The story of the last two years of
Colleen Applegate's life-her involvement in pornography, addiction to
cocaine, and eventual suicide-is a tragic tale. As individual and
distant as Colleen's circumstances were, they can be better understood
through the application of a theory on deviance. Social Control Theory
can explain why Colleen strayed from conformity into deviance, and what
effect society had on her. 
Social Control Theory explores the
reasons people conform to societal norms rather than deviating. This
micro-level theory states that all people have potential for deviance.
A weakening in the ties that bind a person to society and its norms
increases the likelihood that a person will engage in deviance.
According to Hirschi (Kelly and Clark, 2003), the four bonds between an
individual and society are attachment, commitment, involvement, and
In Colleen Applegate's case, her move to
LA in March of 1982 magnified the nascent weakening of her bonds with
society. The oldest of five children, Colleen was involved in her
Minnesota high school and received letters for cheerleading. In her
last two years of high school, Colleen began dating Mike Marcel.
Because her parents disapproved of the older boy, they argued with
Colleen, and the attachment between parents and child was weakened.
Also, Colleen was not especially committed to the norms of behavior in
her town, because to attain her ideal career-modeling-she would have to
leave the small town of 4,800 people. These factors combined to
contribute to Colleen's first extreme act of deviance: overdosing on
pills.  This act was
treated as a simple cry for attention and aside from a single group
counseling session, ignored.
Following graduation, Colleen moved to LA
with her boyfriend Mike. The two had a difficult time finding jobs. As
newcomers without work, the two were neither involved nor committed in
the community. They had plenty of time to engage in deviance and little
to risk by doing so. All of Colleen's friends and family were far away,
so the bond formed by attachment to other individuals was lessened as
well. This also involved commitment; Colleen had nothing to fear by
engaging in deviance because most of her human connections were far
away, and thus the risk was small. The one person in LA who she did
know and care about-Mike-encouraged her to take a job he had found for
her at World Modeling. Through World Modeling, Colleen began posing
nude for magazines. Because most magazines would only feature her once,
Colleen had to pose for progressively more vulgar magazines in a
shrinking market. This eventually led her to enter the pornographic
Colleen's bonds with society-especially
that of attachment to others-continued to disintegrate. Her boyfriend
Mike broke up with Colleen and returned to Minnesota, where he told
several others what career Colleen had entered into. This embarrassed
her sister and parents. Colleen's parents ordered her to come home and
she refused. When Colleen later returned to Minnesota for a wedding,
the bride's mother wouldn't let her into the church. These are all
signs of the gradual dissolution of Colleen's bonds of attachment. It
is obvious Colleen wanted these bonds to remain strong. When two old
high school friend visited her in LA, 
she tried to convince them to get involved in nude modeling as well.
She also tried to give her mother a picture from her portfolio of nude
photographs. Both her mother and her friends refused the overtures, and
the bonds of attachment thinned further.
With her bonds of attachment weakened
almost to insubstantiality, Colleen's bonds of commitment weakened
further. The people she cared about disapproved of her life choices
already. Any more deviance would strengthen that opinion, and even if
she left the porn industry, she would still be indelibly stained in
their eyes. Thus, the consequences of engaging in deviance were
lessened. Colleen became addicted to cocaine.
Eventually, Colleen left the porn
industry to live with her cocaine dealer, Jake. Unemployed-without even
the career many considered deviant-Colleen was also without
involvement. This left her with plenty of time to engage in whatever
forms of deviance she felt desirable.
In February of 1984, Jake was arrested
and jailed for several years for dealing cocaine. Her attachment to him
weakened, but was not yet broken completely. Then a guy from Minnesota
who she's been secretly dating came to visit her in LA It seemed like
Colleen would replace Jake with this new man. However, because she was
high and had no car, Colleen forgot to pick up her boyfriend at the
airport. They broke up. Even worse, Jake called from jail and broke up
with her also. He told Colleen she had to move out of his house. It was
then, with her bonds of involvement, commitment, and attachment almost
completely broken, that Colleen shot herself in the head. She died 24
hours later. 
