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Class Dismissed

How TV Frames the Working Class

Class Dismissed

Duration: 62 min
ISBN: 1-932869-03-4
Date Produced: 2005
Subtitles: English & Spanish

Filmmaker Info
Study Guide
Press Room
Film Festivals
Press Reviews
Praise for the Film

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Class Dismissed
How TV Frames the Working Class

Narrated by Ed Asner

Based on the forthcoming book by Pepi Leistyna, Class Dismissed navigates the steady stream of narrow working class representations from American television's beginnings to today's sitcoms, reality shows, police dramas, and daytime talk shows.

Featuring interviews with media analysts and cultural historians, this documentary examines the patterns inherent in TV's disturbing depictions of working class people as either clowns or social deviants -- stereotypical portrayals that reinforce the myth of meritocracy.

Class Dismissed breaks important new ground in exploring the ways in which race, gender, and sexuality intersect with class, offering a more complex reading of television's often one-dimensional representations. The video also links television portrayals to negative cultural attitudes and public policies that directly affect the lives of working class people.

Featuring interviews with Stanley Aronowitz, (City University of New York); Nickel and Dimed author, Barbara Ehrenreich; Herman Gray (University of California-Santa Cruz); Robin Kelley (Columbia University); Pepi Leistyna (University of Massachusetts-Boston) and Michael Zweig (State University of New York-Stony Brook). Also with Arlene Davila, Susan Douglas, Bambi Haggins, Lisa Henderson, and Andrea Press.

Sections: Class Matters | The American Dream Machine | From the Margins to the Middle | Women Have Class | Class Clowns | No Class | Class Action

Filmmaker Info

Director: Loretta Alper
Producer & Writer: Loretta Alper & Pepi Leistyna
Executive Producer : Sut Jhally
Editor: Jeremy Smith

Film Festivals

Official Selection, 2007 International Working Class Film and Video Festival
Official Selection, 2007 Working-Class Studies Association Film Festival
Official Selection, 2007 Hofstra Labor Studies Film Festival
Official Selection, 2006 Three Screens Film Festival
Official Selection, 2006 Silver Lake Film Festival
Official Selection, 2006 Das Globalisierungskritische Film Festival


2007 Studs Terkel Award for Media and Journalism from the Working Class Studies Association
Selected as Class Action's "Film of the Month", October 2006

Press Reviews

Grand Prairie Union News | Mike Matejka | August 13, 2007

Praise for the Film

"With incisive political commentary and vivid examples drawn from television shows past and present, Class Dismissed stunningly illustrates how the working class has been (mis)represented in popular culture. Class Dismissed forces us to reconsider our perceptions of and attitudes towards the working class, and shows us how class in the United States is complexly and inextricably bound to race, gender, and sexuality. This is a superb examination that demonstrates the inordinate power of television to frame social categories and their political meaning."
- Michael Omi | University of California, Berkeley

"Fast-paced, hard-hitting, and timely, Class Dismissed employs sophisticated theory to critically analyze the way media shapes how people understand and misunderstand class in American society."
- Lee D. Baker | Editor of Life in America: Identity and Everyday Experience

"Essential viewing for students and researchers who are interested in the political economy of media, media and social change, media portrayals of social groups and issues, and media influence."
- Mary Beth Oliver | Professor of Communication | Penn State University

"Revelatory. Brings to light the political and economic forces that imperil workers, but rarely appear in sitcoms: the loss of millions of industrial jobs, depressed wages, and declining union membership, all at a time of drastic cutbacks in governmental expenditures on health, welfare, and education."
- Stephen Steinberg | Author of Turning Back: The Retreat from Radical Justice in American Thought and Policy

"Class Dismissed dares to open our eyes to television's role in disappearing class from the American consciousness. The carefully crafted interviews set against humorous clips show how stereotypes of working-class buffoons distance us from the reality of corporate greed. Class Dismissed drives home the connections between class, gender and race to ongoing systems of inequality and reminds viewers of the importance of raising class consciousness if we are to succeed in forging meaningful models of citizenship in the future.
- Elizabeth L. Krause | Assistant Professor of Anthropology | University of Massachusetts Amherst

"At last an educational documentary that tackles head on the complex and elusive imaginings of class in the United States. MEF adds an important piece to its growing list of documentaries aimed at exposing the distortions of a corporate controlled media industry. Class Dismissed offers us a sophisticated analysis of TV's changing representations of the working class, beginning with the now largely forgotten "ethnocoms" of the forties like "The Goldbergs", through Archie Bunker and "The Honeymooners", all the way to "Jerry Springer" and "Joe Millionaire." Using a familiar documentary format, the video compresses a complex history into an accessible narrative that both reveals shifts in the way working class people have been portrayed and exposes the ideological effects of these representations."
- Jackie Urla | Department of Anthropology | University of Massachusetts Amherst

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