Tuesday, June 13, 2006

No More Middle Class

TV shows, and in larger part dramas, show very few middle class families.  Comedies slip in their occasional poor family such as Rosanne, The Simpsons, Married with Children, and, most recently, My Name is Earl.  The middle class family is strangely missing.  

My first thought on this is that TV is a place for fantasies.  A place to escape everyday life.  Middle class life is boring and wouldn't make a good comedy.  Middle class people's lives don't lend themselves to drama either.  In comedy, the poor use their poverty as a comic aid.  The situations are increased by the poverty.  "Jim is taking Sue to the prom, where will he get the money and will he pick her up on his bicycle."  Dramas are almost exclusively written with rich characters.  You have to have money to have the free time to have affairs with 7 different weapon at the same time, and the thought of a character losing everything and becoming *gasp* middle class is a source of tension. 

I know what you are thinking.  "Things happen to middle class families too." Sure they do!  Fathers have affairs, beat their wives, and daughters get pregnant.  This doesn't work as drama though.  The viewer can't console themselves with the fact that Mary Beth can leave John after he pushed her down the stairs, because Mary Beth would cease being middle class and become poor.  That is not drama, it is depressing. 

Comedy will not work on middle class the same way it does on the poor.  When the poor are out of money it causes a situation.  The middle class can just cancel cable or they may have to drop a magazine subscription.  

So in conclusion middle class people aren't funny and the beating of spouses and parents living double lives as drug addicts is a little to hard edged for the dramas.  Middle class families would make good horror movie families though and usually do.  Most serial killers are from the middle class after all.  In TV the rich will just get richer, the poor will stay at a comfortable level of poverty for the viewers, and the middle class will fade away.

Mary and Nick are responsible for spawning this topic into my head.


Anonymous said...

hmmm, the middle class are great for horror movies. interesting observation. parallels your theory that the public would consider exposing real life problems as "too depressing" and therefore not appropriate for the world of TV. I guess the media's just like the current political powers- the only good middle class is a dead middle class and if you're forced to expose the pressures they face, just ignore them and re-direct attention to the economic polars.
No one will notice, right?

Nicky Fingaz said...

I was one of the folks who started this subject, so it’s my fault I guess. I was struck by the lack of middle class dramas. Although actually I would consider it working class. To me the middle class is made of doctors, lawyers, mid-level managers, what would typically be called upper middle class, or lower upper class. Everyone else I consider working class. Which sometimes overlaps with the poor. But that’s all a semantic diversion. Anyhoo…

Now I agree some of the reason for this missing thing is good old escapism, but my gut tells me there is something else to it, I dunno quite what. Perhaps the producers of TV are too rich to relate to working class folks and no longer know what regular people go through. And since they are out of touch, how can they think of a good story representing the middle class? Or perhaps a good working class drama would raise up too many political issues for the PTBs liking.

I think there is plenty of an audience for a working class drama. I’m not talking a tragedy-fest, but ups downs and inbetweens. A lil comedy and a lil drama mixed up in one show, kinda like real life. I’m not interested in creating a working class OC, because its soap operatic malarkey. I might watch it, if it was well written. But I’m usually an entertainment extremist – cartoons/scifi/fantasy for escape, and CSPAN & documentary channels for real life. I don’t do the middle much at all.

I think it can be done, but I haven’t fully figured out why it isn’t yet. Although I agree escapism is probably the largest factor.