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In my analysis, I will be describing the cultural background and deviant tendencies of the fictitious character ‘Dwight Schrute’ from the television series ‘The Office. ’ In this series, Dwight Schrute is an uptight character who was raised in a very strict, conservative, German household, where from birth, he was forced to abide by firm rules in a perfectionist family. His character has been shaped strongly by the anecdotes he provides from his childhood, which have led him to be a stern, hard-working, and socially awkward man, as well as misogynistic, rude, and condescending. ‘The Office’ is a series that is targeted mainly towards the younger generations (born 1990-2000), as well as those who are slightly older and hold an office-position so as to relate to the events that transpire.
All throughout the series, Dwight’s character becomes more strengthened by the additions of information describing his past and his upbringing. As stated previously, Dwight was raised in a large, conservative, German family in Northeastern Pennsylvania. In many instances, be them by actual description by speech or observations made on his role, it is clear that Dwight had been subjected to strict enforcement of rules from a very young age and thus has been shaped into a ‘no-nonsense’ character that has a strong sense of pride in following rules at the workplace and an urge to warn the boss of the misdoings of other workers or to correct them himself (Brandon Saxton, Katie Gordon 2016). This often makes Dwight seem immature in his role, because even at the slightest faults of his peers, he doesn’t hesitate to inform his boss. In addition to his rule-abiding tendencies, Dwight is seen as a very hard worker in his office. This is most likely due to the fact that Dwight was raised on a farm, where he had grown up doing laborious tasks that a farm requires, and Dwight continues to live on the farm presently. This importance of the idea of hard work in the farm has carried over to his position in the business, where Dwight often prides himself over his hard work and has very high standards of himself. As quoted by Dwight he is very conscious of his tendencies when working: “How would I describe myself? Three words. Hard-working, Alpha male. Jackhammer. Merciless. Insatiable” (“The Return” 2007).
Furthermore, Dwight’s inner beliefs become apparent throughout the series. For instance, it becomes clear that because of his conservative upbringing, Dwight has a slight sense of misogyny. This is prevalent in many instances throughout the show, but one example is when Dwight responds, “Aw, man! Am I a woman? Aww! Boo!” to a question about a stereotype unrelated to women (“Diversity Day” 2005). Additionally, because of his immense fascination with fantasy and science fiction, Dwight is known for having beliefs in products of these genres, such as vampires, androids, et cetera. This is probably rooted from his childhood, where he was conditioned to following rules, doing hard work, and having no foolishness caused him to have a sense of isolation from the other kids. This isolation was filled with stories, films, and video games that allowed Dwight to escape into another world as to avoid the hardships he had faced. This goes to show that his harsh upbringing led him to become so immersed in stories where he had run to that it has had a deep underlying effect on his sense of reasoning.
Putting Dwight’s story in a sociological perspective, it is clear that his circumstances would apply to the Control Theory as proposed by Travis Hirschi. The Control Theory applies to Dwight’s situation on two levels: his childhood, and his adulthood. In his childhood, the norms of his household where, for the most part, different than that of the rest of society. Because his family was based in Germany, very conservative, and farmers, that which was normal for Dwight wasn’t for others who didn’t fit in this demographic. For instance, Dwight learned from a young age that he must follow rules or there would be harsh consequences, he must do hard work and not fool around or waste time, and that he was expected to be a worthy contender of the family name. This strictness is not quite the same as the standard American family, where while children are expected to do well in school and stay out of trouble, they are not typically working in a farm and they do not typically receive harsh punishments. This put Dwight in a situation where he could not relate well with the other people in society, because of how the social control of his family and his household differed to the rest. In his adulthood, the age which we observe in the series, we can see how this feeling of isolation in his childhood has built up to the character Dwight is today. As previously implicated, Dwight tended to use fantasy and science fiction media as an escape to the harshness of his everyday life, and thus to his past sense of isolation. This has created a man who has seemingly low social skills because of his inability to relate to the things that they enjoy. In the series, he often makes references to these shows, movies, or games to the other workers, but they never understand the references, leading to an awkward moment between them, as well as a sense of frustration in Dwight, because he believes that these medias are great things that everyone should enjoy but only he seems to like them, and the others think that his fondness for them is unusual. These two time frames of his life clearly depict the Control Theory and how it affects his life, because in both ages, he has a feeling of aloneness from the rest of society. This isolation of his socialization with the rest of society has led to the deviances that we observe in the series, such as deliberately starting a fire in the office as to raise awareness for fire safety procedures (“Stress Relief” 2009), or using a diary because he does not want to type personal things into the computer because he does not trust it (“Golden Ticket” 2009). To him, these things seem perfectly normal because that is the way he was raised, such as always knowing the safety procedures or not using technology. Thus, in his mind, his actions may seem sound, but to others, they may seem extremely irregular and even insane.
In terms of Dwight’s situation regarding his cultural background and deviant tendencies, I have come to the conclusion that while it may be an issue appearing throughout society, it is a problem so tied to an individual that it cannot be labeled as a “social problem. ” There are certainly many cases in society where a child was raised under a different social control than what is seen as ‘normal,’ leading to issues such as the feeling of isolation and inability to easily socialize, but it is more of a personal issue that must be dealt with personally. I believe that it should be the responsibility of the parent to recognize the current social control of society and to apply it to the upbringing of their own child, even if it goes against what they were raised with.
For instance, I will take into account of a couple born in the 1930’s. In that time period, it was common for some Americans to use racial slurs commonly when speaking about another ethnicity. However, when they had children in the 1970’s, a time where using a racial slur was becoming more offensive and more frowned-upon, it is the responsibility of the parents to socialize the child as not to use racial slurs, even if they still use them at home. If the child had grown up using racial slurs, which was, and continues to be, a distinctly deviant act, they would probably be shunned by society and peers and feel isolation, even though they had grown up thinking it was perfectly normal to say that. This clearly depicts that as time change, it is the responsibility of the parents to raise their child in a manner that fits the societal norms of the present.
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