C1: Media Representations of Social Class



welcome to the Seawind screencasts looking at media representations of social class and this video is of course part of this broader topic looking at media representation so in this screencast we're gonna have a look at some of the generalizations and stereotypes that the mass media make about the upper class the middle class and the working class now in the UK the mass media hardly ever betray the upper classes in a critical light and nor do they often draw any serious attention to inequalities in wealth and power instead representations of the upper classes in popular films or television costume dramas 1/10 of betray members of this class either in an eccentric way or in a nostalgic way so what we tend to get from these types of media representations is a rosy idealized picture of the ruling Ally characterized by honor culture and good breeding one section of the British upper class that is successfully converted much of the modern mass media to its cause is the monarchy and the Rinne notes that this is because after the Second World War the monarchy with the collusion of the media reinvented itself as a royal family with a cast of characters not unlike our own families who stood for national values such as niceness and decency some members of this family were presented as being just like us for example the Queen was betrayed as being just an ordinary working mother doing an extraordinary job and the successful makeover resulted in a national obsession with the royal family and this is reflected in media coverage that is focused positively on every trivial detail of their lives so the royal family has been turned into an ongoing narrative or soap story let's now have a look at media representations of the middle-class and some sociologists argue that the middle class is so professionals managers white-collar workers etc and their concerns are over represented in the media so middle-class values are presented as the norm as the core values of British society to which everybody should aspire to and we can see this if we look at the middle-class family which is often presented as the ideal to which people should aspire to in advertisements and leach refers to this advertising ideal as the cereal packet family and one of the reasons for this middle-class bias within the British media is most of the creative personnel who work in the mass media industry are themselves from middle class backgrounds and within the news and current affairs it's the middle classes who dominate positions of authority and when experts appear on the news they're inevitably middle-class in contrast media representations of the poor and working-class tend to be more negative so Newman for example argues that when working-class people are featured the media depiction is often either unflattering or pitying so working-class heads of households on primetime television had typically been betrayed either as well-intentioned but done bethune type figures such as Homer Simpson or as immature exhibitionist such as Phil Mitchell from EastEnders and human also argues that when news organizations focus on the working class is generally to label them as a problem so to stigmatize them in some way as welfare cheats as drug addicts or as criminals and studies that the media reporting of strikes and industrial disputes by the Glasgow lead a group have suggested that the media portray unreasonable workers as making trouble for reasonable employers now a recent development in media representations of the poor highlighted by shield Rick and McDonald is the representation and labeling of some sections of the working class as chaps and shrilled Rick and McDonald suggests that this is another way of suggesting that there are certain sections of the poor who deserve to be poor and are therefore undeserving of public sympathy and this is also an issue that's been highlighted by Owen Jones in his recent book chaps the demonization of the working class so in this book Owen Jones argues that being able to make brutal almost sub racist remarks about working-class people is the one acceptable form of discrimination so Owen Jones is arguing that repeatedly within the mass media the working-class are seen as being theplas has been stupid as having too many children has essentially been scrounges and Owen Jones his argument is that this demonization of working-class people is used to legitimate the growing inequality in wealth and income that we find within the UK so as we can see from this graphic the rich is 1% of the population have as much wealth as the poor is 60% but rather than focusing on these structural issues media representations of the working-class encourage us not to see the poor as victims of circumstances often beyond their control but instead the media encourage us to blame individuals for their poverty so structural issues to do with inequality and poverty are individualized they're blamed on the bad habits and lifestyles of Paul and in class we'll have a look at one section of our in Jones's book where there's a brilliant dissection that the differences in the media coverage that the disappearance of Madeleine McCann and the coverage of the disappearance of Sharon Matthews and how Karin Matthews the mother of Sharon Matthews was made symbolic of the perceived problems of the working class within the media and the way in which the mass media will often use very extreme cases as if they were emblematic that the poor in general was also highlighted last year by media reporting of MacPhail pop now if you can't remember this case let me just remind you Mick Philpott was living with his mistress and his mistress had walked out on him taking their children as she left and what he did is he devised the sickening plot to set fire to the house that his mistress was living in and he was going to emerge as a hero as he rescued his children from their beds and he was going to implicate the lover who jilted him but the flames devoured the house far quickly the needing human plan had predicted and six of his children died in this particular fire and as we can see from this Daily Mail headline that rather than simply see in a mikveh pot as an individual monster there were sections of the press who claimed that the Philpott's said something about modern Britain and particularly about what they saw as the shameless over breeding scroungers who were supposedly bleeding an over generous welfare stay dry but as Owen Jones is argued the truth is that the Philpott say nothing about anyone except for themselves just as the serial murderer GP Harold Shipman said nothing about middle-class professionals in general there are and of all has been a small minority of individuals capable of breathtaking cruelty but the Philpott case relates in no way to people on benefits in this country and over the last few years the government and much of the media has fed us a relentless poisonous diet absque Ivers and scrounges at the feckless and work-shy poor hiding behind blinds unwilling to work and we now have a new genre a television program that we might refer to as poverty porn and benefits tree illustrates this new collage onra so benefits tree follows are now predictable formula where television producers tried to search for unsympathetic examples of unemployed people and in this case it was people living on the street in Birmingham they betray them in the worst possible light and they fuel the pervasive sense that people on benefits are feckless scroungers and i think we can relate some of this material to grants keys concept of hegemony so Gramsci was an Italian Marxist intellectual who was interested in looking at how control was maintained within society and in particular he focused on the role of ideology so hegemony is about ideological power it's about how the ruling class use ideology to control the masses so hegemony is about how the ruling class shape people's minds it describes the process by which the ruling class persuade other groups to accept their viewers society as common sense so one way in which hegemony can be achieved by the ruling class is illustrated by this quote from Malcolm X if you're not careful the newspapers will have you hating the people who have been oppressed and loved the people who are doing the oppressing and if we go back to the example of so-called welfare scroungers we perhaps got a good contemporary example of Gramps keys idea of hegemony in action so if we look at the last few years it's been a tough time for many people unemployment gone up lots of people are working part-time but need a full-time job and people's wages have either gone down or they've stagnated and it was the behavior not at the poor but it was the behavior of those people at the top of society particularly those people who worked in the banking sector that caused the longest fall in living standards since the Victorian era however despite the culpability of the people at the top of society in the aftermath of the banking crisis it's been the behavior of those people at the bottom of society that has been scrutinized that's been criticized and demonized ever since so one of the main ways in which ideological hegemony is maintained in society is through misdirection which is a term often used to describe magic where you have a form of deception in which the attention of an audience is focused on one thing in order to distract his attention from another and this infographic represents the concept of misdirection in action so we've got this massive problem of tax avoidance and tax evasion so this is the rich mainly not paying for things like schools and hospitals and other public services that we rely on as a society so rather than focusing on this big problem the media and the political class have created the illusion that this smaller problem a benefit fraud is what we should focus on in other words the demonization of people and benefits has the ideological function of distracting people from the much bigger problems such as tax avoidance and tax evasion




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