On 26th October 2016, the Great British Bake Off (GBBO) finally came to an end on the BBC. In its seven series, the show has become a national institution, credited with the sharp rise of the popularity of home baking in the UK. In this guest blog, Laura Clancy discusses the significance of the inclusion of the royal family in the 2016 finale, and how this can be interpreted as a cultural crafting of nationhood.
What are some of the first ideas about social class that children are exposed to? For many children, movies provide early ideas about class inequality. About one third of young children watch a movie every day and many watch the same movies repeatedly. Children tend to grow up in neighborhoods, schools, and families that are all of one class, so movies offer children a key glimpse into a social class that is not their own. In a recent article in the Journal of Poverty, Jessi Streib, Miryea Ayala and Colleen Wixted present findings from their analysis how class is portrayed in children’s movies. As Jessi discusses in this guest blog post, their analysis illustrates that children’s movies provide a consistent and worrying message: that social class inequality is benign.
As the CelebYouth project has demonstrated there exists much public concern that young people today are too heavily influenced by ‘popular culture’ and in particular the ‘cult of the celebrity’. There have been particular concerns that children and young people admire individuals whose short-lived fame is based on luck, physical prowess or limited talent, rather than more enduring and socially beneficial achievements based on ‘hard work’. Relatedly, it has been claimed that the ‘cult of the celebrity’ is creating a climate in which young people seek to realise themselves through ‘fame’ and reject the more traditional pathway to success – academic achievement, hard work and educational qualifications. Despite all these concerns, very little research has been done on who it is that children and young people actually admire and dislike. In a recent paper in the journal Discourse, Sally Power and Kevin Smith address this gap, drawing on research into the heroes and villains of 1200 children and young people living in Wales. In this blog post they present an insight into their findings.
In recent years there has been increasingly widespread debate about the ‘appropriateness’ of young people’s ambitions within areas such as the media, politics and education. In this blog post Sarah Hill looks at narratives of femininity and aspiration in the British film Kicks, exploring how the film deals with the classed and gendered nature of dominant notions of girls’ aspirations and success in the twenty-first century.
I’m looking for a job. In fact, I’ve made up my mind to find a career that I can learn and grow into. Who am I? I’m a hard worker. I set high goals and I’ve been told that I’m persistent. And I’m thinking, television news might just be something that I love as well as something I happen to be good at. Now I know that today’s work culture no longer caters to the job loyalty that could be promised to earlier generations. But I believe that good things come to those who work their asses off and that good people who reach the top of the mountain, didn’t just fall there. My motto is, ‘if you want to win the lottery, you have to make the money to buy a ticket’.
This pitch is made by Lou Bloom in a television studio in the latest Jake Gyllenhall film Nightcrawler. Lou does indeed find a career in television news – securing and selling hard-to-get footage of crime in Los Angeles to attract viewers to the network and stoke white suburban fear in Los Angeles. Lou and the media industry in which he works are amoral – money matters more than respect or dignity: captured by the explanation Lou is given by TV News boss Nina (played by Rene Russo) that ‘If it bleeds, it leads’. While most of the online discussion of the film has focused on its depiction of US TV news and media ethics, Kim and Heather became fascinated by the way the film uses Lou to link the taking on of neoliberal values – hard work, persistence and aiming high – to psychopathic and bullying behaviour. In this post they explore the film’s messages about contemporary work.
UK retailer John Lewis produces a new Christmas-themed TV advert every year. Retaining a successful formula, they combine a sentimental visual narrative, a (some would say sickly) sweet message about giving, and audio comprising a contemporary British pop star performing a classic love or festive song. This annual offering is an eagerly awaited event, with the adverts being described as the ‘2 minutes that launch Christmas’. Last year’s production – featuring Lily Allen in the singing role – reached not only millions of homes via a TV set, but also went viral, surpassing 10 million views on YouTube. In this guest blog post, looking beyond John Lewis’s explicit aims, Steve Roberts casts a critical eye on the latest ad, asking what messages this carries about gender, sexuality and relationships.
One of the lovely things about working on this project with Heather is that we both love cinema. Frequently we will send text messages to each other about a recent release. We both love film for what pleasures it offers as well as how it stimulates ideas about sociological issues that we are engaged with. Very frequently these texts articulate things that our academic language cannot – similar to the ways in which Heather has written about fiction. Recently we both watched a film that generated very different reactions, as discussed by Heather in her recent blog on Gone Girl‘s Amy. In this post, Kim responds by exploring her anger at the film’s misogyny. (Please note there are spoilers so don’t read this if you are yet to see the film.)
Last week, Laura and Kim were invited to speak at a brilliant one-day conference organised by CRESC and the University of Manchester, entitled ‘A sense of inequality’. They drew on findings from the project to attend to young people’s everyday negotiations and understandings of inequality. In this short blog post, Laura and Kim give a brief report on their presentation and the day itself.
As the project draws to a close, we’re developing ways of communicating the research findings. We’re currently working with a web designer and artist and now we’re looking for a youth theatre group to help us bring some of the data to life. We have some brilliant group interviews with young people talking critically about celebrity and think it would be great if more people could hear these. We can’t use the original recordings because they’re confidential so we’re hoping to use actors instead.
Specifically, we’d like to find a group of young people to act out various roles of participants, working from scripts of short extracts from the group interview data that we’ll prepare in advance. We’ll film these young actors in 12 scenes of between 1 and 2 minutes. These will then be edited and used within an interactive website. We’d like to do this before mid July. We will provide the cameras and operators, and have a small budget to assist with other costs. If you lead, know or are part of a youth theatre group and are interested in helping us with this part of the project please get in touch with Heather at firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ve been struck by news this week that Pharrell Williams – successful music producer, singer and collaborator – has asserted his belief in ‘the New Black’. In an interview with US chat show host Oprah Winfrey, Williams stated that he represented a different kind of black identity:
The “new black” doesn’t blame other races for our issues. The “new black” dreams and realizes that it’s not a pigmentation; it’s a mentality. And it’s either going to work for you, or it’s going to work against you. And you’ve got to pick the side you’re gonna be on.
In this post Kim troubles Pharrell’s move, arguing that it denies the ongoing realities of racism.