The Road going to no home

A review of Revolutionary Road (2008, directed by Sam Mendes )

One of the most effective criticisms that can be made of people who choose to live an alternative lifestyle is that it is (in the terms of this movie) whimsical or flighty. An alternative lifestyle is presented as a set of artifices that may make complete sense when initially constructed but can’t replace the foundation of how one has to live. Whether one’s life leads to riches or rags, one must make sensible choices about how one goes about the journey. Your journey is still here, in this world.

A bohemian, whether called a hipster, a radical, or a slacker scoffs at this definition of sensibility. It’s a big joke that generation after generation laughs at, slapping knees and each others backs until such time as they pause to catch a breathe, finding themselves as the object of the laughter. This big joke is closely examined by its participants only in a series of desperate attempts to find enough people who share enough values and aesthetic sensibilities so that an urban, childless, bohemian life isn’t meaningless. Every one else just sees this as the activity of childhood, of children, of people who aren’t taking certain biological or socio-economic aspects of life seriously, fantasy creatures who do not live in this world. For everyone else there will be offspring careers, and taking care of elderly parents. Whatever alternative lifestyles have to offer they aren’t, generally, meaningful responses to hard questions around retirement, child rearing, health care, et al.

The Revolutionary Hill Estates had not been designed to accommodate a tragedy. Even at night, as if on purpose, the development held no looming shadows and no gaunt silhouettes. It was invincibly cheerful, a toy-land of white and pastel houses whose bright, uncurtained windows winked blandly through a dappling of green and yellow leaves

Revolutionary Road (the novel)

Revolutionary Road (the address of DeCaprio and Winslet in the movie) is the perfect place to raise a family and participate in the all the benefits of regular, mid twentieth century middle class life. Friends who don’t interest you. Neighbors you can barely stand. No one who ever wants to talk about life outside of the mundane. Beach trips, dinner parties and an occasional trip to a nightclub extend suburban work life outside of the work day. This routine, and even homogeneity itself, is the only way that white collar workers can possibly maintain their sanity while doing something that they hate.

Why is this? Why is routine and mundanity a necessity for office workers mental health? A crass interpretation would be that when you are doing something horrible, something that you can’t stand, then you have to shut down your critical impulses, as they are unnecessary facilities that just get in the way of the activity you have decided upon. Damn the consequences!

“No one forgets the truth; they just get better at lying”

Revolutionary Road (the novel)

I haven’t read the novel that the movie is based on but I have to believe that it was a friendly response to it. Every quote I have found from the novel reflects the emotional moment that I found in the movie. Shiny happy reality wrapped around the sadness of choices that have moved beyond your ability to make them.

The casting of DeCaprio and Winslet was excellent in this regard. The two of them made their careers (and, I’m sure could have retired on the proceeds) as the romantic leads of the movie Titanic, the story of an enormous ship whose slow motion CGI dismantling far exceeded any actor’s ability to… exist. In this way the two movies share a common sensibility. Suburbia is the Titanic, born of hubris and monotony, preparing to hit a future that will sink it. But as actors these two have grown a great deal since Cameron’s heavy handed ministrations.

In the first movie Winslet was barely there,she was, more or less, the invisible half of a “great romance” which is the body-without-organs of cinema life. To her great credit Winslet went from being a Shakespearean actor, to Titanic, to indie films where she has spent most of the past decade (RR probably would be considered an indie film in the denatured terms that apply in the film-making industry). Her role in Revolutionary Road is the opposite of the Titanic role. Winslet is at the height of her power as an actor and as someone who is willing to make the fully aware and awake break from this world. For the story of Revolution Road, the myth of another path is called Paris; but almost anywhere could be the outside of patterned misery, of a job that they hate, of a life that holds no joy. Her arc in the movie includes putting her body on the line in the name of Paris (or at the very least getting out of suburban purgatory).

