When, earlier this year, Sons of Anarchy aired its fifth episode of its fifth season, entitled “Orca Shrugged,” I mostly wrote about motorcycle gang leader Jax Teller’s decisions, and Walton Goggins’ performance as a transgender prostitute who was enlisted in a blackmail scheme. But the most important scene is actually one that happens at the end of the episode.
One of the subplot of this recently concluded episode of Sons was a series of violent home invasions, blamed on an African-American gang, but in reality, the work of white Nomad members of the Sons of Anarchy, who had been recruited as part of a scheme by one faction of the club to destabilize the other. And in “Orca Shrugged,” the home invaders broke into the home of Charming, Calif. Sheriff Eli Roosevelt. Roosevelt and his wife Rita’s challenges getting pregnant had been a storyline earlier in the show, and by this season, she was pregnant. When the home invaders arrived, she was the only person home. She wasn’t expecting the Nomads to break into her house, of course. And the Nomads, as it turned out, weren’t expecting her to have a handgun in her home, loaded and easily available to her for personal protection.
In a lot of American popular culture, in that situation, Rita would have fought back bravely. Even in a dark, chaotic bedroom, she would have had chances to get off shots, and her bullets would have found their targets. Rita would have been survived, and she would have become, in that moment, a Strong Female Character.
Instead, Rita was shot accidentally. She lost her child. And she died. This episode and the one that followed were a stark rebuke to the idea that having guns in, say, a movie theater in Aurora, or a classroom in Connecticut, would have been an effective defense against a determined killer wearing body armor using a weapon capable of shooting many people quickly. In chaos in the dark, another gun is a multiplier of the potential for violence, a tool that depends on calm, time, good light, and a clear line of sight to be reasonably accurate. I’m so grateful to Sons of Anarchy for making that painfully clear, and acting as a counter to the tropes that suggest any of us can pick up a gun, defend ourselves, and become heroes.