Crimes of Hilarity: What Makes Criminal Behavior A Big Joke?


Last night after a very long day of dealing with the laughable nuances of client service work, an email came through from one of my Canadian coworkers with this headline:  Canadian crime story: Police probing Quebec maple syrup heist worth up to $30-million.

The email trail between a couple of folks went this way:

Canadian team member:

“Serious journalism here guys.

From The Globe and Mail:

Police probing Quebec maple syrup heist worth up to $30-million

Via The Globe and Mail news app for BlackBerry”

U.S. team Member:

“This heist is on par with the 1975 robbery at Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory when 300,000 tons of chocolate was siphoned off from the chocolate river.”

Canadian team member:

“We also had an issue with the Hamburgler in the 70s. Tough up here.”

U.S. team member:

“I remember that. The judge sentenced him to 5 to 10 years in prison, whichever came first.”

…and so on.
Oh the giggles we get from crimes that seem just so ridiculous.  But WHY do crimes like a “maple syrup heist” seem so funny to us?  What are the qualifiers that make some form of deviance despicable and others laughable?  Is it because the tens of millions of dollars in stolen goods wasn’t a scarce natural resource with high monetary value like gold or diamonds or oil?  Was it because the stolen goods weren’t property of a government agency?  An item earmarked for high taxes?  Drugs?

Is it that we only associate “hard” criminals with deviant goods and violence?

Needless to say, somebody’s (or many somebody’s) livelihoods were most likely heavily affected by the loss of revenue that came from this crime.  People with families to care for and bills to pay.

But still we laugh about it.  Because it’s kinda funny even though we don’t know why.

As a sociology graduate student (yes…anthropologists and sociologists can play in the same academic pool)  my concentration was in deviant behavior.  I took many courses, read lots of books and wrote lots of papers on the subjects like juvenile delinquency, drug abuse, organized crime, the social construction of deviant behavior (like playing pool, frequenting soda fountains and listening to Jazz music!) and even hardcore stuff like serial murder.  I was going to be Clarice Starling from Silence of The Lambs before I chose a career in marketing.

My point is, I spent a lot of time examining how and why “deviant” or criminal behaviors emerge and how they get labeled as such by society based on the role they play as a part of the sustainable functioning of social systems.  But one thing we never talked about are the crimes that get relegated to the status of ridiculous and not noteworthy.   We don’t sit our kids down and say “it’s okay if you steal something nobody really cares about”.  We just say “don’t steal things”, because as a society and as humans we know it’s wrong to take things that don’t belong to you.

So I pose the question to my readers and ask them to put on their Anthropologist (from human cultural or behavioral perspective)  or Sociologist (from a human systems / organization perspective) and tell me what YOU think.  I’m really only a tongue-in-cheek narcissist (in case you hadn’t caught that yet) and really DO care about other people’s points of view.

At minimum I hope you enjoyed a few laughs.  But my sincere hope is to encourage some deep thought, because my wife would not think it was funny if someone stole her maple syrup.  It’s the only thing that makes her gluten free waffles worth eating.

Man Mows huge field, steals $4K worth of Grass!

Now that we’re getting more grassroots (but seriously folks!) , is this crime also just plain funny?

Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, pop culture, sociology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 64 Comments

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64 thoughts on “Crimes of Hilarity: What Makes Criminal Behavior A Big Joke?

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  3. Very nice post. I certainly appreciate this site.

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