Deviance: the darling of popular culture

Deviance from societal norms may engender anything from a vague discomfort/awareness that ‘one of these things is not like the others’ through to outright intolerance and demonization, but at the same time it is regularly celebrated in our art.

Popular culture tends to be full of movies and books and tales featuring characters that could normally be described as ‘deviant’ (from the statistical and social norm).  Westerns and crime movies with their ill-fitting, make-good anti-heroes; coming-of-age stories with their rebels, and nerds and jocks (*sigh* Breakfast Club and Some Kind of Wonderful); and, today, our great love for entertainment that includes sociopaths or extreme violence or mental illness. We only have to look at the TV guide to see it.

Dexter (sociopath crime fighter)….Breaking Bad (drug manufacturing chemistry teacher)….Homeland (terrorist)….Revenge (murderer socialites)…daVinci’s Demons (social misfit, mental illness)… Grass (drug dealing mother)… NipTuck (a range of dysfunctions)…South Park (pretty much every deviation you can name)…TrueBlood (violence, sex, blood-drinking, reanimation)…Game of Thrones (historical deviance – betrayal, violence, dwarves, prostitutes…you name it!)…

It seems that our society (western society, at least) romanticises the idea of the individual going out and ‘bucking’ the system. Breaking the rules. We celebrate characters that do it and we celebrate the productions that do it. Our annual TV awards are full of shows that really push the boundaries and, more often than not, they centrally feature dysfunction and deviance.  So, is this art imitating life (are we merely representing what we believe/feel and is popular culture a more psychologically acceptable way for us to acknowledge/digest it)? Or is this life imitating art – maybe fictional representations are slowly changing our attitudes toward what is normal and what is not?

People who deviate from the norm are interesting and enriching and crunchy to us socially.

Taken from The Great Courses’ Explaining Social Deviance Lecture 1: Asking the Right Questions