Crime and Film combined

While many South Puget Sound Community College students have been working on their writing skills or trying to survive statistics classes, students in the team taught film/criminology class “Outsiders” have been using film as a vehicle to explore the controversial intricacies of social deviancy, conformity, and the human psyche.

Faculty Jason Salcedo, who teaches the class along with David Hyde, explained the ideology behind the class.

“We were interested in how people get marginalized by culture, and why some people conform and others rebel. Not everyone fits in easily. Sometimes David and I feel like we don’t fit in. There’s an identification with marginalized individuals because of this,” said Salcedo.

The class divides its concentration evenly between film studies and criminology/sociology, according to Salcedo. Students watch movies once a week, and are asked to consider the stylistic devices used in the film and how they impact the message behind the movie.

“We talk about deeper things the average viewer wouldn’t pick up if they just watched a movie,” said Andy Woolliscroft, a student in the class.

Kaysha Moroz agreed, saying, “You learn why people in movies do what they do.”

So far, students in Outsiders have watched “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Taxi Driver,” and “Easy Rider.” Salcedo referred to the last film as an example of the message he and Hyde are trying to relay to students.

Easy Rider is about a bunch of motor-cycle riding, drug-doing outlaws, said Salcedo.

“They are criminals from one perspective, but they are obeying the norms of their subculture at the same time. That’s the criminology of it.”

According to Salcedo, this clash of values helps to demonstrate a concept that is central to this class: relativity of deviance.

“It’s about what makes a deviant, what makes a criminal,” Salcedo said.

Discussing any one figure, “some cultures might say hero, some will say deviant.” Batman, said Salcedo, is a familiar example of this paradox.

“Batman is a hero from one perspective, and a villain from another,” he said.

Students have found the class to be very helpful, widening their perspectives on a variety of social issues.

“It incorporates criminology and film well, and helps us connect with sociological issues like deviance and social norms,” said Woolliscroft.
In addition, Woolliscroft said, having two teachers really enhances the class.

Moroz agreed. Of Salcedo and Hyde, Moroz said, “They’re great guys. They’re so funny; they make it fun to learn. It’s more interactive when we can talk about the movie we’ve just watched than if we read a book and discussed it.”

This is one of the many advantages of team taught classes, in Salcedo’s opinion. Having two teachers with different perspectives, Salcedo said, is helpful for students.

“Students are privileged because they get to see us argue back and forth. The students can take their own side, and decide for themselves what to think,” he said.

Due to other obligations, this particular class is only offered once every other year. The next time Hyde and Salcedo team up for it, they will be exploring sci fi cinema.

They’re already planning the curriculum, which will include the movies 2001 Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes, Salcedo said.

In the meantime, Salcedo is teaching a slightly similar class in spring quarter about American ethnic literature.

“We are going to read Soul on Ice, which is a book by a former Black Panther,” said Salcedo.

The book was written from prison, and Salcedo said he will work with students to explore its themes and how they relate to ethnic struggles in America. The class will afford students a diversity credit, and will include a variety of books by many different ethnic groups in the US from throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.