In “Social Class and Family On Screen: Do Prime-Time Television Series ‘Create’ Images of Family in Turkey?”, Uğur Zeynep Güven discusses some general truths of how television constructs social class and families on screen. One of these general truths is that television often portrays working class families as happier than upper-class families, thereby reinforcing the harmful assumption that class difference is a fundamental difference, and that striving to escape one’s social class position is not only unnecessary, but dangerous. This idea is hammered home by familiar social class stereotypes which attempt to equate the television world with the real world, despite blaring differences. In season 7, episode 14 of The Simpsons (“Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield“), for example, Marge finds a Chanel suit at a discount store and proceeds to wear it around town, prompting immediate changes in her life and personality. She is invited to join a snooty country club and begins to alter her suit to make it look like multiple outfits. In her attempts to fit in with the snobby, wealthy crowd of the upper-class, Marge finds less time to spend with her family and begins to adopt a snooty attitude herself, which comes as an unpleasant surprise to the rest of her family. Once she realizes that she has been behaving badly, Marge decides to go back to her normal, everyday life, where she is the happiest.
This episode is the perfect example of how television tends to gloss over the realities of class struggle, and presents the pursuit of higher social ambitions as something to be avoided at all costs.
STUDENTS: Using Güven’s ideas, present and discuss a Turkish television show (or a television show popular in your home country) which you believe either reinforces or challenges familiar stereotypes concerning TV families and social class. Provide a brief analysis.