Who are we?
We are five students – Aaron, Kimberly, Mike, Natalie, & Tracy – in the Media & Communication Studies program at the University of Washington Bothell. During spring quarter of 2012 we were asked to design and implement a research project focusing on the production of class in public discourse and explain why it is a current social issue.
What is our project's focus?
For our project’s topical focus we decided to examine the portrayal of socioeconomic class in the United States. At the heart of the American dream lies the promise of moving up the social and economic ladder. Although this promise has been a distant dream for many citizens, our nation’s ongoing recession has reformatted class structure in a major way. The playing field has been considerably altered for the first time in many years, which is why we decided to take a closer look at this class structure and the popular understandings associated with class.
What is our object of study?
Our object of study for this project focused on four specific American sitcoms: All in the Family, Married…with Children, Roseanne, and Raising Hope. We recognize not only how incredibly influential television and sitcoms are in American culture but also that their representations of social classes (upper, middle, and lower) are troublesome because they construct and reinforce generalizations and stereotypes about each level of these social classes. In particular, our research focused on the portrayals of characters with lower social and economics status.
What does this mean for you?
We wanted to offer our research to other students and teachers for educational purposes. We hope our findings will be useful to those of you who want to learn more about how American sitcoms have historically portrayed the working class.