'Sons of Anarchy's' Maggie Siff The Latest to Speak Against the Disturbing Hostility that Accompanies Adolescent Male Fantasy
(Author’s Note: There will be no spoilers here for last night’s Sons of Anarchy season finale, although, you can read my take on the episode over on Uproxx, or Joanna’s over on Vulture)
We’ve been here before, with Rita Morgan on Dexter, with Winona on Justified, and of course, with Skyler White on Breaking Bad (and for slightly different reasons, Dana Brody): Buzzkill female characters and their goddamn sense of morality. F**k them, right? Where do they get off on erecting obstacles in front of their murdering, drug-dealing, gun-running husbands? Who cares about the welfare of the children when there’s drugs to be injected, faces to be shot, and power to be grabbed?
The latest so-called victim of hostility from the dude-bro community — whose only fault is in wanting to see no-strings uber-violence — is Tara Knowles, the Sons of Anarchy character played by Maggie Siff.
I’ll concede that there have been moments that I’ve wanted Tara’s character to be killed off of Sons of Anarchy, but it was never because she stood in the way of Jax Teller’s ambitions. It was because, at times, she was a weak character who too often rolled over. However, in this most recent season, when Tara grew a huge backbone and decided to put the fate of her and her children in her own hands, the character became one of my favorites on the show, and by the end of the season, the thought of her potential death had become a devastating one.
Still, I see enough comments on Tumblr or Reddit or in Sons recaps to know that there is a very large segment of the fan community that hated Tara for the very reasons that made her such a great character this year: She schemed, she connived, and she manipulated, all in an effort to escape her increasingly monstrous husband. The c-word is very common in these threads, and while certain complaints against Tara — and characters of her ilk — are sometimes warranted for narrative reasons, the nature of the hostility is disturbing.
In a radio interview with EW, Maggie Siff spoke to that yesterday:
“I think it’s a really interesting conversation. I think these shows are always set up so we follow a protagonist and the story is very intricately built around caring for them in some way. And so anybody who runs counter to that is going to run into the problem of people turning on them. But I also think there are pretty deep gender cultural issues that have to do with a certain kind of fantasy of male and female roles, and a certain kind of fantasy around this anti-hero — the man who does terrible, terrible things but who we root for anyway because it’s an enactment of an adolescent male fantasy that people take great pleasure in seeing played out. And people who run counter encounter a lot of hostility. I think it’s the hostility that’s the most disturbing thing — the amount of vehemence or anger or righteousness that people can feel when they say, “She should be shot. She should be killed.’” That’s the thing that’s most startling and disturbing, when you really sit down and think about it.”
It truly is, and it’s even more disturbing that the hostility seems to bleed into the overall commentary on a character. The rise of the anti-hero in recent years and also seen the rise of this ilk of female character, which has offered a disturbing outlet for men (mostly) to voice their misogyny in a way that may seem acceptable because it’s in the context of a television show. Did people express this sentiment with Carmela Soprano, or is this all tied into the rise of Internet commentary? In either respect, it’s a troubling trend that plays into the vile men’s rights movement.