DeCaprio is a difficult actor to like. For over a decade he has been (especially early in his career) called the next Marlon Brando but he has yet to rise nearly to the level of a Brando or a Deniro. He is more likely to be spoken of as an actor in the same breathe as a Ben Affleck or Colin Farrel (not Clooney, Pitt or Damon). He is totally competent (even if it is hard to look at his face without worrying about how many bathroom breaks his director is giving him) but his risk taking (as an actor) seems… safe. DeCaprio’s role in Revolutionary Road is, again, competent, as he plays a character who seems prepared to leave behind a life of pedantic misery… until he isn’t.

Whereas the relationship in Titanic was all honeymoon (love and bliss and shit), the marriage in Revolutionary Road is the reality of what happens when the romance leads to children and ten years later you look up are realize you are fucking miserable–not just with the life you lead in this world, which is self-evident, but with the person you are living it with. What does falling out of love feel like? Most of us have this experience but it doesn’t make the transition to the plastic arts. We know that love looks like inhumanly beautiful people making kissy face but what does falling out look like? It doesn’t look like a dramatic fight with dishes and yelling since that still seems to lead to the kissing and the staying together. It looks like something else.

A ballet perhaps, where the feints and pirouettes replace action and honesty; where communication resembles a light slit experiment, exposing the incongruity between two types of behaviors, life and routine, passion and obligation, love and hate, the present and the myth. And as with most incongruity our skills aren’t suited for transition well. We do it poorly. We move from one thing to another with great stubbornness and inelegance. There is no ballet to the breakup. Things get messy and unclear.

The list is thousands long
People who decided it wasn’t for them
Did they really make that decision?
Conditioning runs deep in the U.S.A.
Teenage rebellion is just fine as long as you stop once you turn eighteen
Thousands of punks turned to society’s tools
There is something in their eyes
You can tell they sold out

-Filth The List

I am enough of a realist to understand the material reasons that counterculture/Bohemia (of which my particular post-hardcore, anti-authoritarian scene is but one of many) represents a chapter of most people’s lives (and not even a major one). I am also enough of a troubled dreamer to resent this and my resentment is not simple. On the one hand I don’t hold it against those passing through but on the other I sincerely wish it weren’t the case. I wish that there were enough here in this scene, whether it was material or spiritual, to keep everyone who finds my particular solutions ([anti]political, cultural, aesthetic), to be solutions for life.

The phenomena being reflected on is that individuals are not bound to each other tightly. They can experience the entire oeuvre of a decade-old band in an afternoon. They get resources from their class and Wikipedia explains their interconnections to the world. The critique of ideology has been fantastic for late anarchists in that it has allowed us not to get trapped by pastoralism or workerism, but it has also created a context where nothing that we can do to change the world is good enough to rise to even that level of description. Our critique of the incompleteness of our own activity has assured most of us that our activity is not good enough. It only makes sense that we abandon critique as incomplete. This autodigestion–coupled with the material force of this worlds pressures–is enough to convince the most die-hard Boheme to add their name to The List. But there is no list and no more home.

All Power to the Commune of the One!

In honor of our good friends over at MIM Notes Movie Reviews We offer this contribution to the growing body of anti-Imperialist interrogations of the superstructure. We review Iron Man 2.

As we complete our “scientific review of each existing work in the whole world” you might be surprised at how often the story of our class is told. The storytellers know what we, the oppressed, the workers, and the hungry want to hear our story: the story of how we will win.

We will be the triumphant victors of the future and we will defeat all counter-revolutionary forces in the creation of a stateless, classless society. True Communism. Lovely Anarchy!

In honor of our good friends over at MIM Notes Movie Reviews We offer this contribution to the growing body of anti-Imperialist interrogations of the superstructure. We review Iron Man 2.

As we complete our “scientific review of each existing work in the whole world” you might be surprised at how often the story of our class is told. The storytellers know what we, the oppressed, the workers, and the hungry want to hear our story: the story of how we will win.

We will be the triumphant victors of the future and we will defeat all counter-revolutionary forces in the creation of a stateless, classless society. True Communism. Lovely Anarchy!



And how, pray tell, does the second story of Iron Man fit into this trajectory? It is our story through its daring use of metaphor.

