Deviance as Innovation in Music, Movies & Television

Social Deviance

Assignment 1
Deviance as Innovation in Music, Movies & Television

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In Robert Merton’s Strain Theory (Ch. 3), innovation is described as the first category of deviance. Innovation as deviance can go two routes – legal or illegal. Illegal innovation would be resorting to a life of drug dealing or organized crime as an alternate route to the success and the American Dream. Legal innovation is deviating from the norm, or the accepted means to achieve success, usually by way of entrepreneurism or pursuing art. In this way, we might consider people like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or Kanye West, innovators because each left the normal means to achieve success (finishing college, getting a job, working your up the corporate ladder, etc.) and followed a different route.

For this assignment, I want you to consider legal innovation within the world of music, movies, and television. In the making of popular music, movies, and television there is definitely a norm in terms of how the final product should sound, look, or feel. However, some artists take risks and push the boundaries of those accepted/expected norms.


Choose a specific song, movie, or television show, that you think breaks with the typical norm within its genre (or subgenre). For example, you might choose a particular Hip Hop song that you think breaks the typical mold of what is expected for songs of its kind, in terms of instrumentation/beats or lyrics or theme. Or choose a movie or TV that has characters or ways of storytelling that defy the norm. Perhaps it simply discusses a topic that is taboo. If you select a song, you may also choose to discuss its music video.

Your paper should include, in no particular order:
1. The name of the song, movie, or television show. Include any other information

that might be relevant, such as the artist, director, actor, etc.
2. A description of the expected norm for this medium or genre.
3. A description of how the song/show/movie you chose innovates, and thus breaks

with this norm. Be detailed and thorough, however try to avoid a complete

description of the plot, lyrics, or video.
4. Your thoughts about the risks you think the artist took and whether those risks

paid off. In other words, do you think this act of innovation affected the world in any way (e.g. the genre it belongs to, or the viewing/listening audience).

Your paper should be approximately 2-3 full, typed pages (double-spaced, with 12pt. font and 1- inch margins). There will be no penalty for exceeding these requirements, but a paper less than 2 full pages will be penalized.

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