One of my most interesting Sociology courses in college was a course on deviance. It wasn’t just interesting because the readings were controversial, but it was also interesting because I learned a lot in that class. The textbook was a composition of various articles about all kinds of topics. In fact, I still recall how intriguing my textbook was to all of my friends. It was so interesting, I had a few of them borrow it to take a peek. I remember some of those readings covering topics like: alcoholism, sexual assault, gang participation, and the rules of being a nudist. There were probably about 40 different articles in that one book.
Even though I am much older, I still enjoy teaching that particular unit in the courses I teach each term. (I still haven’t had the opportunity to teach an entire Deviance in Sociology course. Maybe one day…) Regardless of the class (I have been teaching for well over a decade now), whenever I begin discussing deviance, I always have a student who says deviance is the behavior occurring before an act of crime. While this can be true, it isn’t always the case. Deviance is simply put, when a person breaks a social norm. If a breach of that social norm also breaks a law, then you could say it is also criminal.
Furthermore, deviance doesn’t have to be a crime. People can become public protesters breaking the social norm of public conformity and be considered deviant. However, sometimes the outcome of peacefully protesting can lead to positive social changes in society, so that degree of deviance is arguably less severe than other forms of deviance. After all, altering “business as usual” occurs after one person makes a move to force change. Of course, it is likely that others may feel the same way and jump in to help create change too.
This leads me to my next point on deviance. On occasion, a television show is so captivating, I can’t stop watching it. The Netflix original series, Mindhunter, full of deviance examples, has that captivating factor and is perfect for someone who enjoys the social sciences. Seriously, if you are a sociologist, and don’t mind an R-rated series, please check it out. It is amazing how the lead detective, Holden Ford, starts using his sociological imagination after meeting a young, cute, graduate student who happens to be a sociology major. They begin dating and she rubs off on him in a very productive way by sharing what she learns in class.
In fact, he listens to her discussions of very important people such as Emile Durkheim, Herbert Blumer, and one of my favorites, Erving Goffman. He absorbs it all and is determined to be that person who stands out for change in the prevention of crime. Even though Goffman is only mentioned once in the series, I could talk about Goffman’s ideas on dramaturgical analysis every single day. For those who don’t know much about sociology, Goffman thought of life as one big theatrical performance where we are always acting. In fact, we show different parts of ourselves to people based on the setting we are in. The back-stage is that part that is hidden from most people. Detective Holden Ford wants to understand this back-stage part of criminal behavior and interviews several serial murderers with his partner to better understand what factors in their socialization led them to commit horrific acts against others. It is the perfect framework for understanding why a person who others thought was kind, was actually a serial killer in disguise. (If you have taken my class(es) before, you know we dive into this with “ripped from the headlines” stories.)
Ultimately, Holden Ford wants to prevent crime from occurring by developing a guide and sharing his findings with others. Although, he does become quite the ego-maniac before the end of the first season, he does make some progress in stopping a predator. Without giving anything else away, he abruptly comes back down to earth on the last episode and will hopefully display less narcissistic characteristics on season 2.
Overall, I give this series two-thumbs-up! Since I never read the book, this was my first exposure to the story line. One of my amazing students this quarter suggested I watch it so kudos to her. My final suggestion is to make a lovely hot cup of your favorite tea and check it out! The link below is available to order a quality box of flavored teas. Now, let me get that red kettle fired up…
Davidson, J., Theron, C., Penhall, J., Chaffin, C., Donen, J., & Fincher, D. (2017). Mindhunter [Netflix series]. Los Angeles, CA: Denver and Delilah Productions.