The movie The Boondock Saints provides an excellent example of positive deviance through innovation. The Social theory of deviance can easily explain the brothers’ actions. The movie can be used to study deviance as the brothers kill people who are mafia members, breaking the norms of society. Even though the acts they are committing are clearly illegal and deviant, the people of South Boston do not react in a negative way. Since the Social theory is very broad, it will be easier to look at the brother’s acts under three sub theories: Labeling, Conflict and Strain theories.
The Social theory of deviance explains why people break social norms, and what their motivation may be for doing so. The brothers undoubtedly break one of the most prominent social norms, they kill people who can be considered “bad”. In crime-ridden South Boston, the brothers find a gap that they can fill, which is usually looked down upon by society. Despite this, the people living there soon recognize them as a blessing and call them Saints. The two brothers quickly become vigilantes for South Boston, killing mafia members and criminals who are making living conditions harder than they should be. Because of the positive effect on society no one speaks out against them. Their effect on the city is beneficial enough for the local police and even the FBI investigator who is trying to catch them to eventually help out the brothers in any way they can without being suspicious.
To correctly apply the Labeling theory, we have to look at how the theory can give a positive and reinforcing label. The model can explain two major turning points for the brothers, first when the city supports them causing them to start killing. And second, when they have don...
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...he overly powerful mafia ruling.
The brothers’ vigilante deviance has many causes, all stemming form the Social theory of deviance. The Labeling, Conflict and Strain theories are three of the most important theories for understanding what caused the brothers to start, continue, and stop killing the mafia. Each of the theories plays a part in causing the brothers’ to kill, but without all of them they would not have the acceptance and success that they did. These theories, even though they are meant for the real world are just as relevant for works of fiction in movies and books.
Adler, Patricia A., and Adler Peter. Constructions of Deviance: Social Power, Context, and Interaction. 6th ed. Belmont: Thomas/Wadsworth, 2009.
The Boondock Saints. Dir. Troy Duffy. Perf. Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, Willem Dafoe. Franchise Pictures LLC, 1999.