Tony Stark is the proletariat, the intelligence of the working class, under siege from the bureaucratic forces of the existing order as represented by Senator Stern, who would control the forces of revolutionary violence. He represents the contradiction between loyalty to the class-in-itself (the fruits of the workers labor), and the-pressure-of-nationalism-on-the-most-reactionary-element-of-the-class-by-the-bourgeoisie.

Pepper Potts is the voice of the libertarian proletariat: nervous that the historical moment for TS (aka the people) is quickly passing while the concerns of oppressed minorities haven’t been reconciled. Potts, USAF Lt. Col. James Rhodes, Nick Fury, and Natalie Rushman are all expressions of the work that the people need to do to reconcile the power of the oppressed with the mission of the class as a whole. As one they demand the victory of the future commune through sobriety, historical revision, political challenges to bureaucratic forces, and class consciousness through clear identification of class enemies and their lackeys.

In Iron Man 2 these forces of counter-revolution are represented by Justin Hammer and his puppet Ivan Vanko. These “whites” demonstrate the kinds of coalitions that the forces of repression are willing to endure (American style crony-ism and the backward Soviet-era strongman) to suppress the forces of the future commune. The combination of high-tech wizardry (Hammer being a Pentagon funded arms dealer) and traditional social roles (Vanko representing the alpha male of a patriarchal fairy tale) develop important themes in recognizing reactionary elements in apparent working class characters.

The story of Iron Man 2 is a simple and ancient one. When the proletariat demonstrate their power-as-a-class in the first film the internal counter-revolution begins, first by the attempted commandeering of the Iron Man prosthetic by the Senate. By the attack of the proletariat from within due to the contradictions of leadership during times of crisis (as represented by palladium poisoning in the arc reactor of Tony Stark). Finally by the external forces of repression as represented by “old style socialism” (Vanko) that has not learned to embrace the contradictions of late Capitalism and technological centralism.

The attempted co-option of the Iron Man suit is defeated through the course of the film by the clear demonstration of the class as the actual active agent of social order. The contradictions of Hammer as Capitalistic excess and Vanko as the one-dimensional socialist realist heir to the Soviet regime cannot compete against the power of the reconciled class. The power of Tony Stark as proletariat and James Rhodes aka War Machine aka the oppressed people of the third world aka the internalized colonies of the first world combined tears asunder the forces of combined counter-revolution.

The poisoning of the proletariat is resolved through the disciplined study of the canon of liberation (Tony Starks father’s film) and the scientific inquiry that only the proletariat is capable of. The creation of Ununoctium, of which only a few atoms have been synthesized to date, is portrayed in the film as the seeming magical combination of technics and inspiration but should instead be seen as the probability of what proletarian design is capable of if it were not fettered by the condition of exchange value extraction on behalf of the moneyed classes. Ununoctium is the expression of how the people’s science is the only way to resolve the capitalist math of resource extraction, information control, and repression of the social body.

Finally the new proletariat and coming commune are shown to resolve the contradictions of Socialism as capitalism recomposition and of Capitalism as crony Capitalism. Vanko demonstrates his disdain for his own class interests by personifying his critique of the existing order in terms of Tony Stark (the people) rather than recognizing the systematic ways in which he and his family were exiled from their power. Similarly Hammer demonstrates that Capitalism IS crony capitalism by his ever-present representation in the halls of power and the slap on-the-wrist nature (high profile, media manicured, but ultimately empty) of his punishment. The class meets this combined foe through cooperation, a disciplined analysis of current conditions, and truly democratic centralism. The commune has the strength of the collective, the intelligence of genius, and the will of a thousand years of chained spirit.

If any weakness of Iron Man 2 exists it is that the forces of counter-revolution show themselves to be too weak. We know that repression sets the terms of conflict, hides its contradictions, and attempts to ally itself with the weakest elements of the proletariat through its own organizational intelligence. The lesson to draw from this is the same lesson to draw from any super-structural form. Our dialectical prowess and ability to dissect the contradictions and communicate that knowledge to the class-as-a-whole is our greatest strength and our greatest weakness. As the commune of one we grow and become the commune of all!

