Sons of Anarchy (SOA) is a television series documenting the life and times of the motorcycle club of the same name in Redwood County, California, particularly following the journey of Jackson (Jax) Teller from being a member in the club through to his reign as President of the MC. The Sons are a tight knit group of bikers who run guns and drugs in their local town to cartels, other gangs and groups of generally not very nice people.
This initial post will look at the group dynamics of the Sons and how a group like this starts and stays together.
To get things off to a flying start, the Sons are not sociopaths. A lot of people think that outlaw MC members are ‘sociopaths’ or anti-social, however this is not necessarily the rule. A person who is anti-social, as implied by the name, generally finds it hard to be in social situations or indeed in groups. The anti-social diagnosis was further elaborated on in this post, and will not be furthered discussed here, except to note that it is not obvious that any of the characters are indeed antisocial – except potentially for Clay Morrow who tends towards the antisocial personality spectrum due to his self serving motives, seeming lack of regard for others and lack of remorse for actions.
But how does a group like the SOA form? And why don’t any of the members just walk away when the consequences to their lives tend to get out of control – incarcerations, murders, beatings, would make anyone walk away, right?
The thing about a group like this is that it often does not start with a few people deciding to break the law and start a motorcycle club. Groups like the Sons start from shared meaning and upbringing, from inherited trauma and action and from other complex socio-demographic factors, not just the desire to ‘be bad’. If we look, for example, at the relationship between Opie and Jax we can see that they have been friends for a significant period of time, and that they have grown up in an environment which fosters behaviour that is on the edge of legality. Both Opie and Jax have fathers who are involved in SOA and have therefore been exposed to the club life from an early age.
Shared Trauma approach
The concept of shared trauma, being misunderstood and unsupported can tend to make people form together in maladaptive groups. Several of the members were involved with the Vietnam War, a war which is known for the lack of public support and also for the amount of trauma that young conscripted men, were exposed to during it’s course. Coming back from a war like this, with poor public support and trauma symptoms led to some of the highest rates of PTSD and treatment seeking behaviour of any war. This also led to a high involvement with crime and the forming of support networks which were maladaptive, much like the SOA. Returned servicemen sought out others who understood them and shared their experience, but their ability to deal with life on life’s terms was severely depleted. Flashbacks, over reliance on drugs and alcohol and the inability to seek appropriate support and in some cases get work after the war meant that these groups were often maintained because the support that they provided, although not adaptive, was better than the alternative.
So we can see from this, how the group can be both adaptive and maladaptive at the same time. So from this time on, the children that are born to these men tend to view the club as an extension to the family unit and as a result they know very little else besides the behaviours that the club engages in. In addition to this, in small towns, where a lot of MCs originally started, there is little opportunity for work and much like in Charming, the club has a great deal of power and sway in the community, meaning that there is no real reason for club members to leave or defect, despite consequences.
In the coming weeks there will be some further posts on individual characters and relationships in the series, is there anyone that you would want to see in particular?