Defying the Social Norms: Merton’s Theory of Deviance/Strain

The clips you just saw demonstrated an example of Merton’s Theory of Deviance/Strain. This theory is a template for acting appropriately within society, to not violate society’s norms. The gentleman in the clip, the one whom was trying to retrieve his TV was demonstrating an act of deviance (he was cutting in line). He was not conforming to the values that society has. From the five examples that Merton developed, the gentleman is demonstrating the actions of an innovator. He accepts the cultural goals, which in this case is to go to the pawnshop and pay for the TV he pawned, yet he does not accept the means to achieve them, which is to stand in line with the rest of the customers until he is called on.



  1. Great job with the video. I have watched this show in the past and you guys pick a perfect theory for it. I am sure we could pick out plenty more of Merton’s deviance theory while watching more episodes.
    Good Job,
    Dominic Marqez

  2. I thought this was a great choice in demonstrating Merton’s Strain/Deviance Theory. I completely agree with your description of the man as being an innovator since he clearly rejected society’s goals but accepted their means. Great job guys, you did an excellent job.
    -Samantha Elliott

  3. I thought you guys chose the perfect funny video to portray an accurate example of an innovator. He definitely had the same goals as society but clearly wasn’t intending on following society’s means to get there. Great example!
    Erin Cuming

  4. Great funny example! This clip is in interesting way to look at an innovator compared to what we learned in class. He would have made life easier on himself if he’d accepted the means of achieving his goal by just simply waiting in line like everyone else! But, he probably thought that being deviant by lying and causing a ruckus would have made him closer to his mission of paying for the TV faster for some reason. I guess we’ll never know!
    -Melody Akpaka

  5. Excellent job on being very specific. This example really is representative of Merton’s strain theory. I like how you guys took a micro sociological approach and really zoomed in on a specific instance of deviance, I think in doing so you probably provided clarity for students who may have been confused. Myself I typically thought of an innovator in broader sense, I never really considered a specific instance with respect to any of these roles. For me the innovator was a white collar criminal or crooked corporate executive or perhaps a mob boss and these people deviance was a way of life. Though now I can see that at any one moment any of us can take on any of Merton’s role sets with respect to strain theory. Good job!

  6. I first learned about Merton’s theory of deviance in my criminology class. So when we watched this in class I thought it was the perfect example! It showed how the guy who wanted his tv was breaking social norms by cutting in line. I thought it was funny how no one said anything to him until the lady at the counter addressed it and then again when Ashley the manager asked everyone if he cut in line they all said yes. We obey social norms but most of the times when people break them we won’t really say anything. This was a great clip showing Merton’s theory of deviance.

  7. I agree with this example of Merton’s strain theory being deviance in particular, in that this man is not conforming to the social norms of waiting in line(which can also be an example of bureaucracy). By doing this, this man disrupts the social setting which in this context, is a line at a pawn shop.

  8. This was a great example of strain theory. I could definitely see how this man was demonstrating innovator. I thought that this example was very entertaining! It is easy to see how he does not accept the means, he does not want to wait in line, like every one else but he accepted the goals because he was willing to pay for the TV he pawned.

    -Caitlyn Hurley

  9. using this example for the deviance theory Is something I thought about when we learned it because not only is it a great show(personal thought) but it shows how people can be deviant and how we also see it as deviant. when she tells him he could get the computer by standing in line and he says no shows how were associated to waiting in line, in order, to get to what we want/need. this show also makes me think about dramaturgy, and also about how we perform in our front and backstage. she and the other cast probably complain and tell the stories about the customers in her backstage.

  10. This video clearly is an example of Merton’s strain theory. Although there is no sign saying not to cut in line, it is a standard set by society. When these types of social norms are broken it is considered to be deviance. This man wanting his TV cut in line while everyone else waited because that is the proper thing to do according to society. By breaking this unwritten rule, he was escorted out for not complying.

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