Besides explaining the deviance of
Colleen's life, Social Control Theory can also be utilized to explain
the relative lack of deviance in mine. Social Control is especially
applicable here as it is structured to explain why people conform more
than why they deviate. Unlike Colleen, the bonds I have with society
are fairly strong. Even living away at college, I have a strong sense
of attachment to my family, and I talk to someone in it at least once a
week. Even when I'm angry with them, I know they would rush to my aid
if necessary, and I don't want to disappoint them. Although I'm not the
type to have tons of friends, I do have several, and those friends are
all close ones. I also have other relationships with people I
respect-teachers, coworkers, bosses. So my level of attachment is high.
My levels of commitment are also fairly
high. In commitment, one weighs the costs or risks of engaging in
deviance, and often obeys out of fear for the consequences. I have a
well-developed conscience-something I blame on early motherly
guilt-trips-and thus am not a big risk-taker. I have goals for the
future which include a steady well-paying job, and my own house. A good
college education is essential for this, and so I don't want to risk my
standing at Coe by getting addicted to cocaine, for example. Also, I
try to avoid debt like the plague, so doing anything that would risk my
scholarships and loans would be unwise.
As for the bonds created by involvement,
I'm fairly busy. I'm a full-time college student with a part-time job.
And while I don't like to get involved in very many clubs or
organizations, I still have plenty to occupy my time. Bonds of
attachment intermingle with involvement here. I often help my sister
out by watching her four children, and help friends to "screen" new
boyfriends, so to speak.
Belief is a more difficult concept to
understand. I didn't talk about it in Colleen's case because it's
almost impossible to know what she believed about the norms and rules
of society. Without any input from her-an impossible feat at this
point-I have no way of knowing what she thought.  In my case, however, I agree
with many of the norms, or at least the values of groups I socialize
and identify with. I generally obey the law because to undermine that
undermines the organization of my society (besides, I've got this
wide-awake conscience nagging at me all the time…). Also, because I was
raised in this culture, many of the norms in it seem natural to me, and
to deviate from them seems wrong. That said, if there is a norm I don't
believe in, I'll disregard it. However, such disbelief in social norms
does not apply, for me, to getting involved in porn or cocaine. My
rebellions are usually over more minor things such as drinking age and
dress codes. So unlike Colleen Applegate, I have strong bonds with
society and therefore-according to Social Control Theory-I am less
likely to engage in deviant behavior. 
Like all theories, Social Control is not perfect. It does not apply
well to all forms of deviance, since such acts as embezzlement are
often committed by individuals with strong bonds to society. Also, some
of the bonds identified by Social Control Theory can have the opposite
effect than stated; attachment to others, for instance, can increase a
person's deviance rather than reduce it-if those individuals are
deviant. This may have been the case with some of Colleen's
relationships. One of her friends and fellow porn stars was a cocaine
addicts, as were her boss and her boyfriend Jake. Colleen's attachment
to these people may have increased her likelihood to engage in
deviance. Social Control also doesn't explain why the first act of
deviance occurs. It views deviance as inherently attractive to all
Given these weaknesses of Social Control
Theory, there are other theories that would apply to explain Colleen's
deviance. Learning Theory, for instance, would say that Colleen learned
how to become deviant by associating and identifying with other
deviants, such as Jake her boyfriend/coke dealer. However, this too has
its flaws because according to the Differential Association Theory of
Learning, the influence a person has varies according to frequency,
duration, primacy, and intensity. Thus, Colleen's mother-whose
influence had the most primacy, a duration of approximately eighteen
years, and I high frequency within those first eighteen years-would
have more influence on Colleen than subsequent individuals.  Obviously, this was not the
Labeling Theory can also be applied to
Colleen's situation. According to this theory, it is the response of
society and not any single act that makes someone deviant. Thus, the
negative reaction of Colleen's family and friends to her chosen career
made it deviant, but in and of itself, the pornography was not deviant.
