Media representations of social class
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Media representations of social class. The Monarchy. Rare to see any criticism of the monarchy, or the individuals within it, from the mass media – according to Nairn. In other words, the media is pro-monarchy & tends to portray them in favourable ways.

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Media representations of social class

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Media representations of social class

The Monarchy

  • Rare to see any criticism of the monarchy, or the individuals within it, from the mass media – according to Nairn.

  • In other words, the media is pro-monarchy & tends to portray them in favourable ways.

  • There is national obsession with the ‘Royal Family’, with the media positively focusing on every trivial aspect of their lives.

  • For example, the BBC & ITV even have ‘royal correspondents’.

  • Diana’s marriage to Charles is one particular event which the media gave great attention to; William (pin-up prince) & Harry (hero prince) regularly feature on the covers of glossy magazines.

  • It was only with the Queen’s handling of Diana’s death that she began to receive some media criticism.

  • The media coverage of the Queen’s Jubilee in 2002 reinforced the idea of the Queen as epitomising British national identity.

  • Harry & Charles accused of casual racism in 2009, which the media quickly forgave & diffused.

  • Prince's apology for racist term

  • Prince Harry has been forced to apologise for his behaviour in the past

  • Prince Harry has apologised for using offensive language to describe a Pakistani member of his army platoon.

  • The News of the World has published a video diary in which the prince calls one of his then Sandhurst colleagues a "Paki" in his commentary.

  • St James's Palace said he had used the term three years ago as a nickname about a friend and without any malice.

  • The prince filmed parts of the video and in another clip, he is heard calling another cadet a "raghead".

  • The prince had to apologise in 2005 for wearing a swastika armband to a party, which offended many Jewish people.

The Upper Class

  • Popular films & tv drama portray this social group in a nostalgic way, as representing an important aspect of British life.

  • The ruling elite often characterised as being honourable with good breeding.

  • The media rarely portray the upper classes in a negative light, or draw attention to inequalities in wealth or pay.

  • Hierarchy & wealth are actually celebrated, the media almost continuing the myth that Britain is a meritocratic society & that these people are deserving of their position in society.

The celebrity upper class

  • The media celebrate celebrity culture & its excesses.

  • Newman explains the media devotes much time to examining the lifestyles of the celebrities. Examples include the spreads done in ‘Hello’ at a celeb’s wedding or birth of a new child.

  • Advertisements overfocus on luxury cars, luxury holidays that only the wealthy can afford.

  • There are even magazines that focus exclusively on upper class leisure pursuits; ‘Country Life’ & ‘Tatler’.

  • Newman also notes an enormous time is spent in the print & broadcast media on business & stock market information, again something which is of more concern to the upper classes – not of interest to ordinary working people.

The middle classes

  • The middle classes are overrepresented on tv. In most dramas, middle class families are dominant (not in soap operas).

  • Some major British newspapers (Daily Mail, daily Telegraph) are aimed at the middle classes & their consumption patterns (garden design, home improvements).

  • Many stories focus on how the middle classes are concerned about the decline in moral values among other social groups.

  • Many of the experts in the media are often middle class.

The working classes

  • Popular working class characters

  • According to Newman, there are very few comedies, films or television drama that focus on the everyday lives of the working class.

  • When they are featured, it is often in an unflattering or pitying manner. Can you think of examples?

  • Newman says when the news focuses on the working class, it is generally to label them as a problem. Common stories focus on them as welfare cheats or criminals, with working class youths particularly given a tough scrutiny. This often leads to moral panics.

  • The general content of w/c papers like The Sun & The Star are focused on trivial issues, with little reference to inequalities.

  • Reporting of unemployment, poverty & single parenthood (all of which most affect the w/c) tends to make out it their own fault – rather than a consequence of government policy.

Positive representations of the working class

  • Films like ‘The Full Monty’ & ‘Brassed Off’ have been very successful & have portrayed working class life & problems in a dignified & supportive way. Issues such as inequality have also been addressed within the context of these films.

The Underclass

  • Newman argues that the news media tends to portray poverty & the underclass in a negative & stereotypical way.

  • Poverty often portrayed via the stats!

  • The media has also been to the forefront of using terms like ‘chav’ to imply their poverty is undignified.

  • Hayward & Yar argue the label ‘chav’ is now used by papers & websites as a term for young poor people.

  • Lawler says the term is a sign of disgust & contempt for a certain group of people & their situation.

The most famous chav of them all!

  • Stereotypical images of Vicky Pollard includes the wearing of tracksuits, bling, bad attitude & low intelligence.

  • Generally the underclass is portrayed by the media as consisting of irresponsible parents with ‘out of control’ children, living in council housing, relying on welfare benefits & probably indulging in criminal activities.

  • Webster says such media representations send out the message these people are social scum.

  • Even respectable papers, like The Sunday Times, were using terms like NEET (not in education, employment or training) when discussing antisocial youth.

  • What does this term imply?

What message does Shameless send out about poverty & the underclass?

  • The Jeremy Kyle Show is a British version of the Jerry Springer Show where poverty & unfortunate situations are treated as an aspect of entertainment.


  • Media representations of the powerful (upper & middle classes) tend to be more positive than the working classes & poor.

  • What can be then say about the media?

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