Here’s a brilliant, excoriating article by Roseanne Barr in The Guardian about her experiences in making a sit-com in the 80s and 90s, and about the effects of fame.
A little while ago, I linked to an article in The Economist about how the distorted representations of “middle class” families on TV give wealthy people unrealistic self-images. Because the so-called middle classes on television are usually portrayed as living in the way that some of the wealthiest 10% of people actually live, nobody really has a clear idea of what middle class looks like. And that goes double for the working class. While British TV shows like Shameless attempt to portray working class characters who don’t actually do any work, our soap operas (for example) give an entirely unrealistic representation of what it would be like to, say, live in London and work part-time in a corner shop.
See, people can’t really afford to sit in the pub that much: the only way to do that is to be like Frank in Shameless: you’d have to be cadging pints off other people all the time.
I caught an episode of Roseanne on a recent holiday, dubbed into German, and it reminded me that this was a high point of working class representation on American TV. There they were: a working, feminist, mother, a non-criminal father who worked with tools, and a family of bickering kids who shared bedrooms and wore ordinary-looking clothes and took the bus to school.
Needless to say, according to her own testimony, it wasn’t easy to get this representation onto the screen. Once the show hit number 1 in the ratings, Roseanne Barr went to a list she kept in her dressing room, and fired all the people who had made her life difficult in the show’s first year.
It’s a long article, but worth reading.
I finally found the right lawyer to tell me what scares TV producers worse than anything – too late for me. What scares these guys – who think that the perks of success include humiliating and destroying the star they work for – isn’t getting caught stealing or being made to pay for that; it’s being charged with fostering a “hostile work environment“. If I could do it all over, I’d sue ABC and Carsey-Werner under those provisions. Hollywood hates labour, and hates shows about labour worse than any other thing. And that’s why you won’t be seeing another Roseanne anytime soon. Instead, all over the tube, you will find enterprising, overmedicated, painted-up, capitalist whores claiming to be housewives. But I’m not bitter.
- Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class (readysteadybook.com)