We want it all – a review of Fever Ray

This will never end, ’cause I want more
More, give me more, give me more

Media saturation makes simple things hard. Not simple things like digging a ditch, or putting on boots, but things like understanding what our neighbors are doing & thinking. What is happening outside of our own head. The information that I need to understand what is happening outside of my day-to-day experience is edited by active agents. Agents with motivations that are layered: selfish, paid for, and built over time and generations. Social and geological. I don’t stand a chance.

Counter-culture, perfected in the late 60’s, has been our only protection from this frontal assault and, naturally, has become the agent of co-option. Most of us have passed through counter-culture and it has passed through us. Counter culture shaped me into a usable form against the people who raised me and into the shape of the new kind of consumer.

This will never end, ’cause I want more
More, give me more, give me more

Media saturation makes simple things hard. Not simple things like digging a ditch, or putting on boots, but things like understanding what our neighbors are doing & thinking. What is happening outside of our own head. The information that I need to understand what is happening outside of my day-to-day experience is edited by active agents. Agents with motivations that are layered: selfish, paid for, and built over time and generations. Social and geological. I don’t stand a chance.

Counter-culture, perfected in the late 60’s, has been our only protection from this frontal assault and, naturally, has become the agent of co-option. Most of us have passed through counter-culture and it has passed through us. Counter culture shaped me into a usable form against the people who raised me and into the shape of the new kind of consumer.



As a young person I liked, preferred, angry music. Anthemic music about something better than the situation I found myself in. I wanted more but didn’t know any way to find it other than through anger and more, more and more.

Fever Ray is the solo act (which is more-or-less meaningless in the digital age of music production) that has spun off from the brother sister act The Knife. The siblings Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer produce electro pop which is dance music (but probably not club music unless it is remixed) with implicit lyrical density. Fever Ray has a softer sound than The Knife but much of the instrumentation and loops are familiar.


We set fire in the snow
It ain’t over, I’m not done

I remember the black skirt the most. It reached to mid calf, was form fitting. Matched with a leather jacket and the striking red hair it remains my most vivid memory of her. As it turns out that memory is the best of what we had together and years later when I saw her again nothing remained but nostalgia. She hadn’t moved and I was miles away. I could barely communicate my good bye.

But it seemed real at the time, and that was enough. Still is, in sad fact, and those partial fragments, the skips between our disappointed experiences with reality and our expectations of what could be are still something I get out of music.

It isn’t a true love kind of relationship anymore as thousands of heartbreaks have finally scarred me to a certain kind of numbness but it’s close enough for this life.

The video for “When I grow up” is one of these moments. Mostly it is about the journey that all nervous brilliant people have when they travel from the known (in this case terra firma) to the unknown (an obscured body of water) but for me, who learned to swim at a late age and have never been a strong swimmer, the imagery was particularly dreadful. I am afraid of water and strongly identify with the transitional character from the video loaded with a kind of arcing energy. I experience it in my social life, in the moments where I succeed and fail, and near water.

It goes from white to red, a little voice in my head says oh, oh, oh

Clearly there is a renaissance happening in the visual arts in Northern Europe that has not crossed over to the techno-blast explosions of American pop music. Attention is being paid to details, visually and against the formalism of counter-culture, that can only speak to the transition of plastic artists to the visual medium. This kind of patience is endangered. Fleeting.


As I listen to the Fever Ray album I am reminded of the beauty and horror of post-modernism. As solitary musicians grab chunks of sound from every culture on the globe and transmogrify them into their own logic, into a dance-able paste of moaning and structured contentlessness, where digital steel drums, clicks and beeps replace rocks and sticks in our subconscious shared moment. I am frightened. This is not the same as what we have lost, of what has come before, but I relate to it.

My relationship to this cybernetic pastiche is a statement of my own bleak position as a consummate Western consumer of the latest craze of bohemian counter-culture. The siblings are famous for not being photographed and wearing masks during their public performances. They are an act and removed from the act. Just like me.

10 reasons that Sons of Anarchy works

as an anarchist fairy tale

Mainstream culture is not capable of using the A word in any context where it can be identified with or celebrated. The best one can hope for is farce. So would this program have been if it were on network television.

