Documentary Viewing

Discussion Prompts:
This week we watched a 10-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 more nuanced depictions of the working and middle class, during the last 25 years issues of class have vanished from TV.
Characters on TV have become a vaguely upper-middle-class, and don’t outwardly worry about issues of work and money.
For this week’s 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 week’s reading and documentary viewing. You can also address any other relevant points about class that are present in the show you analyze, including:

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• If/how finances are talked about.
• If/how work is talked about.
• What the show’s set and props (including clothes, furniture, technology, etc.) say about
class and wealth.
• How the show’s presentation of class, wealth, and work compare to “real life.”
• Does the network a show is created for (network TV verses cable channels, and streaming platforms verse regular TV) make the show more or less likely to accurately address issues of class? Why?
• Based on O’Donnell’s 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 class have disappeared from TV in recent years?

Homework For You

Read: TV’s Dwindling Middle Class:
Read: O’Donnell Chapter 2
Watch: Your choice viewing. Pick any recent TV show that
allows you to analyze class as it’s presented on that show.
(Suggestions: a general-audience sitcom like Modern Family,
Last Man Standing, The Conners or The Middle. More biting
and niche shows like Shameless.)

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