Tig & Venus 4 Ever: On “Sons Of Anarchy”‘s Surprising Romance Between A Bad Ass Biker And A Transgender Prostitute
I love “Sons of Anarchy” more than probably any other TV show, but I would not have expected that the bloody, brutal biker outlaw drama would present, dare I say it, one of the most lovely depictions of love between a cis person and trans person on screen. The chemistry between actors Kim Coates (Tig) and Walton Goggins (Venus) is incredible, and neither actor has ever been better, in my opinion, than on last night’s episode, when Venus and Tig finally confessed just how strong and real their feelings are for each other. It was one of the show’s most beautiful moments ever.
When the character of Venus made her first appearance on “SOA”‘s fifth season, I was instantly concerned. TV, movies, the media in general doesn’t have an incredible track record for dealing with trans issues or depicting trans people with much accuracy and empathy. And “Sons of Anarchy” is a show about a bunch of filthy-mouthed, vaguely racist, definitely politically incorrect outlaws, who see women mostly as wives, moms and whores, so I expected the character of Venus to be written stereotypically and treated as a freak by the other characters. And to be clear, the show’s initial approach was hardly perfect — Venus was a bit of a parody at first, and the terminology used in discussing her wasn’t always appropriate. But Venus began popping up more and more, with storylines that didn’t just serve to push forward the latest Sons’ drama — the reveal that Venus has a son; that Venus’s mother was horribly sexually abusive and exploitative — and that broadened the audience’s understanding of her as a complex character that they wanted more of. And more we got.
Tig and Venus hit it off immediately. Tig, while a scumbag like every other cut-wearing gun-slinger on this show, is a “champion of the underdog,” as Coates puts it. Tig has a soft spot for anyone not getting a truly fair shake in life. Sexually, Tig is known for being the “freakiest” of the bunch, which is what made me initially squicky when “SOA” began teasing a relationship between him and Venus, because I was concerned he and the show just viewed her as another fetish-y notch on his belt, rather than a human being just like anyone else. But after Tig’s daughter was burned alive in front of him, things changed. Much of the connection between Tig and Venus was built off-screen, we’re led to believe, but that new intimacy was palpable in their scenes together making it incredibly believable.
“I think they have talked at length about their childhoods and what their respective lives are like now,” Goggins told Entertainment Weekly about how he imagines Tig and Venus spend their time together. “I think they’ve talked about politics. I think they’ve talked about everything that two people would talk about to further their intimacy and a friendship.”
This season, that relationship has deepened even further. After Tig was shot, his only request in the foggy haze of nursing a gut wound was for Venus and the two later shared their first kiss. It was such a sweet moment, one the entire cast was moved by. “All the boys watched on the monitor and said, ‘That’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen,'” Coates told NYMag.com. “We give it up for each other all the time, and that’s one of those moments where it could have gone silly or non-supportive, but we support each other. That was a big moment for Tig and Venus. It was a really sweet day all around.” Sutter and the cast clearly view Tig and Venus’s relationship with the seriousness and legitimacy it deserves, rather than a gimmick or, god forbid, a shitty ploy for laughs.
And then there was last night’s episode. Lord, I just about wept. For starters, the episode began with a montage of the various characters having sex. Jax crying while he banged some brunette. Gemma doing it doggystyle with Nero. Chibs and the lady cop, whose relationship I fail to understand, but hey, I’m all for Chibs getting lucky. Happy and a woman on the hood of his car. Rat and I don’t know who, I looked away. Wendy and her vibrator made me chuckle. Juice enduring prison rape by Marilyn Manson made me want to cry. And then, all of the sudden, there was Tig and Venus straight up making love. That montage was not just an excuse to FINALLY show Jax’s bare ass — though I certainly appreciated it — it was to very plainly illustrate the contrast in which these characters “fuck the pain away.” Jax can’t fuck his away, thus the tears. Wendy knows damn well she can only rely on herself. Gemma, dead-eyed and freaked out, was hardly present, her mind focused on, you know, the fact that she killed Tara and Jax is thisclose to finding out. But Tig? Tig was finally opening his heart to someone, connecting with a woman on a primal level. It just so happened that that woman was born with male genitalia.
Later on in the episode, Venus confessed to Tig that she has fallen in love with him, clearly expecting him to run away. She said:
“I know what this is, Alexander [Tig’s real first name]. Why you’re with me. You’re a man who dares to dance with the freaks. I perpetuate that deviance for you. Allow you to show the world that you live outside the box. But I know that’s where it ends for us and I understand. It comes with the territory of my complicated identity. But my feelings for you are simpler. They live very much inside the box. I’m afraid, Alexander, that I may have fallen in love with you.”
And instead of running away, Tig stayed. He stayed and he opened up about how he has never allowed himself to fully be vulnerable with anyone … except her. How far their relationship can go, especially given the danger swirling around them, remains to be seen, but in that scene, Tig and Venus displayed more trust and honesty between them than six seasons of the Jax and Tara show.
“It was two people who had spent enough time together off-screen in order to get to a place where Tig would ask for Venus when he’s hurt and he needed to be comforted, and Venus would come and tell him what she tells him,” Goggins told EW. “It’s not a gender thing, it’s a heart thing. When we’re understood, regardless of who we’re understood by, we’re understood. There’s no replacing that. It’s outside of the confines of gender.”
I’m not alone in ‘shipping Tig and Venus. Fans have largely embraced the relationship and Goggins told EW:
“I’m amazed at the range of people that come up to me and want to have a conversation about her—from race to income to age. It’s a testament to how big the audience is for “Sons of Anarchy,” but also to what she’s done for opening that dialogue or allowing certain aspects of our society to understand that community a little better: to not be so scared of people that you really have no reason to be scared of—they’re just people. To find a place in your heart to accept them. That’s been the most rewarding thing of all of this.”
And count Laverne Cox as a fan. The trans activist and actress was tweeting up a storm during last night’s episode, calling the scenes between Tig and Venus “sublime,” “completely real and raw and beautiful,” and “deeply touching,” and congratulated Goggins and Coates on their “profoundly transcendent tv moment.” Then “SOA” writer Gladys Rodriguez tweeted that she actually watched one of Cox’s speeches as she was writing Tig and Venus’s heart to heart. Awesome.
“Sons of Anarchy”‘s final ride towards the season finale has been kinda disappointing in many ways, seeing as we’re all just waiting around for Jax to learn the truth about who killed Tara (and he finally did, thanks to creepy son Abel), especially when his capacity for rational thought and decision-making seems to have died with her. But Tig and Venus? Goddamn, baby, they’re giving me life.