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WJEC AS Media Studies MS1 Representation of Class

Viki Walden | Friday March 21, 2014

Categories: A Level, Eduqas (WJEC) A Level, WJEC AS, WJEC AS Media Studies, Key Concepts, Audience, Ideology, Media Language, Narrative, Representation & Stereotyping, Hot Entries, Television, Reality TV

click on image to enlarge

Representation of Class (the Underclass)

Exploring representation of the “underclass” offers much opportunity for discussing a wide range of topics relevant to the WJEC AS specification including class, national and regional identity, and issues: poverty. You may also want to consider the broadcasting of the Channel 4 series Benefits Street as a media event. There is also scope for considering gender and ethnicity issues too – you might for example compare how the construction of femininity or ethnicity is defined by class distinctions.

Britain has always been known for its class system, beautifully parodied in the famous Two Ronnies and Stephen Fry sketch which illustrates the lower, middle and upper strata of British society through a physical metaphor about “looking up” and “looking down” at different people in society.

However the notion of an underclass suggests a sector of society which is so low, it sits outside the country’s recognised class structure. The people of the underclass are therefore stigmatised as lazy outcasts who do not want to participant or contribute. In reality, the issue that defines the underclass is poverty.

When we think about images of poverty, it is usually charity adverts which come to mind: images which appeal to an affluent Western audience to donate money to African countries.

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Charity adverts, such as the one above from WaterAid, often feature images of emaciated Black African children, shocking statistics, direct address and a call to action. The narrative of the adverts reads: sympathise with this innocent figure from a very different culture to yours (implying one were people do not have the opportunities you have), understand how he symbolises a great catastrophe which, by giving money, you can begin to repair. This narrative structure positions the audience as the hero in a quest to save the world. Such...

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