From Shameless to Little Britain, does drama negatively stereotype the poor?

Below is an article describing a study of ‘Little Britain’ that was carried out by the London School of Economics. Do you agree or disagree with this report.

A study by a London School of Economics academic said many of the show’s characters – from teenage mum Vicky Pollard to proud gay Daffyd – are stereotypes based on people’s dislike of others of a different class, sexuality, race or gender.

Researcher Deborah Finding branded the show as “the comedy equivalent of junk food”.

“It is clear that when ‘we’, the audience, are invited to laugh at ‘them’, the characters – we are laughing not only at the figures on screen but at entire groups of people whom they come to represent,” she said.

Little Britain does far more to promote racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism and classism than it does to satirise them – though it does do that from time to time.

“To claim that it is ironic is to miss the point that comedy constructed about the other – that which is different from us – involves the mocking of minority groups in a way that winds the clock back to the pre-alternative days of (controversial British comedian) Bernard Manning.”

In her study, Ms Finding analysed the show’s characters and found that their physical traits were used to project fears about homosexuals, the working class and minority groups.

She said that in laughing at Vicky Pollard – a fat, chain-smoking, single mother – audiences were expressing their fears and hatred of the working class.

Viewers saw Vicky, with her “stereotypical body”, as having the features of all working-class single mums, “feckless, stupid and promiscuous”, Ms Finding said.

“Even Daffyd, the self-proclaimed only gay in the village, is a character who connects the idea of being homosexual with being ridiculous and therefore relies on mainstream fears about gayness, despite the fact that Daffyd is the creation of comedian Matt Lucas – who is himself gay,” she said.

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As journalists join the dole line will reporting of poverty improve?

As the number of media professionals facing unexpected redundancy rises will the gap of experience between those who report on poverty and those who experience poverty decrease?
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Spectacle to re-interview residents of The Tower

Spectacle are planning to return to the infamous Tower on the Pepys Estate, as featured in the BBC documentary The Tower, to find out from residents what they thought of the programs representation of where they lived. We will be visiting the community centre on Monday night (9/02/09) so please come along and share your opinion with us.

Have you ever lived on the Pepys Estate?

What would you like to ask the makers of The Tower?

Do you think the The Tower is a good representation of the Pepys Estate?

For more clips from our Poverty and The Media project please visit our Archive

To find out more information about our Poverty and The Media project please visit our Project Page

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Depictions of Poverty: what happens when the film makers leave?

Rich Kid, Poor Kid, The Secret Millionaire, The Tower and Repossession, Repossession, Repossession are all programs that centre around ‘poor’ areas and attempt to explore social inequality through individual stories.

What happens to the individuals or areas in these programs when the film makers leave?

What are the consequences of putting peoples personal circumstances on television?

For more clips from our Poverty and The Media project please visit our Archive

To find out more information about our Poverty and The Media project please visit our Project Page

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Poverty and the Media Films Feedback

Below is some feedback from two events in London and Glasgow where clips of Spectacle’s Poverty and the Media Project were shown

Faces of Poverty: How do Images tell the Stories?: London
Spectacle film was really positive- people’s own voices and own directing etc. The film showed people who are knowledgeable commenting on things that mattered to them.
Alison Whyte: Mark Easton said he’s interviewed 100s of people like those in spectacle film. These people are not empowered like those on spectacle. There can be really bad examples of editing and stigmatising.

Tuesday 4 November 2008

Anne Marie-Smith: ‘Spiritual Poverty’ – very dangerous, causes lows and depression; Heart warming to hear this phrase on the Spectacle DVD
Problem of stereotypes. Judging people, by their image (e.g. gold chain, lipstick, nice clothes etc.)

Glenn Jenkins response to Secret Millionaire

Below is a short extract from one of Spectacle’s Poverty and the Media workshops on the Marsh Farm Estate. In this clip Glenn Jenkins, long-term community activist and part of Marsh Farm Out Reach, talks about the way television programs, such as Secret Millionaire, Big Brother and Jeremy Kyle,  treat poorer people.

Knocking Jeremy from his Pedestal

Guardian Journalist, Andrew Sparrow, has hit out at the Jeremy Kyle Show’s aggressive and self-righteous exploitation of guest’s varying manifestations of poverty.

The article, which uses research from Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s ‘Public Interest in Poverty Issues‘ project, considers the report’s assertions that the show is:

‘presenting the less well-off as “undeserving” objects of derision’

‘while the Jeremy Kyle Show presents itself as a programme about relationships, “it could be viewed as a rather brutal form of entertainment that is based on derision of the lower-working-class population”.’

‘A spokesman for the Jeremy Kyle show responded, “It is unfortunate that this report presents a one-dimensional view of our programme. The Jeremy Kyle Show does not seek to ‘deride’ any particular social class or portray any group of people as ‘undeserving objects’. On the contrary, it focuses on real people with real problems addressing conflict in their lives, problems which reflect genuine issues within society, and seeks to help them achieve a resolution. We do this both within the programmes and with the support of an aftercare team comprised of qualified mental health nurses and a psychotherapist.”‘

It seems interesting to me that a report that engaged experts from so many fields would come to such a conclusive, singular conclusion without it being warranted.

Does the fact that guests aren’t actively steered towards their appearance and actions prior to the the show prove the producers good intent…

and the presence of professional care following the show demonstrate that that Jeremy’s dressing down of guests, before a studio and large television audience, is a nothing more than Tough Love?

Jeremy Kyle Show ‘undermines anti-poverty efforts’, says thinktank
-Andrew Sparrow,,Wednesday 10 September 2008

Participation in the Media: People with experience of Poverty

Spectacle has been commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to produce a DVD on Poverty and Participation in the Media. The DVD will be produced in Spectacle video workshop situations working with people with experience of poverty.

Media content will explore questions such as:
– How is UK poverty depicted in the media – TV, radio, press, online. What are good examples and what are not? Why?
– How would participants like to see their lives and situations depicted in the media? How could these be made into films and videos that will engage audiences?
– What are the stories about poverty that need to be told to a UK public that are not being told now? How could these be told engagingly? Why do these need to be told?
– How does it feel to share experiences of living on a low income to a journalist and/or on film?
– What might people worry about if asked to share their views on poverty in the media? How can their worries be reduced?
– What experience of new media do people have e.g. social networking sites, use of mobiles, blogging? What opportunities do these offer for telling the stories of life on a low income in the UK? Who would these reach?

If you are interested to participate in the workshops please use the Spectacle contact form or leave a comment here.

Co-Author this blog?

If you want to contribute to this blog on the subject of Poverty and the Media please contact Spectacle and we will register you as an editor or leave a comment.