Ideologies are ideas presented as truths and as White mentions in terms of TV, ‘the ideological perspective assumes that television offers a particular construction of the world rather than a universal truth’ (1992, p. 172). Television programmes bring along a certain set of definitions, underlying assumptions, standards of performance and norms. These ideological methods are generally seen as ‘universal’ and aid in naturalising the events and stories we see on television (White, 1992).From a Marxist position you would argue that as the dominant bourgeoisie class owns and operate the television industry, their ideologies and beliefs are reflected in the industry and therefore all viewers are buying into these ideas that are represented as universal truths. As mentioned within the title, what this research aims to investigate is the way in which the television drama Shameless goes against the dominant (mostly negative) stereotypes of the working class. In order to carry this out, first we will be taking a look at theoretical work from secondary sources on representations of class, family and gender.
This should provide us with the basic knowledge and foundations to which we could then critically analyse episodes (in this case two episodes) of the British drama series Shameless. We will be taking a close look at characters and analysing them against their function within the family unit. Not only will we be seeing how families go against dominant representations but also how they might offer something new. At this point, it would be worthwhile mentioning what is meant by the term ‘working class’. ‘Class divisions are established based on who owns and controls the means of production and who labours within it’ (White, 1992, p.164). In other words social class is determined largely by occupation and the working class are identified by their dependence upon manual labour. The working class are usually interpreted as people who earn very little money for long hard work or in some cases people who would live off benefits.
The people who were categorised into this class are considered to be at the bottom of the capitalist system who don’t own any means to production. Employees’ (working class) earnings never depended simply upon the prevailing wage rate; they depended upon the hours that workers were able, and willing, to work.It is also easy to fall into the error that wage earnings comprised working people’s sole source of income. Wage earnings were often supplemented, and sometimes replaced, by earnings from non-wage labour such as begging, petty crime and penny capitalism; by benefits from mutual insurance schemes; as well as by grants from a range of welfare agencies (Benson, 1989, p. 40). On a different perspective, taking a Marxist approach on theories related to class would argue that although initial ideas on working class society wouldn’t head in this direction, the working class were responsible for creating the wealth of society.
In this case the working class are seen as the backbone of society physically growing food, crafting furniture, producing consumer items and selling their labour power for wages. Theory behind Class, Gender & Family Representation Now we have covered some of the basics lets progress by taking a look at some theoretical work on how class, family and gender are represented on television in general. This in turn will then help us to take a close look at and critically analyse Paul Abbott’s TV drama Shameless.The working class are often portrayed in television, especially in reality television and even television programmes, dramas and serials that aim to depict and portray reality. As David Morley mentions, ‘reality television offers a voyeuristic set of ‘spectacles of shame’ involving the display and exposure of the inadequacies of ‘trashy’ people and their lifestyles in the form of an entertainment genre’ (2009, p. 491).This comedic representation of the incompetent poor seems to be so popular on contemporary British TV and this society that are portrayed so much on British TV have parallels to what Marx had to say about their ancestors as Morley (2009) goes on to mention.
Marx made a clear distinction between the ‘trashy’ or has he called the ‘lumpen’ working class and what he called the ‘proletariat proper’, Just as reality television or reality like television programmes make a clear distinction between the ‘unruly poor and the ‘respectable’ members of society.Morley then continues by adding that; Marx was as every bit as disparaging as reality television can be in his characterisations of the people in this problematic category – the ‘contemptible and irrational mob’ who are to be strictly differentiated for the ‘respectable masses’. Thus, he variously describes them as the ‘slum proletariat.
.. the outcast, degenerate and submerged elements of the population.
.. the passive putrefaction of the lowest strata of the old society…
the human refuse of all classes…the swindlers, confidence tricksters, rag and bone merchants, vagabonds, gamblers, criminals, prostitutes and tricksters’ (2009, p. 498). From this we can see that Marx, in the same way as television, found it easy and fine to make moral judgements on the part of society that fit into this class.
Moving on and now taking a look at gender, you can relate some of the aspects of its representation on television with US programming. Television played a big part in creating a particular construct on the world and gender in particular.