Here Are All The Things That Sons Of Anarchy Got Totally Wrong About California Motorcycle Gangs

Kurt Sutter and the cast of Sons of Anarchy did their homework when writing and playing motorcycle club members, but, as is the case with any television show, several elements still don't mesh with reality. Granted, when you write a TV series, you want to garner attention, attract viewers, and give your wife, Katey Sagal, a compelling character, so who can really blame Sutter for making a few tweaks? 

But what do real bikers think of Sons of Anarchy? Many of them respect the series, but take issue with its portrayals of violence and illegal activity, as well as what they consider to be its generous treatment of women. On top of that, the show infamously went a bit off the rails – or over the bars, as it were – in its later seasons. How accurate is Sons of Anarchy? Is there a real life Sons of Anarchy crew rolling through California somewhere? 

The short answer is, the show is vaguely factual – emphasis on vaguely. Motorcycle club culture is a real thing, and here's how it differs from SoA.

  • SAMCRO Kills Way More People Than Real Motorcycle Clubs

    Clubs get into turf wars, they fight with one another, and yes, deaths do happen, as was the case in a 2015 incident in Waco, Texas.

    Jax Teller's kill count of 46 people throughout the duration of Sons of Anarchy , however, is a vast exaggeration.

    SAMCRO — or Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwoods Original — murders 153 people (175 if you count pre-club killings and murders carried out by excommunicated members) during the seven seasons of the show.

    That many murders would have certainly been noticed by authorities to a higher degree than what's shown on screen. 

  • The Initiation Process Is Even More Extensive Than SoA Lets On

    During Sons of Anarchy, the audience meets newbies like Half Sack Epps and Filthy Phil Russell. These men undergo a period of probation and some hazing, but the show hardly depicts the extent of the true initiation process undertaken by new motorcycle club members.  

    Called "prospects," new members undergo a plethora of initiation rituals that vary depending on the club. In some instances, they're subjected to beatings, humiliated (stripped naked and put out on display, for example), or, in extreme cases, forced to cook and consume human waste.

  • Gemma Teller Would Have Been Punished For Her "Meddling"

    The great matriarch of Sons of Anarchy, Gemma Teller, bosses around club members, chimes in on club business, and interferes with the lives of practically everyone on the show. Her husband and son, Clay and Jax, are at the top of the SAMCRO pecking order, but in true biker culture, she wouldn't have this much power.

    Put another way,

    "Gemma’s position in the club ain’t gonna happen – ever. She’d have been taken out back and 'corrected' halfway thru the first episode in the real world. And if she didn’t learn from that experience, it would have been repeated as necessary, until she finally learned or left." 

  • Women Are More Respected On The Show Than In Most Clubs

    In line with Gemma Teller and her role on the show, the overall treatment of women in Sons of Anarchy is more favorable than in real motorcycle clubs.

    Women in motorcycle club culture are more often treated as possessions than anything, and if an "ol' lady" isn't married to a member, she's often treated like a prostitute. Even when she is married, she may still consider herself his "whore."

    There's a lot of accepted brutality directed at women in motorcycle clubs, too. Domestic violence does appear in Sons of Anarchy – notably when Clay Morrow beats Gemma Teller in season four – but in real life, it's much more intense. 

  • Most Motorcycle Clubs Are More Explicit In Their Racial Biases Than SAMCRO

    Throughout the different seasons of Sons of Anarchy, SAMCRO works with the Mayans (a Hispanic club), the Lin Triad (a Chinese crime syndicate), the One-Niners (an African American club), and numerous other groups of different ethnic origins.

    This defies the mentality of many motorcycle club members, who are much less likely to work with outsiders. The cooperation on the show makes for good television, but many bikers are more "outwardly intolerant," and tattoos associated with neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups are common.

    Juice Ortiz attempting to hide his African American heritage in season four is fairly reflective of the racial divide that exists within modern clubs.

  • SoA's Violence Isn't Wrong, It's Just Misplaced

    There's a lot of violence on Sons of Anarchy, and while the motorcycle club world is violent, it's not always as excessive as the show would have you believe.

    On the show, SAMCRO and other groups use violence to increase the spectacle of higher profile killings. When Damon Pope brutally kills Tig's daughter in season five, it's for revenge. 

    In truth, most motorcycle club violence is for little stuff. Clubs fight, get into brawls, and beat each other up, but often for offenses most people wouldn't fathom warranting violence. In turn, the dramatic displays of brutality that so often occur on the show are more for the audience's entertainment then for historical or cultural accuracy.