Bettie, "Class Dismissed?: Roseanne and the changing face of working-class iconography"

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Please post your discussion questions to Bettie below and use the following to guide your note-taking:

1. What does Bettie mean by the "longstanding, ideological representation of the US as a classless society" (126)? Why is this a problem for Bettie?

2. What does Bettie mean by "unmarked" when she discusses the categories of whiteness and maleness (126)? Why does this matter to media studies?

3. How does Bettie view "responsibility" in the representation of working class themes (131)? What, for her, would count as "responsible" representation as you understand it?

4. What is the ideological functioning of rhetoric of "the family" in debates over class and wages? How do empirical realities complicate this ideology? Why does this matter (132-134)?

5. How, for Bettie, are class and gender performed on Roseanne? (135-136)? How does Bettie view these arguments/performances as enacting a cultural politics (137)?

6. How is class racialized, according to Bettie? How does she unpack Roseanne's phrase "poor white trash" (139-140)? What does she mean, in this context, by "unmarked," naturalized, visible and invisible? What do you think?

8 Comments

The thing I found interesting about the reading was when Bettie offers the idea that sometimes there can be a "disparity between authorial intent and viewer interpretation" when talking about Rosanne and the audience reactions (142). She sights examples like a young girl liking it because she is "big like her grandma" and women liking her because she looks "real." My question is what happens when there is such a big disconnect between what the creator of the message wants you to focus on, and what the audience interprets because an idea is to naturalized to even be caught (working class in this case)? Would this affect possible advertising and possible target audiences due to conflicting message interpretations?

I found the expression of "hidden injuries" that Bettie uses on pg. 131 to be very interesting and a good representation of the classism that shows, like Roseanne, conveyed in the late 1990's. Even though the Connors seem to be content with their lives and accepting of the way things are, they still reveal their bitterness towards the middle class "elite" from time to time. It was more than just the extra money that the middle class earned, but also the power and authority they gained from their superior status. It represents the unspoken boundaries that the working class felt, and how it was hard to feel like they truly mattered and belonged in the working world. Roseanne is very outspoken and open about her class, even with the ongoing struggles. Do you think shows that portray this view on classism help or hurt the working class's appearance in society's eyes, as well as their own intrinsic motivation to succeed?

(4) Bettie describes the role of family as changing from the common "breadwinnner" husband household, to a dual "working class" family trying to get by. She talks about "pink collar" jobs that gave this viewpoint of women being seen as gendered but not as class subjects. Roseanne changed this standard because the main character had a voice, she was motivated to care for her children, and she wasn't afraid to try new jobs in order to care for her family. The family was dependent on the woman, and the woman was economically dependent on men. In other words, this "family system" relied on one another, which helped to change the standard stereotype perceived by Roseanne's viewers. I am curious as to why it is so rare to showcase a wealthy family in a sitcom and why it seems to be so common for working/middle class families to be the center of attention? I'd love to watch a rich family attend a gala event..

One interesting thing about the reading was how Bettie makes the connection between race/color and class when Roseanne says "We're poor white trash". She then later explains how this is assumed racial referent to whiteness and working class system. She writes "The phrase "poor white trash" alludes to the racist assumption that color and poverty and degenerate lifestyle "automatically" go together, so much so that when white folks are acting this way, their whiteness needs to be named" (140). I hear this term being overused the time nowadays. Do you agree with Bettie? What makes is it "okay" for our society to use such a term? Is it not offensive to say because "whiteness" is a fixed class system?

After having read this article, I just began thinking about the TV shows I grew up watching, and even the ones my parents watched as kids. It's crazy how the idealism portrayed in so many of these shows is similar. Shows like I love Lucy, Roseanne, the Cosby show, and many others portray how the stereotypical American family should function. Having a stay at home mom, and a working class husband. Obviously shows like this have definitely transformed over the last few years especially with shows like Modern Family. I wonder if the shows of the past that had the stereotypical idealisms did us any harm as far as what we think should indeed be the typical family?

As an avid TV watcher this article was very relevant for me. I liked the first question that our Heidi asked, why is this "long-standing, ideological representation of the U.S." a problem to Bettie? She makes it very clear in the next paragraph. Bettie tell us that the working class now consists "largely of women and men of color, and by white women" (126). My question is, if we continue to see these rises in jobs such as the ones Bettie describes, are their any TV shows on now a days that portray the "current" working class accurately? One that comes to mind for me is "2 broke girls." I know that both main characters are white, but most everyone else who works at the "urban" diner is of some other race. Is this somewhat racist? Or is it just an accurate depiction of the sort of people we see working low wage jobs now in this country?

By saying unmarked, Bettie is referring to the unspoken norms of whiteness and maleness inherent to the ways in which we have historically understood the working class in America, and further that class is something that we consider to be constructed, and thus we must consider the shift taking place the demographics of labor.This is important to media studies because the media will ultimately depend on creating and perpetuating class images that reflect the shift in dominant norms present within the class structure to remain a viable and profitable enterprise. Or, will it always be more profitable to perpetuate the unmarked norms of whiteness and maleness?

Something I found really interesting was that on page 127 when Roseanne Arnold talked about how the original writer of the show didn’t understand feminist theory. The idea of having a woman who was a main character but was not passive was something unheard of. I find it interesting how the show developed to what it was. The women who came to the book signing really enjoyed the character and show “Roseanne” because it was so real. I wonder how the people producing the show decided upon releasing this show with the huge amount of risk surrounding the main character and the “real” life style she and her family led.

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This page contains a single entry by zimme313 published on February 25, 2013 10:26 AM.

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