The Chained Dog Hero by Molly O’Keefe
I’ve just started watching Sons of Anarchy. I know, I’m late to all these parties. But my husband and I are just starting season three, so if you haven’t seen the first two seasons, beware – there will be spoilers.
I started watching because all the recommendations hit critical mass and because I could no longer resist the beautiful masculinity of Charlie Hunnam. Initially, my husband was not invested in my glom. And I understand why – these guys are misogynist thugs. And he figured the number of shallow graves just outside the city limits of Charming, California was just too outrageous to be realistic.
But Sons of Anarchy is kind of pulpy, in the way that Breaking Bad is – the world is not wholly realistic, but the world is true to itself. You’ve got to suspend some disbelief to buy into the idea of this club getting away with all that it gets away with and that everyone seems to be such a bad shot.
I know that a lot of people draw parallels between Sons of Anarchy and Kristin Ashley’s books, but I’m reminded of Tara Janzen‘s awesome Steele Street series. It has the same kind of pulp fiction type world. The men of Steele Street are their own law and justice, with unlimited supplies, technology and guns and where the bodies go…who cares?
And I love love love Janzen‘s dark angels of justice and retribution type heroes, but Sons of Anarchy takes it one step further and turns these heroes into violent barely-leashed criminals. Which hardly sounds heroic – I know, but somehow it works. And I have some theories about that.
First of all, Charlie Hunnam is really pretty. And we’ll watch pretty people do awful things – reality television proves that over and over again.
Second, these men are emotional. Totally loving. They hug each other. Alot. They talk about their feelings in romance-style guy speak. Which means that I’ve never heard a living breathing man talk like they talk, but it’s totally how I write men talking. “You’ve got to get right with that,” covers a lot of emotional ground.
These are the opposite of the controlled and icy billionaires. These guys are raw nerves of emotion and they aren’t ashamed or embarrassed by it.
Third, the emotional stakes are incredibly high. And it’s the only reason, in my mind, I can keep watching. In each of the seasons I’ve watched, one of the heroines of the show has been in danger and not just kind of. In the first season, Jax’s love interest is being stalked and one of the big driving questions of the show is: when is she going to tell Jax so we can see how much he loves her by beating the guy into a pulp?
I’m not kidding – this is the story. In the second season, Jax’s mother – the pretty incredible Katy Segal is gang raped but she keeps it a secret for many complicated reasons. And the driving question of that season is when is she going to tell them so the entire club can show how much they love her by beating those men into a pulp?
The chained dog hero only works when the stakes are high and violent borderline psychopath are tempered by their total emotional availability. I’m not sure it can be sustained – how many times can the women they love be in jeopardy? Well, I suppose a few seasons worth.
So, what do you think? Do you like these kind of heroes? Sons of Anarchy? More importantly, have you read the Tara Janzen Steele Street books?
About the Author:
Molly O’Keefe published her first Harlequin romance at age twenty-five and hasn’t looked back. She loves exploring each character’s road toward happily ever after. She’s won two Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice awards and the RITA for Best Novella in 2010. Originally from a small town outside of Chicago, she now lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband, two kids, and the largest heap of dirty laundry in North America.
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