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How accurate was Sons of Anarchy?

Sons of Anarchy blasted biker culture to the forefront of viewers' minds for seven seasons. The show was dramatic, the characters were cool, and the bikes were loud. The sex, drugs, and violence were everything you could ask for in a TV show about an outlaw motorcycle club. The show was even popular enough to earn itself a spinoff, Mayans M.C., which is reasonable given the extensive outlaw world the writers built for the original series. 

It was also fairly influential off-screen. Thanks to Sons of Anarchy's popularity, people who had never touched two wheels to pavement were wearing leather from head to toe and wrecking Harleys everywhere, while motorcycle clubs popped up as a million wannabes decided they were the next Jax Teller. The Sons of Anarchy Redwood Originals (SAMCRO) passed their aesthetic on through memorabilia that you can still see on fledgling bikers six years after the fact. The show had criminals and redemptions, murder and romance, but how much of the Sons of Anarchy world is really accurate?

Sons of Anarchy got some things right

For a TV drama, Sons of Anarchy was more accurate than most people would think. The members of SAMCRO loved motorcycles and rode them whenever possible. The members were bonded. They had a clubhouse and club meetings were the patch-holders would vote on important club business. One aspect that the show absolutely nailed was the structure within the MC. According to CycleFish, biker clubs have hierarchical structures just like that in the show, with positions like President, VP, Treasurer, Sergeant at Arms, Prospect, etc.

The Sons of Anarchy were technically an outlaw MC and would be considered as such outside of the show. Now, being an outlaw has nothing to do with breaking laws and committing crimes. All it takes for an MC to be considered an outlaw club is to make your own bylaws instead of following the rules of the American Motorcycle Association. Outlaws are the 1 percent of riders who don't submit to AMA rules, hence the term "1%er." They're outlaws, and they are criminals. They're not outlaws because they're criminals.

The aesthetic was pretty on point, as well. Outlaw bikers tend to wear denim and leather. They tend to be tattooed. They love Harleys, and they'll party like there's no tomorrow. And, most of their clubs tend to be white. You'll notice that most outlaw biker gangs are white, and maybe Hispanic, but they rarely ever admit Black bikers into their ranks. SAMCRO had a bylaw against this. It's a sad truth, but racism still has a lot of pull in MC culture. The show got that one right, too.

Some aspects of the show are purely for entertainment

As one alleged 1%er points out in a Quora response, he finds the show to be "utter nonsense" when it comes to accurately portraying MC and outlaw biker culture. For one, as he explains, Gemma Teller-Marrow has way too much influence in the club. According to Motorcycle Philosophy, most MCs view women as the property of their members, so a character like Gemma wouldn't have much of a say in club business at all.

Meanwhile, the crime portrayed is just unrealistic. Sure, outlaw motorcycle clubs have been known to commit a little crime here and there. Some of them have even succumbed to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) with which SAMCRO was threatened in Sons of Anarchy, but no organized crime syndicate in the world would be able to get away with the 153 murders that the Sons committed in the seven seasons the show ran. With numbers that large, no federal agency is going to give them a chance to turn things legit, and the club's not going to scare the Feds off by murdering their agents. Of course, the violence and evasion were needed to get the desired over-the-top drama viewers want in a TV show.

Motorcycle clubs are like brotherhoods: Everyone has to trust each other. There's no way an MC in the real world would continue to follow Jax Teller with all of the manipulating and backstabbing the guy did over the years. Nor would they trust him after he was working with cops to go legit. But it's not like they were going to get rid of the main character, and main hunk, of the show for something as petty as realism.

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