Television has come a long way from just being a wasteland of empty smiles and variety shows, or from a national fireplace where we all sit around and are delivered a package of Americana and late night blue humor. Approximately 70% of households subscribe to cable (and satellite) television, which have fractured the way that media is consumed, so much that while the quality of all mass visual media can still be debated, it can’t be argued that the place where experimentation happens (such as it is) is in cable programming.

as an anarchist fairy tale

Mainstream culture is not capable of using the A word in any context where it can be identified with or celebrated. The best one can hope for is farce. So would this program have been if it were on network television.

Television has come a long way from just being a wasteland of empty smiles and variety shows, or from a national fireplace where we all sit around and are delivered a package of Americana and late night blue humor. Approximately 70% of households subscribe to cable (and satellite) television, which have fractured the way that media is consumed, so much that while the quality of all mass visual media can still be debated, it can’t be argued that the place where experimentation happens (such as it is) is in cable programming.



This experimentation, namely with adult themes, began with HBO and shows like Oz and The Sopranos but networks like Showtime, Fox’s FX and even AMC (American Movie Classics) are programming for the adult audience that has been passed by in the blandification of network (over the air) television.

Each of these networks seems to have a different attitude that informs their choice of programming. HBO seems to have the long view, believing that box sets and subscriptions can fund the telling of long form story-telling. Their shows have dwelt on the ambiguity of morality (Carnivale), government failure in the inner city (The Wire), and human scale of military life (Generation Kill). HBO represents the height of a twentieth century liberal education.

FX inhabits the other side of a story telling and motivation. Perhaps in the same way that the documentary American Nightmare tells a story of John Carpenter’s Halloween as a conservative casting of the liberal mores of the seventies, FX recasts each television genre it touches. This makes compelling television in the case of the existential recast of the hero show (like Rescue Me) and disturbing television in the case of black hat civil servants (like the ones who populate The Shield).

Sons of Anarchy is the newest show on FX that falls somewhere, genre wise, between the A-team and The Shield with action, chase scenes, and a kind of cop-proof invulnerability real outlaws would love to have. Furthermore Sons does work as a kind of anarchist fairy tale (anarchist in the opposing State and Capitalism sense of the word), weaving together a rich set of relationships that has only a convenient and non-ideological connection to money and (state) authority.

In no particular order here are ten reasons why Sons of Anarchy is a modern anarchist fairy tale.

1. Female Characters

Finding consistent strong female characters is becoming more likely in the era of actual adult dramas, still it isn’t exactly common. Gemma Teller is played by Katey Sagal who was both the female lead in the atrocious sitcom Married with Children and the voice of Leela on Futurama. She serves as the lead female protagonist (next to Ron Perlman’s male lead) and the emotional center of gravity for the show. She is played as a believable, take no bullshit, queen of the gang. Tara is the second female lead who pales in comparison to Gemma but is clearly placed as the next generation. Maggie Siff (who plays Tara) doesn’t have the gravitas of Sagal but holds her own as a well-written strong woman. Additional strong roles are played by the wife of Opie, the “old lady” (Luanne) of Big Otto, and even the Federal Agent (ATF) Agent June Stahl (played by Ally Walker). This many strong women in a program is a testament both to the writer/producer Kurt Sutter (who also plays Big Otto) and Katey Sagal (who is his wife IRL).

2. Shakespeare

If you are going to make art that is designed to have staying power in this culture odds are pretty good that you are going to draw deep from the well that is William Shakespeare. He continues the be The Mythologist of Western Culture and sets the frame for our most prevalent understandings of ourselves including romantic love, revenge, treachery, familial relationships, and on and on. Sons of Anarchy is the story of Hamlet set in an imaginary California small town trapped in the 1950s. The protagonists are all the leaders of an empire in parts. Charming the imaginary small town placed somewhere between Sacramento and Redding. SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original) is a motorcycle enthusiast club with chapters across the west headquartered in Charming. Finally, through their ability to arm and disarm the different factions they rule the entirety of gangland Northern California.

