Theories of Criminology and The Departed
Martin Scorcese’s film, The Departed, gives a great depiction of contrasting theories of the origins of crime, and how they may be applied to each character. Each of the four major theories, Choice Theory, Trait Theory, Social Structure Theory, and Social Process Theory can be seen to be accurate at one or more points in the film, but the film ultimately advocates for Choice Theory. Each of the major characters has the opportunity to choose who they ultimately want to be.
From the moment that the over-arching villain of the film, Frank Costello, is introduced it is apparent how he understand his place in the framework of things. He states, “I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.” In this one statement he refutes the effect of Social Structure and Social Process theories on himself, and advocates for Choice Theory. He has made the choice to become who he is, and to engage in criminal activities. He did not have it dictated to him because of his environment, or his exposure to criminal activities. It was a choice.
This is contrasted with the two central figures in the film, undercover state police officer Billy Costigan, and Costello’s mole on the inside of the state police, Colin Sullivan. Fresh out of the police academy Costigan is confronted not only with his past and upbringing, as a two parent, two accent, mixture of North shore and South Boston, but also with his family connections with South Boston organized crime through his father’s side of the family. He has the family traits to justify his being involved in criminal activities, but lacked the poor upbringing (Social Structure) that could have been expected for someone with his connections. It isn’t until he is sent undercover, through the prison system and his low level criminal cousin, that he exposed to criminal activities in a major way (Social Process). Even as he becomes more involved in...
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