Film and Television production
Contemporary British film and television
7. Discuss one of the following in relation to contemporary British Film and TV: i) the representation of class
The segregation of different classes in Britain has played an important role not only in society but also within film and television. Even in the days of equality we are still subjected to the basis of the social class system; which arranges society into a three layered structure: lower/working class, middle class and upper class. Other sub classes fall between some of the categories such as: underclass, lower middle class and upper-middle class, which can fall between the lines of the main three classes. I will be looking at how class is represented in a number of British television programmes and films.
Shameless is a television series that deals with social and cultural issues of the British underclass from the point of view of families living on a small council estate. The term ‘Underclass’ is a classification used to define a sub-class that falls below Working-class and is typically associated with non- working families who are unable to find work. The show initially opens with a brief narration from the main character: Frank Gallagher who is a single father of six living off benefits on the estate. The show largely expresses the view of a chaotic world where you don’t have to worry what your neighbours think and the consequences of that world.
The opening depicts: a car being set ablaze by the local community, drunken antics and children committing crimes. This opening immediately paints a picture of the underclass as being the lowest point in society as it is largely an anti-social image but despite this there is the sense of a family within the community. This representation shows the underclass as being: immature, irresponsible and even criminal yet not against their own family or friends.
The way children are raised in Shameless is one of the key elements to how the underclass are represented as they are generally left to fend for themselves and learn the way of the world on their own with no real support from their parents. These children are often shown getting into trouble with other members of the community or the law and engaging in anti-social behaviour as a result of their parents not being there.
Substance abuse is another primary element associated with the underclass and working class; often storylines will be fuelled by alcohol or drug abuse. This is a common topic that is associated with the lower classes as it is seen as an irresponsible activity, whereas drug use within higher social classes is often shown as purely recreational as opposed to a form of escapism. It is this reasoning that makes substance abuse relatable to both upper and lower classes, as a middle class idea would be that the lower classes do it to escape from an unhappy life and the upper class use it to enhance their pleasures.
Language and dialect also plays a large part in representing a particular class. The lower working class are shown with a tendency to speak in more vulgar terms and use slang words, whereas someone from a more middle class background would usually be show as more polite and display more etiquette in the way they speak. In Shameless there is often swearing from the children and adults in the family and explicit topics like sex are dealt with very openly; showing a lack of social etiquette, which would be unacceptable for someone of a higher class. Despite the vulgarity and often rude topics the Gallagher family still come across as very literate and can articulate words in intelligent ways. This is due to the shows writers trying to create as much of an audience for the show as possible. The use of this articulation means that topics can be dealt with in a...
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Leith, W. (October 2011), Have the Middle classes lost their place. Available from:
Ashley, J. and Higson, A. (2000) British Cinema past and present. Routledge.
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