Teaching Working Class representations

One of my favorite topics to teach is working class representations in the media. Although over 15 years old, Bettie’s article about Roseanne still resonates with students. I pair this reading with a shorter piece about working class male representation (links below).

Bettie, 1995, “Class Dismissed? Roseanne and the Changing Face of Working-Class Iconography”

Butsch, 2003, “Ralph, Fred, Archie and Homer: Why television keeps re-creating the white male working class buffoon” http://www.rider.edu/files/butsch_grc_media.pdf 


In class, I screen “The Dark Ages,” Season 5 ep. 3 of Roseanne:  http://www.tv-links.eu/tv-shows/Roseanne_574/season_5/episode_3/

This episode is a great example of what Roseanne did for the TV industry and its audience in the 1990s. It also shows an emotional, working class male (Dan Connor), which helps explore the Butsch reading.

While screening, I give students these DQs for “The Dark Ages.” These discussion questions apply Bettie’s arguments and terminology. Students who do not read for class would not be able to accurately answer some of these questions.

I try to focus some of the discussion on the political economy elements of working class representations. So, as a class, we often talk about why shows about struggling families are not popular with advertisers.

During this day in class I also like to make a student-produced list of working class representations in the media. This list is simply written on the chalkboard.  Students usually cannot come up with very much. Friday Night Lights may be the strongest example as of late, an excellent example to use in class if you want a more current media text.

Overall, students really like this day in class and I enjoy being able to screen a one-of-a-kind media text that many of my students are not familiar with.


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