Decoding Deviance

Some Television shows can be used as pedagogical teaching methods for a certain course in literature.  In the article “Decoding Deviance with The Sons Of Anarchy” by Joseph Kremer and Kristin Cutler from Washington State University, the authors delve into the sociological theories found in the TV show Sons of Anarchy. Sons of Anarchy is a television show based on the fictional depiction of a 1 percent motorcycle club set in Northern California (real-life motorcycle  clubs like the Mongols or the Hells Angels come to mind).  In fact, some of the cast members are actual Hells Angels members in the show.  This storyline puts Sociological Deviance to the test and how it can be coded with each episode. For example, the authors of this article define Deviance like this, “Deviance encompasses criminal acts but also a variety of things that might be considered amoral (e.g.,pre-marital sex, abortion) or just rub people the wrong way (e.g., people chewing with their mouths open, people wearing sandals with socks)” (Kremer and Cutler, 92).  Now that could be the closest to defining concepts of deviance in Sons of Anarchy academically.  These ideas correlate to deviance and how to rate deviance with some characters from the show.  The article goes into further detail with the method being presented in this study.  A Sociology of Deviance course at a University in the Pacific Northwest was being held during the summer, with the Sons of Anarchy as being the main source material during the entire semester.  The students in the course were in charge of coding each episode, focus on all the categories related to deviance, and were required to read specific practical articles on 1 percent Motorcycle gangs in history.  This class was designed as a seminar course (meeting Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays).  The days the students did not meet in the class were meant for coding and extra reading in relation to the course.  A final project resulted in the culmination of data collected from the entire season of Sons of Anarchy.  This included the students most hated character, how the character’s actions connected to deviance, and how did this tv show help the students form their opinion on deviance itself.  Many students went as far as saying that watching Sons of Anarchy helped them connect to the sociological examples of deviance and to real life scenarios.  This entire course was a huge benefit for students to make connections to Sociological Deviance in Literature.  However, it is very important to know that this concept of using television shows for a class is solely reliant on a smaller class size.


This entire article reminded me of a conversation I had with the creative writing instructor I work with as an Instructional Assistant.  One of the things she primarily stressed was the importance of using multimedia as a tool for class.  Not only does this provide benefits to students staying engaged in the class, but lets them connect to real-life situations as source material for their writing assignments throughout the semester.  The Sons of Anarchy is a great television show to implement new pedagogical lessons being taught inside the classroom.  What a better way to study the sociological concepts of deviance than learn about a motorcycle club?