Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Class? Class? CLASS!

So I'm watching a show on Free Speech TV called "Class Dismissed!"

Ever experience the feeling that you've been marginally aware of something, never could put your finger on it, and suddenly someone smacks you across the head and says, "Here! Take a look at this!"

Go scan the prime time schedule tonight, or any night. Look at the dramas, the sitcoms, the "reality" shows. Count how many shows there are...let's say there's 80 channels on your cable (or DISH Network) system. Three hours of programming from 8 to 11, and let's say that four shows occupy those three hours. So we're talking about 320 shows.

Question: How many of those shows are about working class people? Two? Three? How many of those shows that feature the working class talk about the problems of being working class? None? One?

How many of those shows are about a Hispanic working class family living in an apartment in the barrio? Or a black urban working class family? Or a working class single mother? Or even a white working class family, living in a multigenerational household, waiting for a pair of parents to die so they can scrape together enough of a nest egg to put down some money on a shabby shack way out in the suburbs (or worse, in an inner city neighborhood that is in the sticks)? We can be sure they exist, but if we don't see them on TV, do they?

Show me a program with a working class gay man or lesbian. A plumber. A carpenter. Yet, they must exist.

Show me a program where mom has to work two jobs to put clothes on the back of her kids. Yet, we know they exist.

Finished? Now take a look around your neighborhood and your community. Do nearly 100% of your neighbors live in two-story center-stair colonials? Are nearly 100% of them white? Straight? Two parent families?

Now imagine being a working class citizen watching that Great Pacifier, American television. Imagine how he or she must feel seeing all these people who deal with problems that while they may share, don't even begin to cover the problems that 80% of the people in this country have to deal with: will I be able to save enough from my next paycheck to buy food? Can I afford the rent?

Our perceptions of our society are heavily coloured by what we see on TV. We normalize what isn't normal. We see a black family (rarely) as having just made it into the American dream, making enough to deal with home repairs and where to go on vacation. How many middle class black families do YOU know? And how many poor black families do you NOT know?

The vast majority of poor Americans are white. Other than baring their tits on Jerry Springer or being hustled into the back of a police car on Cops, when was the last time you saw a poor white American on television?

We mock these "out-normal" groups on television, sure. We diminish them, and feel superior to them because in truth, we don't get a dose of truth on television.

And in truth, it is we who are mocked and we who are diminished.

And we, who are inferior. Remember that the next time you tune in "American Idol".

Update Someone pointed out to me that TV is an escape, who wants to see their lives mirrored on TV when life is that miserable.

Sure. I can buy that argument. But, these shows were escapist as well:

- All In The Family

- Good Times

- Julia

- Roseanne

- The Honeymooners

- The Flintstones

- The Waltons

See? It can be done, and done very well, too.