actions she commits can truly impact the audience. Gemma’s acts have lead to tons of fan reactions all over social media from Twitter, Facebook, and blogs all across the country, but Sagal is okay with that. Sagal sat down with TVLine.com to talk about her character in the final season, and she assures the audience despite all the chaos she is no psychopath, and although Gemma continues to struggle each episode with hiding her past, she knows her husband and director, Kurt Sutter knows what he is doing, “My husband is the storyteller, and I’m helping him tell the story. He’s the one who decides what the story is. As a character, I don’t decide what she’s going to do or her point of view”.

Kurt Sutter promised his fans that this season would be the most emotional season of all, given everything that has happened up to this point in the show. Fans continually share their input of the episodes across all social media platforms, as one can expect that Sons of Anarchy will go down as one of the best TV-dramas of all time. Our emotions get the best of us while watching this show because we continually correlate ourselves with the characters through social cognitive theory and gratification theory. Once the show ends for good, all of the fans will surely thank Sutter, Sagal, and all the other actors who put in their time and effort to make this show as amazing as it was, and just because the reaper crew won’t be revving their Harley’s through Charming, California anymore, one thing is for sure, this show will leave an impact on its viewers.

Conclusion

My blog, The Final Ride: How SOA Changed the way We Watch TV, provides the audience with multiple angles of how to dissect Sons of Anarchy. This show is very impacting to its audience, because of how dramatic the show can be, we as the viewer like to imagine ourselves in the show. Using the gratification theory and social cognitive theory, I was able to tell my audience how these theories relate to our feelings we get when watching Kurt Sutter’s work. The gratification theory is defined as the assumption that individual differences among audience members cause each person to seek out different messages, use those messages differently, and respond to them uniquely. In other words, we use our own life experiences and compare them to the experiences the characters have in the show, which gives us our feeling of being so close with the characters. The social cognitive theory is defined as a framework that allows us to analyze the humans cognition’s (or mental functions) that produce certain behavior. To define it in more proper terms, because of our own experiences and thoughts and behaviors, we compare them to the behaviors of the characters, thus the reason why we get those emotions when watching the show. I also talk about the characters in the show, and the different cultures that are shown throughout the seven seasons, because Kurt Sutter involves actors from all different races, more people of different races will watch the show. In the season finale, the club makes a decision that they have never done before, by inducting an African American into their club. Lastly, I talked about forming para social relationships with the characters. Audience members can become obsessed with certain characters, and we form a relationship with the character and associate ourselves with them in the show. It was fun to learn all of this information and understand why I get so worked up when I watch SOA, and to those who haven’t seen it, you will too.

To those of you who have watched this show, you understand my blog and how cultivating SOA can be. To those of you who haven’t seen it, one now you know why you will be so involved, and two, start watching this tomorrow. I hope to all visitors of my blog learned how Sutter involves gender roles and cultural differences amongst races, how the social cognitive theory impacts the viewer, and how the gratification theory also impacts the viewer. To any TV-guru’s out there, this show is a must watch and will keep you hanging on to the edge of your seat. Also, pay close attention to a lot of little detail in the early seasons, Sutter shows tons of foreshadow. Now that the series has officially come to an end as of December 9th, it is time for those who haven’t watched SOA to step up, and get involved with the SOA community. Sutter hosted the show Anarchy Afterword following the season finale, and he thanked his fans numerous times and couldn’t believe how involved all the fans became in the show. Perhaps the most bad-ass show on TV, has finally come to an end because as we know, nothing lasts forever.

The Sons of Anarchy tweeted out this video to all the fans, what a special group of people.

Sources

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Barney, C. (2013, February 27). Women behaving badly: Are TV viewers ready for more female antiheroes? Retrieved November 18, 2014, from http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_22680619/women-behaving-badly-are-tv-viewers-ready-more

Bibel, S. (2014, October 15). Tuesday Cable Ratings: ‘Sons of Anarchy’ Wins Night, ‘BET Hip Hop Awards’, ‘Chrisley Knows Best’ ,’Awkward’,’Face Off’ & More-Ratings | | TvbytheNumbers.Zap2it.com. Retrieved from http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2014/10/15/tuesday-cable-ratings-sons-of-anarchy-wins-night-bet-hip-hop-awards-chrisley-knows-best-awkward-face-off-more/315249/.

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Dan-Glauser, E. S. (2013). Emotion regulation and emotion coherence: Evidence for strategy-specific effects. Retrieved from http://web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?vid=2&sid=0f2056e0-beb0-4309-b67d-28825ddbdc18%40sessionmgr4003&hid=4204&bdata=JkF1dGhUeXBlPWNvb2tpZSxpcCxjcGlkJmN1c3RpZD1lbmQmc2l0ZT1laG9zdC1saXZlJnNjb3BlPXNpdGU%3d#db=pdh&AN=2013-19078-001

https://twitter.com/sutterink

King, C. (2014, September 17). 20 Life Lessons We’ve Learned from Sons of Anarchy. Retrieved November 18, 2014, from http://www.tvovermind.com/sons-of-anarchy/20-life-lessons-weve-learned-sons-anarchy-240253

Kolb, L. (2013, October 24). The Power of the Feminine in Sons of Anarchy’ | Bitch Flicks. Retrieved from http://www.btchflcks.com/2013/10/the-power-of-the-feminine-in-sons-of-anarchy.html#.VD9cP-ktDVI.

Mathews, S.(October, 2013) Kim Coates and the Sons of Anarchy Cast Give Their Time, Energy, and Love to Multiple Charitable Causes (Woman Around Town RSS) http://www.womanaroundtown.com/sections/living-around/kim-coates-and-the-sons-of-anarchy-cast-give-their-time-energy-and-love-to-multiple-charitable-causes.

McNutt, M. (2013, September 11). Demographics of Anarchy: Netflix, Afterword, and Gender | Cultural Learnings. Retreived from http://cultural-learnings.com/2013/09/11/demographics-of-anarchy-netflix-afterword-and-gender/#more-7747.

McQueen, G. (2013, November 13). An Interview with Katey Sagal: She’s Got It Covered. Retrieved November 18, 2014, from http://www.theaquarian.com/2013/11/13/an-interview-with-katey-sagal-shes-got-it-covered/.

Patten, D. (September, 2014). FX’s ‘Sons Of Anarchy’ Final Season Premiere Soars In Live+3 Ratings (Deadline)http://deadline.com/2014/09/sons-of-anarchy-ratings-season-7-premiere-live-plus-3-fx-834586/

Peterson, L. (2011, November 17). How Sons of Anarchy Got Racism Right | Racialicious- the intersection of race and pop culture. Retrieved from http://www.racialicious.com/2011/11/17/how-sons-of-anarchy-got-racism-right/.

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van Kruistum, C., Leseman, P. P. and de Haan, M. (2014), Youth Media Lifestyles. Human Communication Research, 40: 508–529. doi: 10.1111/hcre.12033.

 

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