Also within Labeling Theory, Colleen's case can be seen as illustrating
Lement's theory of secondary deviance. Her primary deviance was posing
for nude photographs. Once others became aware of this behavior and
labeled her as a "bad" girl for it, secondary deviance began. Colleen
internalized the label and became more deviant. It was not until after
society had reacted to her nude photos that she became involved in
pornographic movies and cocaine use. However, Labeling Theory fails to
account for the first instance of deviance, nor does it explain why
Colleen chose the forms of deviance she did.
Strain Theory could explain that Colleen
engaged in pornography as a means to her goals. Posing for nude
photographs made Colleen a model-her lifelong dream-and also gave her a
job and money. However, there's no sure sign that Colleen felt anomie
(a sense of normlessness), because she was nearly always involved in
some sort of relationship with its own norms and values.
Finally, neither Social Disorganization
Theory nor Functionalism are applicable in Colleen's case because both
are macro-level theories which apply to society as a whole. Colleen's
case was a micro-level situation, revolving around the life of one
No single theory of social deviance can
completely explain the life oc Colleen Applegate, or any person. There
are too many factors to understand any life. However, theories go a
long way towards helping people to comprehend at least part of the
situation. In Colleen's case, Social Control Theory particularly
applies. The increases in deviance for Colleen corresponded to
increases in the weakness of her bonds with society. Thus, Social
Control Theory can shed some light on deviance and its relationship to
society, even if it can't illuminate human behavior completely.
Works Cited: 
1. "Death of a Porn Queen." Frontline.
2. Goode, Erich. (1996). Social Deviance.
Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
3. Kelly, Delos H. & Clark, Edward J.
(2003). Deviant Behavior: A Text-Reader in the Sociology of Deviance.
6th Edition. New York: Worth Publishers. 
1. Nice concise
intro! Good because it contains a general intro, wraps up the main
events of the movie, and introduced theory. Didn't just charge right
into the issue.
2. Maybe give a
bit of context for the behavior (the suicide attempt). Set stage more,
by saying she was still in high school, clarifying that it wasn't just
friends that ignored it, but neither parent took it seriously either.
3. The friends
actually lived out there too, moving to LA shortly after Colleen and
Mike. (Clarifying accuracy of information-usually a huge deal in
assignments; less so in this because it's a video watched only 1-2
belief? You talk about belief later. Maybe move some of that up here.
5. Good! You use
the specific points of the theory to explain your lack of deviance;
don't just discuss it generally.
6. I was
wondering when you were going to talk about belief! Maybe move some up
to top of page. Don't push the issue off to the side. You can say one
factor applies less to Colleen's case. Theories don't fit perfectly to
situations in the real world.
7. It can also
relate to the notion of "conventional" vs. "unconventional" belief
8. Good! Talking
about primacy, duration, frequency. Going into the theory deep enough;
don't review theory superficially.
9. Not all of
this is actually "cited" but I'm glad that you cited sources.
-I don't have
-One great way
to organize this is to make the narrative interwoven with the theory.
-There's no one
organizational structure for my papers.
are too safe. They look for "the" answer, but there is no one way to
write the paper. Originality is good because if I'm bored and I gave
the assignment, that's not a good thing. I have to read all of these
papers, so diversity is good.
organizational things: intro and a conclusion, although I don't need
the typical 5-paragraph essay.
good. Not a title that's the name of the assignment. That's as good as
no title. A good title sends the message that you've thought about the
-I love good
grammar and sentence structure. I used to take too much time correcting
assignments, fixing every grammar mistake. You will lose points if it's
clear you haven't at least read over the paper for grammar. Even if you
edit it just before class. I would much rather see handwritten
corrections than obvious mistakes.
-This paper's audience is the
semi-informed reader. Someone who knows the theories, but maybe hasn't
seen the movie, or saw it a long time ago.
was mid-level formality. The informality of "I", "me," and "we" are
fine in sociological papers, even formally-written published ones.