07Sep 2021 by
Read: Television Criticism (Victoria ODonnell, third edition) Chapter 2
Read: TVs Dwindling Middle Class(Morris, 2016): http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/01/magazine/tvs–dwindling–middle–class.html?_r=03.
Watch: Class Dismissed. Documentary
Pick any current or recent TV show that allows you to analyze class as its presented on that show.
Suggestions: a general audience shows like Modern Family, the Last Man Standing, All–American, The Ranch, the Conners. More biting and niche shows like Shameless. The Simpsons or another cartoon sitcom starring a working–class doofus dad character discussed in the documentary we watched this week. **** I pick Modern Family****
This week we watcha a 15–year–old documentary and a recently–written newspaper article on the ways class particularly the working and middle class is presented on TV. Both share the same general thesis: while American TV once presented somewhat more nuanced depictions of the working and middle class, during the last 30 years issues of the class have vanished from TV. Characters on TV have become vaguely upper-middle-class and dont outwardly worry about issues of work and money. If a character does address issues of money or work, it is a misrepresentation of lived realities. (The documentary is older, with some outdated information/statistics about American life. But it presents vivid documentation of the way class and consumer culture were represented on TV during its early decades. It shows us TV history so we can better assess TV present.)For this weeks discussion, I want you to base your blog post on the your choice viewing that you pick. Analyze the way class is presented on that show. Start by considering whether or not (and why or why not) your choice viewing supports the thesis presented by this weeks reading and documentary viewing. You can also address any other relevant points about a class that is present in the show you analyze, including:If/how finances are talked about.If/how work is talked about.What the shows set and props (including clothes, furniture, technology, etc.) say about class and wealth.How the shows presentation of class, wealth, and work compare to real life.
Does the network a show is created for (network TVversus cable channels, and streaming platforms versus regular TV) make the show more or less likely to accurately address issues of class? Why?Based on ODonnells chapter on the business of TV (particularly her discussion of the way advertisements and ratings drive the content we see on TV), why might we reason that issues of the class have disappeared from TV in recent years?If you choose a show that represents Black Americans: Do current TV shows, like the one you viewed this week, pastoralize life in the projects and living in poverty like the Black sitcoms discussed in the documentary did? If so, how are they similar to the Black sitcoms covered in the documentary? If not, what do they do differently?If you choose a show featuring Hispanic individuals, how is it similar to and different from The George Lopez Show, as discussed in the documentary?If you choose a show focusing on women: does it continue the pattern (as covered in the documentary) of women being shown inaccurately (as a happy stay–at–home wife in TVs early years, or as a middle class professional in TVs more recent history)? If not, how does it differ? If so, does it expand on those old depictions in any ways negatively or positively (or both)?If you choose a show about males and/or specifically working–class people: The documentary argues that in America there is a strong myth that everyone can achieve wealth, and if a person doesnt it is that individuals fault/responsibility. Therefore, the documentary argues, TV frames workers lack of advancements as a result of their own inadequacies (like poor work ethic and lack of intelligence), presenting TV tropes like the working–class–clown clashes with high culture and the male working–class buffoon as examples. How does your show reinforce or refute such tropes?
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