‘Sons of Anarchy’ Challenges Male Stereotypes, Just One Reason Why It’s Great

Warning: spoilers for both ‘Sons of Anarchy’ and its televisual opposite, ‘Downton Abbey,’ ahead.

'Sons of Anarchy' Challenges Male Stereotypes, Just One Reason Why It's Great

My two favorite shows on television are worlds apart. The first is amazing British period drama ‘Downton Abbey,’ which sumptuously tells the story of an aristocratic family and their servants living in the early 20th century. The second is Kurt Sutter’s far less glitzy, though just as riveting, FX drama ‘Sons of Anarchy.’

I like these shows for similar reasons: they’ve impeccable acting, thrilling plot twists (though, seriously ‘Downton,’ the Mrs. Bates story line went on for far too long) and they reveal truths about humanity few shows have the courage to include. ‘Sons,’ however, pulls ahead in this regard, particularly when it comes to portraying the main male characters’ weaknesses.

Katey Sagal gets a lot of attention — and won a Golden Globe — for her role as Gemma on ‘Sons,’ which concerns a California motorcycle club (Son of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original) and their various wheelings and dealings. The true stars, however, are the secondary characters, all men who defy biker stereotypes to show that real men, no matter how “manly” or gritty, do indeed shed tears.

Main protagonist Jax has cried a number of times, and Tig looked close to breaking down when handing his manipulative daughter $12,000 last week. But this season’s most compelling, heart-wrenching performance has come from Theo Rossi, who plays the devastatingly attractive and tender-hearted Juan Carlos Ortiz, also known as “Juice.”

As any avid viewer knows, Juice is currently being blackmailed by police who have learned his secret: he’s half-black, a fact that would put him on the outs with the racist Sons. (Hey, they’re not perfect.) In exchange for keeping his secret, the new sheriff wants Juice to keep tabs on the Sons’ recently launched drug business, a deal that forces him to steal coke and then kill, and blame, his friend to cover his tracks.

The results are pure television gold: wracked with guilt, Juice attempts suicide, only to be thwarted by a rotting tree branch. (Thank goodness, because I would be crestfallen if Juice were written off, just as I was when Tig accidentally killed Donna, thinking she was Opie.)

In last night’s episode, Juice tries to cover the truth, again, and then returns to what would have been the scene of his suicide, only to be discovered by fellow SAMCRO member Chibs Telford. The results were magnificent: a weeping, embarrassed and frightened Juice bawling like a baby. And this is the source of this violent, gun-happy and filthy show’s real beauty.

Creator Sutter and his writers could cater to their primary audience, young men, and fill each episode solely with shootouts, car chases and porn stars — though there are plenty of all those elements here — but choose instead to shed a light on the real truth of what it means to be a man. It’s not simply flexing, smacking ass or downing drink.

Real men, like Juice and his colleagues, are not afraid to cry. They can be weak and vulnerable and shed their skin to reveal broken hearts. And that’s just what Juice has done this season, cementing this show, recently renewed for a fifth season, as one of the best in television history.

Sure, there are plenty of spoilers in this post, but none will ruin the overall, brilliant effect of this incredible series. Do yourself a favor and start tuning in. Besides, I haven’t told you what happens to evil Agent June Stahl, or, for that matter, Piney.