Saturday, July 19, 2008

Class and facebook

I am going to post about class, hopefully people won't get too offended, as it does contain spoilers about Kung Fu Panda.
I am fortunate enough to have friends in a wide variety of class groupings, and obviously this is also the case on facebook. I recently noticed patterns in the profiles of people in different socio economic groups. I know these are generalisations, whenever one points out a pattern there are  people who say 'oh oh , but that's not true, I'm different' - to which I reply, congratulations, you are an anomaly, here - have a sticker. (if you can pronounce an anomaly you may also have a lollipop)
The main difference is middle class =a fairly detailed profile in terms of movies, films books and quotes. Working class = little or nothing about movies etc, a lot of extra applications. Obviously there are exceptions, and class boundaries being the fuzzy things that they are this is inevitable. No profile at all and no applications can mean either.
It think this says a lot about what class now means in our uber-consumptive society. The middle classes are proud of their consumption because it marks out superior status. Liking certain movies or music, the ability to travel are not viewed as class accessories or evidence of economic status, but evidence of a cultured mind, of style and taste. Hence we are eager to display our consumption to others.
The way in which the working classes are derided is through their patterns of consumption, a sneaky way to insult the less fortunate without seeming to be an arsehole.
Thus the BBC tried to suggest that the term Chav was not about class, but how people behave and what they buy (well, um what actually is class if not patterns of behaviour and consumption?) when the fabian society rightly decreed it an insulting term this week.

Yeah people, you are ok, but only if you buy what we buy, and do what do what we tell you.

This becomes complicated because certain things actually are just shit, like the Sun and big action films etc. I don't think it is in any way classist for me to say 'that's rubbish' because ultimately Coronation street, big blockbusters and everything that is targeted at a working class populace is not ultimately created by the working classes. These elements of consumption also do their bit to re-enforce gender roles, racial stereotypes and ultimately keep poor people poor. This happens in a variety of ways, from the high street clothes which are sewn for next to nothing in the developing world,  to the movies that re-enforce individualism and sell unattainable dreams.

An example being Kung Fu panda. I saw this at work the other day. It was a pile of crap- but it didn't need to be. The graphics were stunning, and the concept wasn't completely appaling. Jack Black in panda form gets told that he is the dragon of destiny warrior or something, and has to battle a scary tiger, who the chief master trained and who subsequently turned to evil. So far, so Star Wars. 

(SPOILER coming.. I really don't want to ruin this movie for anybody, Dreamworks have done that themselves...)

In the end Jack Panda trains hard, realises his inner potential and kills the tiger dude. Now it would have been so so much better if Panda character had just used his warmth and compassion to win tiger back into a loving relationship with his adoptive father. If he realised that there was no need to train hard to beat people up as ultimately the human spirit is more important. But no - fat Panda somehow manages to be a Kung Fu god, rather than using what he has ( in this case, humour and cooking ability) to make a difference. Ie poor person could miraculously become rich if only they tried hard enough , rather than realising this not to be the case, and making things better in their own reality. It's also significant that Fat Panda only gets glory by being violent to others, there we go - capitalism is a violent system. Kung Fu Panda proves it.
It was yet another example of the ' fat sloppy white guy gets glory anyway despite the fact that others are in a  better position to succeed' sort of movie, which has the stupid 'anyone can do anything' message. 
A fact which reality shows us just isn't true.  I don't think that is depressing, I think it can be liberating because it is the truth. The people who go from nothing to everything are highly publicised anomolies, and because the population is big enough there are a few of them. They are not the majority - I mean look at the leaders of the political parties - Blair went to Fettes ( the Eton of Scotland ) and Cameron went to the Eton of England. Often this is glossed over ( um Tony and Dave...) and people make themselves seem more 'working' than they are. (isn't that right Bush?)

This is largely to justify their own position, which I think is why people get offended when you start talking about class.  Accepting our own privelage is tough, because life is crappy for everyone at times. It's not that fun to admit that it is generally crappier for some other groups of people.

 I am not sure where this is going, nor do I particularly have an answer.. other then, um 'unite and overthrow capitalism in a somehow non violent fashion'. 
I guess in the day to day not making people feel shit for what they wear or buy, whilst accepting that everyone's consumptive choices are limited and dictated by capitalism itself. Also not being too up ourselves for buying the 'right' things, or defining ourselves by this consumption. I like art, and I like stuff, and obviously Gorky's Zygotic Mynci fans are a superior breed of human. I am pretty bad when it  comes to falling prey to the consumption of coolness (possibly because I am so damn cool).  I think defining ourselves by consumption is one way which capitalism as a system is really very advanced, as it is a way in which we trap ourselves in it.


Christian Feminist said...

Not really relevant to your very good post but my first thought was that the big class divide among my friends is between who has facebook and who has bebo (middle-class students have facebook, most of the people I went to school with have bebo). Bebo is rubbish though.

twirlingmycni said...

yes I was going to go into that too - bebo tends to be younger/wrking class, however I think facebook is proving the all consuming monster in terms of social networking sites. Just a starting point for me to waffle on about class and consumption really....

Neil said...

Anti-capitalism... Looking at your interests list, I think my work ticks most of the boxes. I invite you to check it out; this is not spam... if you think its crap, say so on the blog comments.

However, if you like it, spread the word.