SOCIAL CLASS & STATUS
This has much in common with issues around urban v rural which can be seen with regional identity.
Clothing codes are often crucial, but so too accent and speech: use of slang v complex language.
Possessions naturally, and housing, are key factors.
Camera angles can be used to establish class difference, as seen in the opening of Tess of the D’Urbevilles with the minister high up on horseback and the humble peasant literally beneath him.
In dramas with a degree of comedy (‘dramedy’) the clash between the classes will be used as a source of humour, the refines tastes of the ABC1s (middle to upper class) clashing with those of the C2DEs (lower- middle class to working class).
Class identity is established in TV drama partially through possessions of characters. For example when drinking alcohol the receptacle (container) it is poured from can be significant: from the cheap lager of Shameless to the decantered brandy of MofG.
The easily offended sensibilities of the middle classes are also often a source of humour. With working class characters, the key stereotype tends to revolve around crime, though laziness/dole scrounging can also be commonly seen.
Having said that, there are still some stereotypes associated with different classes:
• Upper Classes (eg Made in Chelsea) – often shown as rich, clever, snobby, very posh
• Middle Classes (eg My Family)– often shown as “normal”, good family values, well behaved
• Working Classes (eg Coronation Street) – often shown as poorer, less happy, less intelligent, but with strong community links
• Lower / Under Classes (eg Shameless) – often shown as being criminals, no family values, no community links, bad parents etc
People have often noticed that in many TV shows, people of different classes, don’t mix. And when they are shown together, they are often shown as clashing and being very different.
If you get “class” as an issue in the exam, you should be thinking about the following things when watching the clip:
• Can I identify what class characters are?
• Are people from different classes shown as having different interests, personalities, attitudes, behaviours? If so, how?
• Is their class represented as being important in their life?
• Are people from particular classes portrayed as being better, more powerful, than others?
• Are people from particular classes portrayed as being abnormal /weaker/more pathetic than others?
• How do other characters in the clip treat the characters from different classes?
• What is the message the clip is trying to portray about class?
KEY IDEAS: refined/sophisticated v crude/backwards, eg with language, choice of drinks, clothing; often similar to urban v rural; power/less; victim v criminal