Julie 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 questions to guide your note-taking:

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

How do race and gender intersect with Bettie's understanding of working class?

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

What does she mean by "postindustrial labor" (126)? What changes in the organization of work does Bettie insist that we pay attention to (132-133)? Why is this relevant to media studies?

What does Bettie believe are the biases in class analysis?

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?

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)?

How does Bettie understand Roseanne Barr's claim that class is a cultural identity (134-135)?

What are the arguments that Roseanne makes about class and gender identity, or, how are class and gender performed on Roseanne? (135-136)? How does Bettie view these arguments/performances as enacting a cultural politics (137)? What do you think of this argument? Are there ways in which we can see shows like "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" as also enacting a cultural politics that challenges dominant meanings?
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?

How does Bettie address the question of polysemy on pages 141-142? What is at stake in the multiple meanings viewers can decode in Roseanne?

In your view, what are the possibilities and limitations of shows like Roseanne? What other shows might we analyze in the manner put forth by Bettie?

13 Comments

Rosanne Arnold said herself that she wanted to create a more realistic character of the working class mother. Rosanne is the polar opposite of the Leave it to Beaver mom or even more so of the mom on the Huxtables. Though, I wonder how realistic her character is. The writer of the article said she interviewed "Rosanne" fans at a book signing and they all said they love the show because it is "real". So I wonder, if Rosanne is a realistic working class and she is an bad mother to her kids, does that mean that all working class mothers are bad? Is that what the show is portraying of working class motherhood?

I found the fact analysis of sitcoms on page 109 of the course pack and 129 of the article to be very interesting. Bettie took 35 sitcoms and analyzed if they were working class families, white or black, or had a woman as a main character. Only 8 out of 35 shows had families that could be classified as working class, 4 families were white and 4 were black. Also 6 shows focused around women and 4 of these used working class women. I found these ratios to be very interesting. Why do you think this is what networks show? Is there any reason the percentage of working class women is so much higher than working class men?

It is evident that we are more likely to see acts of buffoonery evolve from working class families on television. Many of which focus on the provider of the show. In other words, the head of the household is more often than not being portrayed as a less serious, sort of unbelievable role model. To me it seems that media likes to pick on lower class families and sort of portray their naiveté or ignorance, for lack of a better term solely based on where they stand in the ranks of the rest of society. You can look at shows, like The Cosby Show that involves a more upper-middle class, still get a good laugh, because it is the kids more often than not that are acting silly, and it takes the parents, Cliff and Claire Huxtable to point out the silliness in their children’s behavior. My question to you is, how accurate is this a reflection of popular culture in the real world? Better yet, to what extent is the media accurate in these portrayals and if it is offensive to some extent, why? Can’t we, as viewers, just get a good laugh from watching these characters on screen knowing that it is just television and that people in the real world are more serious/in control with their lives? Would people of similar class in real life be offended if at all?

The reading suggests that working class families are tied with arguments, disagreements and other unpleasant attitudes, while still caring for each other. Media implicitly links these characteristics to working class families. But realistically, don't you think that these types of behaviors can be associated with any level of class?

There were a lot interesting points in this article I plan to comment on in my blog this week but a couple big things I wanted to think about are:
In an episode, it is stated that Roseanne makes a comment about them actually being white trash. Is this a good way to portray the working class? IS this seen as a joke, or does this help to shape people's view of the working class, with or without them cognitively processing it?
And when people say the show reminds them "of real life," to what extent? We all know that the exact scenarios may be similar to real life, can it be just classified as real life? When I think of real life I think about people watching TV, doing homework, and other menial chores. I never think of grand excursions and crazy work scenarios as being part of my normal everyday life.

I am actually writing my autobiographical paper on how Roseanne was a positive influence in my home growing up. I believe that Roseanne is the closest portrayal of the avg. american home during its time on the air. I think that while poking fun at the "poor white trash" mentality they also tackle so many controversial topics in a very responsible manner, and that is just unheard in that time. I really thought Roseanne made a very smart remark, "In my show, the Woman is no longer a victim, but in control of her own mind. I wanted to make family sitcoms as we know them obsolete". I find this to be very true, as I have compared Roseanne to shows like Full house and the Cosby Show, and have come to the realization that these shows just don't do justice to the real average american family. My question is what show can we look at today that shows the average american family of today now that we are almost 20 years removed from the Roseanne era?

