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Representation of Social Class in American TV Dramas

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Ana-Maria Huluban

on 26 January 2016

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Transcript of Representation of Social Class in American TV Dramas

Social Class in American TV Dramas
Define Social Class
A division of society based on social and economic status
Any particular level in such a hierarchy
A group of people of similar status
Is affected by income, wealth, power, occupation, education, race, and ethnicity.
The Four Common Social Classes
Upper Class
Middle Class
Working Class
Lower Class
Stereotypes of the Upper Class
Extremely Wealthy
Expensive education for their children
Expensive material items
"Picture perfect families"
Upper Class
Reside above both the working class and middle class of a social hierarchy
Have higher levels of disposable income
Controls a disproportionately large amount of the overall wealth
Higher levels of economic success (Income and education)
Greater say in the political realm/government
Have the highest social rank
What is Social Class?
Media Examples of the Upper Class
Anderson Cooper- Came from a wealthy background but works hard as a journalist on CNN and now has his own TV show. Did not wish to inherit his parents money in order to stay humble. He is well-educated and grounded. He can be represented as upper class because he is well educated, from Yale, and came from old money, the Vanderbilt fortune, and he is really well-known in his field.
The Great Gatsby(1974)- Nick Carraway, a middle-class man, finds himself obsessed with his new neighbor, Jay Gatsby. Jay Gatsby has a very mysterious past that is always questioned and lives a very lavish lifestyle. He hosts huge parties for everyone to attend in his incredible mansion. The film shows the life of excess lived by the elite upper class through he eyes of an average middle class man.
Keeping up with the Kardashians
“doing nothing but be famous”


What aspects make following the lives of the Kardashians interesting to a television audience? What makes them popular?

How would you describe the Kardashians’ lifestyle? In what ways do you or don’t you relate to their lives?
Middle Class
Average status, income, education
Professional and business workers including their families
No one can agree exactly on a proper definition for the Middle Class
Over half the world's population belongs to the Middle Class
Stereotypes of the Middle Class
Financially stable
Some extra money on the side
Medium sized homes
Work that requires a degree
The Middle
It is believed that the middle class is disappearing
Modern Family
Modern Family(2009-)
- This show is supposed to be about the average American family but it is really "Hollywood's" exaggerated version of what a normal family looks like today. The family has a beautiful home and enough disposable income to buy expensive things and throw extravagant parties. Instead of showing a family with an average income, they chose to show something that is more entertaining to viewers.
youtube video
Lower Class
Lowest social rank
Low income and education
Unemployed or does not make a lot of money
Similar to working class with less job security
Stereotypes of the Lower Class
Poorly educated or school drop-outs
Live in high crime areas
Dependent on government's money
Unpleasant jobs
"White trash"
Shameless (2011-)
youtube clip freedom writers
Working Class
The social group consisting of people who are employed for wages, especially in manual or industrial work
The working classes do what the system sets out for them
Unskilled and semiskilled laborers and their families.
Hourly wages
Also known as lower-middle class
Stereotypes of the Working Class
High-school education or below
Unemployed or always looking for work
Blue-collar jobs-
Manufacturing, retail sales, or food service
Always trying to make ends meet
Working Class in the News and the Media
TV is main source of entertainment
Roseanne(1988)- Roseanne and her husband are both average blue-collar workers. The wife has many jobs including plastics factory, beauty salon, waitress and more. What made this show successful was the social realism. Both Roseanne and Dan are overweight and their kids are far from perfect. This show shows just how difficult it is to make ends meet in a working class home.
Lesson Objectives
the definitions of “social class”, the classifications that exist in the American society based on income and the common views and issues regarding the representation in media of members from all social classes.
that the learned technical visual elements create specific representations of individuals, groups, events or places and help to articulate specific messages and values that have social significance.
analyse how members of various social classes are represented in a given video extract.

Roseanne Video
Working Class (2011)
CMT cancelled Working Class after only one season (12 ep.) due to low ratings.
What are the different stereotypes associated with the upper class?
What are the different stereotypes associated with the middle class?
What are the different stereotypes associated with the working class?
What are the different stereotypes associated with the lower class?
The Middle
(2009– )
The term
"American Dream"
first was used by the
American historian James Truslow Adams
in his book "The Epic of America" published in 1931. At that time the United States were suffering under the Great Depression. Adams used the term to describe the complex beliefs, religious promises and political and social expectations.
"life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement" regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. (Internet stars?)
The series follows Carli Mitchell (Melissa Peterman), a single mom from a rough and tumble background, trying to give her three kids a better life by moving them to an upscale suburb. She quickly finds that making the transition to “the good life” is harder than she thought.
Gilmore Girls
upper class vs. upper-middle class
The series depicts the dysfunctional family of Frank Gallagher, a single father of six children. While he spends his days drunk, his kids learn to take care of themselves.
Examples of American TV Dramas which show representations of class :

The Wire
Game of Thrones
Gilmore Girls
has Lorelai and Rory as somewhat lower class, although the grand parents are very rich as are Chilton/Yale classmates.
Family Guy
Lois comes from the upper class and Peter doesn't. Less pronounced but somewhat similar with
The Simpsons
Fresh Prince of Bel Air
was all about class differences between Will Smith and his richer relatives.
after this class you will be able to:
Now let's analyse this together:
Shameless US - Fiona finds out about the money
Season 2, Episode 10: A Great Cause.
Shameless is an American comedy-drama series adapted by John Wells based upon the British series of the same name. Produced by Showtime
(occasionally abbreviated as "SHO")

- is an American premium cable and satellite television network that serves as the flagship service of the Showtime Networks subsidiary of CBS Corporation, which also owns sister services The Movie Channel and Flix. Showtime's programming primarily includes theatrically released motion pictures and original television series, along with boxing and mixed martial arts matches, occasional stand-up comedy specials and made-for-TV movies.
full list of TV series aired on Showtime: http://www.sho.com/sho/series
Popular TV series on Showtime: Shameless, Dexter and the upcoming in 2017, Twin Peaks.
Camera shots, angle, movement and composition
income vs wealth
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