Contemporary film and TV in the UK appear to offer at least three interrelated problems for the lower socio-economic classes. There is imbalance, exploitation, and precarity in the industry; perennial problems around representation; and the inculcation of neoliberal ideology antithetical to social justice and equality. This free virtual conference, held by London Metropolitan University on Thursday 7th July 2022, is an opportunity to reflect upon and react to this scenario. Presenters will be welcome to develop their papers for submission to a special double edition of the Journal of Class and Culture.
Recent research into class diversity in the UK’s Screen industries has confirmed existing notions of a ‘class ceiling’ with imbalance, under representation, precarity, and exploitation for the working classes. Alternatively, creative roles, dominated by those from privileged backgrounds, are among the most elite occupations in the creative industries, or indeed the wider economy. Class is a contested concept, and whilst theories of class have necessarily evolved, recurrent problems regarding representation remain with regular demonisation of the working classes, reverence for middle class ideals, and fetishism of the wealth elite. What is said to audiences about social class can shape public opinion and the popular imagination. There is a move from distraction to instruction, with reconciliation to neoliberal norms and the entrepreneurial nature of the neoliberal subject. New accounts of the socio-economic present have been forwarded: Neo-illiberalism, the New Authoritarianism, Surveillance Capitalism, and so forth. But with the pandemic consolidating wealth gaps, tax breaks for corporations and the rich, austerity and precarity for the poor, there is a continuation of the ethos, policies, and cultural politics with a neoliberal signature. A counter signature might be I, Daniel Blake (Loach, 2016), which captured the everyday harshness of life as a single parent on benefits or under precarious working conditions. Or Help (Munden, 2021) set during the pandemic which places the struggle of ‘key workers’ front and centre. Aside from social realism and reflection upon the state of the nation, there are allegories of class and inequality, other approaches and genres, and concern, importantly, with form as well as content.
How might contemporary UK film/TV contribute to economic inequality, precarity, power and structural imbalance, or foster divide and rule, reconciling audiences to neoliberal competition within myths of meritocracy? How might UK film/TV negotiate, consolidate, challenge, or reflect the neoliberal moment regarding social class and economic injustice? How might UK film/TV navigate, caricature, essentialise, contain and regulate class, or otherwise problematise, provide critique and nuance, and a progressive vision?
Topics might include, but not be limited to:
- Representations, receptions, and theorisations of class in contemporary UK film/TV.
- The mediatory role of UK film/TV in notions of taste, the maintenance of distinction, mobility, class consciousness, economic capital, cultural capital, and social capital.
- The relevance of class in film and TV studies, textual and genre analysis, production history, and the analysis of ideology/hegemony.
- ‘The class ceiling’ and precarious practices in the screen industries.
- Genres: ‘Poverty/Property porn’, the ‘Hoodie film’, Manor House nostalgia, etc.
- Necessary intersections with race, gender, religion, disability, ecology, neurodiversity, region, national identity, and so on. Problematic masculinity and myths of authenticity.
- The entrepreneurial nature, self-management, and consumerism of the neoliberal subject in programs such as The Apprentice, reality TV, and ‘improvement/transformation’ shows.
- Neoliberal reconfigurations of time/space/control, and theories of neoliberalism and UK film/TV.
- Documenting and dividing class (the now notorious ‘Benefits Street’ and its ilk), and ‘newsworthy’ class.
- The work of pertinent professionals, actors, or directors such as Andrea Arnold, Jimmy McGovern, Shane Meadows, Ken Loach, Steve McQueen and others.
The conference will be held virtually on Thursday 7th July 2022. Please submit an abstract of 400 words plus brief biography for 20min presentations by 31st March 2022. Acceptance notification: 29th April 2022. Please send abstracts and any questions/suggestions to the conference convenor, Jon Baldwin, email@example.com