This is the article I wrote for Variety’s special issue on violence in the media.
(In the spirit of outlaws, I stole the above image from another blog.)
I live in two worlds. The right wing, gun-toting, meat-eating, Harley-riding, racist, homophobic, masochistic fantasy dynasty, that is SOA. And the centrist-liberal, anti-gun, vegan, Tesla-driving, gay-priding, civil-minded, pro-choice existence, that is my personal life. I often struggle with how much of each spills into the other. ForSons of Anarchy, I struggle with not letting my personal politics pollute my creative choices. The same way I clash with how my creative choices often rub hard against who I am as a person. I am very aware that SOA is an imaginary world. That’s why I lean so heavily on the absurdist quality in the show. The pulp nature of the violence keeps me in the creative arena of fantasy. I might as well be writing about wizards and fairies. Although I infuse my characters with my dreams, desires, defects and defenses, they do not share my outlook on life.
The awareness of my professional duality always becomes heightened and challenged in the face of gun violence and tragedy. I write a brutal show about guns, death and violence. Because of that, I have to take stock of my responsibility as an artist and understand my impact on the viewers. Self-awareness is a bitch. It requires humility, openness and the willingness to change. It is absolutely necessary for growth, individually and collectively.
When the NRA broke their weeklong silence about the tragedy in Newton, and placed the blame on Hollywood, my immediate reaction was stunned rage. Really? This is how you take responsibility? This is how you help heal the wounds? It was reckless and absurd. But I didn’t tweet or blog about it, I did something I often have trouble doing, I paused. I realized that the NRA’s response was a tactic. A familiar tactic. By creating another conflict, Guns vs. Media, the gun machine continues to distract from the real issue, Gun Reform. So rather than retaliate, I think it’s imperative to stick to the quest for a solution. The NRA is not the bad guy, but they need to cooperate in our need to end the violence to be a good guy.
What is the solution? I don’t know. No one does. Yet. Many people have spoken up about the desperate need for reform. From Obama to Howard Stern, folks have shared their sympathy and hope for change. The promising thing, and perhaps the only real different message that has landed, is the awareness that there is not just one thing responsible for the carnage. It’s not just gun laws or bad parenting or our mental health care system. It’s all those things and more. The truth is, as our world grows exponentially, so do our problems. Evil always manages to adapt, re-invent, circumvent and find new and extraordinary ways to rip out our hearts. Good needs to follow the same path. It’s time for our solutions to get off the linear track. We cannot save ourselves working in the same sick box.
As far as my own responsibility in the Newton tragedy — I made a comment after the shooting in Aurora, which I still believe to be true: “Man’s inhumanity to man is as old as humanity itself. Some people just do evil things. Most do not. A billion people have seen Batman movies over the past 20 years, and they have been entertained and inspired. One man saw it as a sick entry point for mass murder. The one is tragic. The billion are not. I choose to write for the billion.”
Having said that, if in this three-dimensional quest for reform, empirical data surfaces which proves that the violence in Sons of Anarchy is responsible for an uptick in violent acts, I would be forced to amend my current philosophy and take responsibility for the impact of my art. Until then, I’ll keep writing about wizards, fairies and bikers. And if need be, I’ll bite off my own tongue.