Media want to show us what they their utopia, and tell us dream. However, it looks different with reality, and they seems like it had something up your sleeve! Media people make people having stereo type, and make them thinking uniformly. For this reason people are changing to do not trust media. If people working in media try to control TV viewers, the viewers cannot watch the TV shows anymore. Human beings try to change the world after they have any authority. Someone try to change the world after their status is changed isn’t it nonsense? How odd it is?

Roseanne addressed the issue of class in America. Roseanne did not simply address the issue of class generally, but the show mainly focused on around the working class and portrayed the difficulties that accompany such a lifestyle. (especially women who are working class) the sitcom represented the 'hidden injuries' of class through the media and the stories in the show often depicted the unspoken class boundary work that is a part of everyday interaction..the viewers would influence their forming value toward 'class' in reality through watching working class woman in show, on television... how this depicting working class woman through media influence viewers values?

Julie Bettie, "Class Dismissed” was an interesting article that explored how class, specifically the “working-class” has been depicted in American television. She uses the show Roseanne to reveal the working-class themes that had been over shadowed by middle-class sitcoms. My question is what are the consequences of shows, such as Roseanne, that look down upon the middle class and mock them? Wouldn’t shows like Beaver to Cleaver, that Roseanne poked fun at, be a lifestyle that families look up to, and inspire them to pursue the American Dream? This article was written in 1995, and I have to say that TV shows since then have depicted women in a much more suitable light. For example “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Sex and the City” are modern day TV shows that depict women taking on high power jobs, while still dealing with feminist issues in what some would say a masculine dominated culture. I would have to think that shows like Beaver to Cleaver gave rise to shows such as the ones that have empowered women today. “Roseanne” seems to be a show that is only trying to normalize a working-class women’s lifestyle in which she has to accept and embrace it as Rosanne did herself.

In this reading, it discusses the notion that working class families were portrayed more on television during the mid-fifties, early seventies, and late eighties. They bring up the prevalence of a new-working class in the nineties. I would suggest that there probably hasn't been a resurgence of shows that feature the working class since then. Would you agree or disagree? Do you think forms of media that glorify wealth take away from the family values brought forth in working class sitcoms? How do the values change when a wealthy family focused television program such as "keeping up with the kardashians" is compared with a working class family focused program such as "Roseanne"? Can you think of better examples to prove your point?

The article made me think about how television shows have started to really resemble actual families. My family is very similar to some shows, My family likes to watch television we are one of the families that would use it as family time, but would also talk while watching the television. The article made me wonder how much of an impact the shows had on my family. And if the shows then had an impact of my family, what about the shows now? The article very relevant to the older sitcoms like Roseanne, and others that showed a middle class family and the accepted family roles. Shows now are not all about middle class families many shows are more dramatic and show much more violence. The roles of the families in the shows are also not a "typical" middle class family. Even shows on ABC family, that are aimed toward families do not show happy funny families. Shows like "Revenge" about a girl getting back at others for what they did to her father, or "Switched at Birth" about to families that had their daughters switched in the hospital but now are trying to live together. These do not show the middle class like they use to. So if television can have an impact on one family like mine that shows similar traits to the shows we watched, what kind of traits are the shows we watch now will start to show in young families that watch them.

After reading the article I found myself thinking about my favorite show Roseanne. I love the dynamic between Roseanne and Dan. They both constantly bicker and fight and they both have "working class" jobs. I like Roseanne's character because she doesn't fit the norm of a typical woman. She constantly talks back to people and sticks up for herself. Do you think that Roseanne properly portrays a women in America or does she portray the type of woman some females want to be? The article also brought up an interesting point of why people watch the show. They say because it is real life. DO you think that the show is real life? Does the show properly portray a working class family?

I am happy that Bettie made sure to make note that white-collar jobs referred to white males. I also thought it was interesting that she looked at a lead female position. My question does not particularly pertain to this article, but it is: The shows that were mentioned in this article that were about black working class people, I've never heard of. The shows I do know about black families are shows like The Cosby Show or Moving on Up..shows where the families are very well off. Why, do you think, the shows with black working class families are less popular (not showed on Nick at Night) than those with wealthier black families, but shows like Roseanne and All in the Family are ?

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This page contains a single entry by zimme313 published on October 8, 2012 5:24 PM.

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