So for my Media Identities & Representations module we need to create a production which focuses on one of the main categories we talk about during the module.
From the moment we were told about the production my plan was to focus on class as having been called posh for most of my childhood because of my accent I find the stereotypes of class interesting especially that of the ‘under’ class and how they are shown as ‘others’. We can make anything so because I love making and editing videos I made a video production.
Benefit street was aired in 2014 and managed to get the attention of over 4 million viewers. The show caused controversial reviews due to the stereotypically negative representations it portrayed of the under class. Due to this type of programme being the only media that shows us the everyday life of the under class the public therefore take these representations to be the whole truth even though they are a retrospective view of these people. This creates myths that all people on the dole or struggling for money are involved with drugs and alcohol, disobey the law, purposely do things, such as have lots of children, to get more money and scrounge off the state by doing nothing to get themselves back into work; I watched multiple episodes of Benefits Britain on channel 5 and every person portrayed in the show matched one or more of these myths. This clearly shows a problem because not everyone on benefits matches these stereotypes yet they will clearly be assumed to be due to the negative portrayal across the media.
Originally my idea was to subvert these myths by having stereotypically posh people with expensive tastes and suggested wealth acting out under class stories, so although they have nice things and talk in the Queens English, they would be young single mums who are on drugs, heavily drinking with no job and families of 10 who have a new child every year just to scrounge more money from the government. However, after some thought and a chat with my seminar lecturer, we decided this would be too complicated and wouldn’t make any sense to an audience. So in the end I opted to create my own myth full, benefit mocumentary.
My idea was to use shows such as Benefits Street and Benefits Britain as inspiration to create my own short documentary where I exaggerate the myths and stereotypes of the underclass and portray them in their everyday life. For example, I will exaggerate facts such as how much money they get a week, to make them seem like they are wasting an incredible amount, and also get my characters to use excessive swearing to make them seem uneducated and rude. Benefit street was on TV at 9pm and aimed at 18-40 year olds, so I will use this audience as my target audience too. However, due to the excessive swearing, my production would have to be aired post watershed.
Pre-production wise, I created 3 characters who conformed to under class stereotypes by looking at newspaper stories which portray a negative stereotype of the under class and exaggerating the facts within; the benefit family, the young drug mum and the scrounger. I also drew storyboards and wrote a list of specific shots I needed and then set out to film. In order to stay ethical I made sure participants knew what I intended to do and that they were comfortable with the ideas, for anyone under the age of 16, I got permission from their parents. I also got all participants to fill out consent forms. Health and safety wise, I filled in a risk assessment beforehand as well as being professional and setting up equipment when filming carefully to make sure it wasn’t blocking any exits and that cables were neat and kept away from young children.
I feel the stories I created connected to theories and research studied on the module such as othering, which is where people are split into groups, us and them, and the under class/class inequalities, for example working class social workers having power over ‘Shenise’ and being able to take away her child and never let her see him again. I also feel the characters heavily portrayed the myths of the under class; for example ‘Ben’ having expensive tech such as an Apple Mac and Xbox, yet being on the dole and not earning, and dole money being mainly spent on drugs/ alcohol.
I’m quite proud of my final piece as I feel it follows professional structure, I especially like the intro/opening as I like the music in the background and how I edited my shot of the job centre plus sign to be my title. However, due to this only being a short mocumentary, I think possibly some of ‘Shenise’s’ bits are slightly too long and the audience could lose focus/interest. Also, I ended up running out of time but would have liked to put music under the whole mocumentary rather than just at the start and end to make it even more professional. There are also some problems with continuity of shots. For example, after editing it I realised that in the voice-over, Shenise gives birth when shes 15 yet she says 16, as well as the fact that the camerawoman says no to a hot chocolate/tea but Shenise still makes two cups, and the change of top from David. Therefore, if I was doing it again I would take greater care to be more thorough and check through things when editing, or show rough edit to someone else in case I miss it but they spot it.
But until next time, I’m quite happy with my final piece and feel it portrays exaggerated myths of the under class and I also had a lot of fun making it and isnt that what uni’s about… until you get your marks back that is!
References – Benefits Britain episodes http://www.channel5.com/show/benefits-britain-life-on-the-dole ; http://www.Nexis.co.uk – search dole,benefits,scroungers in titles ; https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1991/04/17/the-underclass-facts-and-myths/1a269905-206c-4d4d-a5d4-0aca36976b73/