3. Outlaw Culture

Anarchists position themselves, in literature and through their political strategy, on the fringes of the world that they live in. They play the role of firebrands and vagabonds, troublemakers and petty criminals, theorists of revolt and sabotage. A motorcycle gang is the self-organization of a life (or a set of lives) outside the law of man but in the world that man has created. For all the intellectual cover that anarchist provide lawlessness they are, by-and-large, mostly law-abiding and only lawless themselves in a few spectacular moments.

Illegalism, criminality in the service of anarchist passion and projects (like printing presses and social centers), has largely disappeared as an anarchist practice. To the extent to which it still exists, it has degraded into petty larceny and trespassing rather than burglary, assassination, and robbery. This is because the members of society who find themselves having radical political pretensions aren’t typically from the same socio-economic classes as those who find themselves felons. In a society where felons are media figures juxtaposed by cops and prisons, those whose understanding of themselves-in-the-world comes from a screen, rather than poverty, violence, and felonies, are naturally going to shy from felonious action.

The assertion of criminality, violence, and aggression into the practice of living isn’t an anarchist practice but will probably have to be for anarchists to leap off of the headlines (outside of spectacular protests) and into world-changing. SAMCRO is a presentation of this as plausible fiction.

4. Believable violence

Both the Sopranos and Oz, arguably the progenitors of our new wave of adult dramas, set the definition of adult themed as “having lots of extreme violence and explicit sex”. Since Sons is on FX and not HBO this option isn’t quite as available (as the FCC rules are different) but there is a fair share of violence and partial nudity on the show. Oz was the most extreme in its application of gratuitous sex and violence (it was set in a prison) but The Shield, also on FX, was in the same category of shock and awe violence (which clearly the FCC has less of a problem with than they do sex).

Sons is a violent show but the violence tends towards being appropriate (given that the context is outlaw culture). SAMCRO usually can be found pushing each other around, and maybe taking a swing at each other, about once an episode but there isn’t nearly the amount of bloodshed you would expect given that their primary money-making operation is gun running. They wave guns around more than they shoot them. They intimidate more than they beat people down. Taking the best lesson from chess, the potential of violence is used intelligently in place of action-scene after action-scene (unlike, for example, the unending barrage of implausible bullet dodging in The Shield).

5. Survival in this world

Any transgressive belief system has to come to terms with its own survival in a world not of its creation. For outlaws and anarchists, this means that a straight job is usually necessary and that transgression “adds to” rather than replaces survival. In Sons this question of survival is played out in a subplot involving Opie, a recent parolee, who has to cope with the question of whether working a shitty job (doing timber work) is enough, financially and existentially, to survive. His answer is the usual answer of anyone who tries to keep their foot in both worlds. It isn’t easy.

This experience, of being in this world and against this world, is both common and highly dis-functional. The modern phenomena of schizophrenia, of shattered people held together with duct tape and bailing wire, poorly acting out roles required of them, is the story of SAMCRO and the community of Charming. It’s also a major subplot of the show Mad Men but I’ll cover that another time. This survival-story isn’t one that ever ends, which is one of the reasons why the medium of television (with its traditional 24 part arc, cut to around a dozen for Sons of Anarchy) is a great way to share the story part of it. The twist for Sons, and what makes this an anarchist tale, is that survival is an assumption that most mass entertainment glides right over. For every Good Times there are 1000 Love Boats. Or perhaps to put this in the twenty-first century, for every Sons of Anarchy there are 1000 Desperate Housewives. To the extent that television entertainment is about escape it is exactly not about the misery of survival that its consumers face during the rest of their lives.

6. (anti)Manichean

SAMCRO is a gang in a world of other gangs. The mission of this gang is maintaining the burb of Charming as an enclave removed from the fabricated, processed, post-crack cocaine culture of the rest of the world. Naturally this defense is both hypocritical and conservative. As are the rival gangs and their missions.

Sons is a world of rival faiths. In the first season the struggle is a three way between Aryans, Mayans (a Mexican motorcycle crew) and SAMCRO, but other gangs include the Irish, a black gang (from Oakland naturally), the Feds & county law enforcement, and in season two, it’s between SAMCRO and high end Aryans (crewed up with Adam Arkin and Henry Rollins– !!!).

