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Monday, September 30, 2019

Mayans MC Muy Auténtico

You are about to get FX’s new television show, Mayans MC, shoved down your throat for at least the next month. Whether you like it or not.
Harley-Davidson thinks the era of the motorcycle outlaw is over. Television executives and similar vultures think there is still some good meat left on them bones.
Undomesticated bad men on big, loud scooters, occasionally real but mostly imagined, have been a mirror America has been staring into for the last 71 years. Motorcycle outlaws have by turns been juvenile delinquents; haunted war heroes on Army surplus bikes; the killers who would conquer America as they had conquered Europe; victims of McCarthyism; marauding packs of gang rapists; good drug dealers; the new cowboys; banal and mundane; good hippies; Satanists; bad hippies; baby killers; philanthropists; bad drug dealers; racketeers; the Mafia on wheels; mom and dad; the greatest tee-shirt collectors ever; grandma and grandpa; Hamlet; and now young, hip, angry, hyper violent Latin consumers. Well, maybe Latino.
“Yes sir,” the prospect replies. Not, “Yes, patch holder.” But “Yes sir.” Like the Army.


Sons of Anarchy, Kurt Sutter’s previous biker melodrama, was enormously authentic. Ask anybody. Ask the producers. Sons of Anarchy was as close to reality as you could get without actually joining a club yourself. A recurring story line in that long running and beloved show was that there was such a shortage of guns in California that a motorcycle club got into the business of importing them from Ireland. Not Arizona. Ireland. And that show’s apologists defended that artistic choice because what else could a biker show be about? What would be the point of looking at a dozen or so RICO indictments for background and story ideas?
Now the drums tattoo and the pipes blare and the lassies jig in eager anticipation of the debut next week of Mayans MC. Who knows what the future may bring? Bikers who import guns from Ireland through Mexico? Bikers who work for narcos trafficante who wear Italian suits? Bikers who sucker punch civilians at punk concerts?
The “co-creator” of the new show is Elgin James. James was previously described as “mixed race” but is now generally regarded to be a “young Latino filmmaker.” He was raised by “civil rights activists” on a farm. He says his father beat him.


“I’d grown up terrified of the world,’ he told The New Yorker. “Nights spent curled in a ball trying to disappear in the crack between my bed and the wall while my mother screamed for my father to stop. The worst thing about a 7-year-old being punched by a grown man is that you become emotionally frozen at that age.”
He became a vegetarian when he was 11-years-old. He introspected on the quads of Antioch College where he got into a “gang fight” and suffered “brain damage.” He moved to Boston where he started a gang called “Fuck Shit Up.” They rat packed and sucker punched random victims at punk concerts. They did it as a business. Bands and promoters paid them to stay away.
What we lacked in numbers we made up for in viciousness,” James later said. He told Debbie Catalano of Soundcheck Magazine, “The founding core of FSU eventually splintered, with a large section moving on to motorcycle gangs like the Outlaws and later the Mongols.”
So there is the biker connection.


FSU even got its own Gangland episode (below). James became a film maker by video recording some of the beatings and some of the music and releasing the footage as Boston Beat Down and Boston Beat Down II.
He wrote and directed a film called Little Birds in 2009. It is about a couple of girls who run away from home with their skateboards. Sundance loved it. The same year James was convicted of trying to extort a musician and did a year in jail. Ex-convict? Check!
James seems to have been included in Mayans MC because a recurring theme in all his work is over the top violence. He told Variety earlier this month that the artist inside him drinks from the well of “his traumatic upbringing.” All those vegetables. So many vegetables.


“I do know that I have these stories that I have to tell,” James said. “I have this damage inside me that I have to get out. And I don’t want any nice people who are worried about what I’m going to do for society to tell me I can’t tell my story.”
Officially James is on the show because he is Latino or half-Latin or something like that. Two years ago, when FX suggested Sutter collaborate with James on Mayans MC Sutter said it was his decision to recruit James. “I was very aware that a white guy from Jersey shouldn’t be writing a show solely that takes place in a Latino subculture and it’s not because it wasn’t politically correct,” he said. “It was about what made the most sense creatively.”
Today an online magazine called CinemaBlend reported that the new show is important to James – maybe he pronounces it Ha-mez – “simply for allowing the Latino community to have a voice, both on screen and behind the scenes.”
“Ever since I was a kid,” James told CinemaBlend, “I’ve watched black and brown characters on television who just become these criminals, these one-dimensional characters. A lot of the people on Mayans, behind the camera and in front of the camera, grew up in the cycle of poverty and violence and incarceration — I know that I did. This is the first time we get to tell our own stories from inside out, which is incredibly important to me. The first time we get to put a human face to it. I do know that I have these stories I have to tell. I have this damage inside me that I have to get out.”
Eager for more? Open wide! Whether you like it or not.