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Sons Of Anarchy Fans Have Major Issues With The Northern Ireland Scenes

Midway through the third installment of Kurt Sutter's "Sons of Anarchy," FX's seven-season-long narrative about a biker gang based in the fictional town of Charming, California, our intrepid outlaw anti-heroes find themselves in Northern Island. After Charlie Hunnam's Jax, then vice president of SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original) discovers his son Abel (Ryder Londo) has been kidnapped by True IRA member Cameron Hayes (Jamie McShane), he heads to Belfast to retrieve his son and crosses paths with the gang's chapter abroad. In the course of events, turncoat gangster Jimmy O (Titus Welliver, of "Bosch" fame) attempts to use Abel to save himself.

The plot itself may be perfectly in-keeping with the series' intense and winding criminal underworld, but the response to the multi-episode arc (which begins overseas with Episode 8, titled "Lochán Mór"), had little to do with the storyline. In a frustrated outpouring-meets-thorough-take-down post on Reddit, a fan highlighted a litany of the series' failures with regard to its setting, ultimately saying, "as a Northern Irishman watching this season in particular it is difficult to watch the 'Belfast' scenes." But it wasn't just our friends from across the proverbial pond who took issue with the episodes. Domestic and international fans and critics alike found the "Sons of Anarchy" Goes Abroad episodes silly, at best, and cringe-worthy and offensive at worst, for reasons that might easily have been avoided had the show put more effort into its portrayal.

From accents to aesthetics, Sons of Anarchy got Belfast wrong

As British user u/wdw2003 wrote on the series' subreddit, "the Northern Irish scenes were hard to watch. The interior scenes were like something out of a much earlier decade...Also, some of the exterior shots must have been filmed in California." The fan's observation, it turns out, was spot on. Though a few of the Season 3 scenes were indeed shot in and around Belfast, most were shot in Los Angeles, in an effort to keep costs down (per the Los Angeles Times). While the series could be forgiven for a budget-based lack of regional realism, its general depiction of the country was of even greater to concern to many. As Den of Geek's Stuart Anderson wrote, "Kurt Sutter's portrayal of the Northern Irish/Irish people is a little embarrassing." 

From the "Irish" version of its opening tune (a blend one fan calls "the original remixed with an Irish Spring commercial," and another, "the fiddle de Dee intro music," per Reddit), to the oft-criticized accents, to the dated portrayal of the country's aesthetic, many fans felt the series failed to raise its portrayal of the country and its culture out of the realm of the cartoonish, the dated, and the stereotypical. "Did Kurt Sutter only look at photos from the 1980s?" asked u/AntonyIsOnFire

Still, others simply couldn't get past the accents. "Welliver was firmly in Lucky Charms territory," wrote user u/enygma9753 in one of the many fan discussions on the subject. "Being Northern Irish myself, it actually makes me cringe," the thread's original post reads. "it seems America has a way they think Irish talk when in reality we sound nothing like it ... even the few Irish actors involved had to change their accents to this faux American Irish accent."

Critics agree, Sons of Anarchy should have done better

Occasionally (read: often), fandoms have a way of growing extremely nit-picky as a beloved series progresses past its second installment. Expectations are higher, observations are keener, and demands are more plentiful. But in the case of that misguided romp through Northern Ireland on "Sons of Anarchy," viewers' myriad complaints are supported by a number of outlets. 

Like Anderson, The Guardian's Pete Cashmore took issue with the Season 3 arc, describing the series' slapdash portrayal as follows: "No Blarney stone is left unturned to remind us where we are. There are bagpipes, there are orphanages, barflies in flat caps, balaclava-clad gunmen, bare-knuckle boxers, a stern patrician priest – there are even gun-toting nuns ...The sum total means that every second of Sons of Anarchy's Ireland tour is toe-curling, and apparently scripted by someone whose sole exposure to that island's culture has come via [Irish dancer] Michael Flatley." Meanwhile, Irish Central's Tom Deignan included it in his list of American series that (in contrast to "Shameless," the article suggests) promote "a bland or generic style of ethnicity."

"Sons of Anarchy" Season 3 debuted in 2010, yet sadly failed, it seems, to rise above what the BBC's John Maguire calls (albeit in reference to Hollywood's general approach to All Things Irish, as opposed to that of the series) a "faith and begorrah, top o' the mornin', may the road rise to meet you rubbish that was old hat in the 1940s."