The DEH teens and the five theories of deviance
Of course I don’t think this was intended, but it’s something I was thinking about today. Each of the five teenagers in DEH seem to fit into the five different theories of deviance- the reactions a person will have when a deviant act is committed.
1. Conformity- Jared. Throughout the show, Jared constantly tells Evan that he is only a “family friend” and he tries to blow off Connor Project things by saying “I said I was going to hang out with my real friends” or things along those lines. He also tells Evan “just nod and agree. Don’t make shit up!” when Evan reveals he’s lied to the Murphys about his relationship with Connor, and even goes right along with the plan to fake emails. Jared tends to be the funnyman who is also somewhat representative of all of the other students who think Connor is crazy and while they have no reason to really hate Evan (in the beginning, at least) they also don’t have any reason to go out of their way to talk to them. While he doesn’t seem to be pinned to the “typical conformist” archetype, when an act of deviance is committed (i.e. Connor’s suicide, Evan faking the emails, the truth getting out) Jared goes right along with Evan’s plan and when things don’t work out, he molds himself right back into the world of the other students. Jared tends to follow conformity whether it be to the rest of the student body or to Evan’s plans.
2. Retraction - Connor. The most obvious example of this is obviously his suicide. While it’s not stated whether or not Connor’s suicide was intended or accidental, in the idea that it was, Connor was dealing with his broken family life and his depleted relationship with his sister. He also deals with the entire school believing he’s crazy and not having any friends. Due to all of this buildup, Connor escapes, or retreats, by using drugs. The drugs are a sort of release from the everyday terrors Connor faces, unfortunately, when Connor is high he is irritable and abusive to his family and others and it only drags his life further down into the hole he’s trying to release himself from temporarily. This goes on for a while until Connor finds Evan’s letter and sees Zoe’s name in it. While Connor was mean when we see him alive, he’s also super high, and it’s also known that Connor has a super protective instinct over his sister, and seeing this letter from someone who didn’t even know her may have been the last thing Connor needed to end his life and retreat for good. Evan’s letter (the deviant act) is responded to with suicide (the retraction).
3. Innovation - Evan. When Cynthia and Larry think that Evan’s letter to himself was actually written by Connor, and Evan doesn’t have the heart to tell them it wasn’t, he starts the first of a long fabrication about this friendship he had with Connor. In For Forever, he simulates the day in which he and Connor go to the old orchard where Evan falls out a tree and breaks his arm and Connor is there for him. Sincerely, Me is about Evan and Jared creating fake email exchanges between Evan and Connor to show the Murphys and prove they were actually friends. In If I Could Tell Her, Evan tells Zoe all the things he loves about her, but passes them off as if Connor said them and never got a chance to tell her. He even goes so far to create a social media movement during Disappear, ‘The Connor Project’, dedicated to 'keeping Connor’s memory alive and that everyone should matter’. All of these things, however, all stem from a letter that Evan wrote to himself and Connor found- during one of the two’s only interactions, the other one in which Connor pushed Evan to the ground. Evan doesn’t know how to say no to people or tell the hard truth, so he continues to create a world of lies for the Murphys to hide under while dealing with Connor’s death- Evan doesn’t necessarily represent positive innovation, but it’s definitely innovation.
4. Ritualism - Alana. Alana is the super smart girl who is always ambitious to start new projects and learn new things, obsessed with getting new things to add to her resume. Alana is a perfectionist, and she barely refers to anyone as “friends” only “acquaintances”. When Connor dies and Evan starts the Connor Project, Alana jumps at another opportunity, especially one that can prevent anymore kids who feel invisible from killing themselves. Alana does multiple extracurricular activities and devotes almost all her time to them, and she spends every day doing so many of these similar things. When she realizes that everything Evan’s done is a scam, she flips, and promptly goes back to the life she knew before, the extra activities she did and the acquaintances she had, falling back into her old routine.
5. Rebellion - Zoe. When someone loses a sibling, the expected response is to be sad or depressed or angry, especially when they’re a teen and it’s to suicide. Zoe is all of these things, but for all wildly different reasons. When Connor dies, he and Zoe had a fractured relationship that would have taken a while to fix had either of them tried or wanted to. Connor’s suicide leaves Zoe sad that she never knew her brother better, but she’s mainly angry. At his suicide note. The letter that Zoe thinks is Connor’s suicide note says that there were a lot of underlying circumstances to Connor’s situation, a lot of mental health issues and personal struggles, and it angers Zoe because in her entire teenage life, all of Connor’s “issues” were taken out on her and she believed it to be just him being a genuinely terrible person, and this letter is trying to change her entire perspective of him, like it has to everyone else, yet Zoe refuses to believe it. Zoe starts to soften up when Evan tells her all the things Connor loved about her (which are actually things Evan himself loved about her) but by “Only Us” has let Evan into her life but still wants to leave Connor out of it, saying that their relationship didn’t need to revolve around Connor or his death. In “Requiem”, Zoe says “after all you put me through/don’t say it wasn’t true/that you are not the monster that I knew” saying that she refuses to believe that Connor was anything less than abusive, like he was to her, thus rebelling against the normal reaction.
When a deviant act is committed (Connor’s suicide, Evan’s plan, the Connor Project formation), you react by going along with it (conformity/Jared), getting away from it (retraction/Connor), making something new of it (innovation/Evan), continuing your everyday life (ritualism/Alana), or breaking the status quo and not following the new order (rebellion/Zoe).