This is not a world that is black and white, or Good cop/Bad cop. It is tectonic with factions pushing on one another using the means at their disposal. The relationships are meaningful and the costs have metrics that would still be measurable in a world where Capitalism did not exist.

7. Motorcycles

As an adjunct to gang culture, which is generalizable as a form of social organization, the culture around motorcycles adds a couple things to Sons. Setting aside Harley culture(largely degraded into a very expensive hobby for the yuppie set), the act of riding is an actual form of anarchist practice.

Anarchists valorize Solidarity, Mutual Aid, Direct Action and individual autonomy. All of these can also be found in motorcycle culture. Solidarity in even the simple act of greeting every other rider on the road with a wave (sidebar: Harley riders don’t actually participate in this greeting other than with other Harley riders). Mutual Aid in the simple acts of sharing rides & resources, pulling over when you see another stranded, and an atmosphere of mutuality not seen in car culture. Direct Action and autonomy in the simple act of riding and being physically connected to moving quickly through the world.

Mostly riding a motorcycle is exhilarating and fun in much the same way as those moments when one is unleashed from the order of this world; when the cops are in retreat, when you eat shared food that no one paid for, when you ride for free.

8. Ambivalence of this world

Sons is set in a world much like our own. There is a USA, there are mortgages and parole, there are bills to pay and federales to avoid. To the extent to which SAMCRO is ideological it is in the style of the classic Marine hierarchy (God, Country, Corps), which makes some sense as most of the original members of SAMCRO were paratroopers in the Vietnam War. Rhetorically SAMCRO are true Americans while practically they are outlaws, parochial, and non-ideological. This distinction is the difference between ideas-above-experience and the practice of everyday life. Self-described anarchists often get lost in these distinctions.

In Sons there still is a world of greed and power-over, but it is outside of the club and, largely, outside of Charming. It is the world that is being defended against and is at the heart of the myth. This ambivalence toward the conceptual framework of the world of Globalization, Finance Capitalism, and Nation States isn’t a dialectical relationship but an argument for The Stroll, life as the journey shaped by ideas of a small scale.

9. Charming

The hypothetical town of Charming has no box stores or chains. It has a main street where people meet, barbers clip hair, and the police station stands at one end. Drug dealing and prostitution only exist outside of town and there is plenty of motorcycle parking.

It is also a town where you actually grow up, live, and die. It isn’t filled with a million transplants or lost souls passing through. Charming is a place where your high school sweetheart marries a buddy of yours and you still see each other at picnics. Where a person having problems isn’t a plot device to demonstrate how inhumane the central gang is but an opportunity to develop diverse relationships. One ongoing plot device involves a character who has a problem controlling touching himself and the character is still used to the extent of his abilities in productive capacities. Charming is a mythology for the obvious superficial reasons but also because it is a place where broken people can find places to fit in.

10. Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy is deeply influenced by Hamlet. The protagonist of the show stands in for Prince Hamlet, his mother (Gemma) is Gertrude, his step-father (Clay) is King Claudius. The ghost of Jax’s lost father is played by a journal of his fathers writings, a manifesto about the kind of club he wishes SAMCRO would become. One of the central alliances in the second season is between Jax, his father’s ghost, and Piney, one of the founding members.

This ghost could also be described as the anarchist heart of SAMCRO and the Sons of Anarchy. The most explicitly (politically) anarchist things in the show are in the narrations from the journal. The ghost uses this manifesto to loosely direct Jax. In one episode the ghost leaves a note for Jax on the wall of an underpass:

Anarchism stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion and liberation of the human body from the coercion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government. It stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals…

-Emma Goldman

Sons is not an anarchist show. Its politics aren’t explicit and aesthetically the show has as much in common with modern anarchism as a show set in high school locker room or law office. But the presentation of a community with, at its heart, a complex set of relationships, protected by outlaws, who are ambivalent toward the illusions of this world, is one where an anarchist can see themselves.