Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Video: Got Class?

Friday, August 24, 2012
Lord Granville Leveson-Gower
Loretta reports:

As one who writes about imaginary aristocrats in the early 1800s, I’m dealing almost daily with the British class system. The process of trying to create historical authenticity involves a balancing act between the way people most likely behaved, given contemporary documents, and a way that’s more or less palatable to my readers, for whom my lord's and my lady's innate sense of privilege and superiority can be tough to swallow.

Yet Americans have a class system, too.  In their 2001 documentary, People Like Us, Social Class in America,* Louis Alvarez and Andrew Kolker explore the subject.  This video clip is the opening tease from the film, but if you're intrigued, you can set the other segments to follow in regular succession:

*This link will take you to background info and a social class game, among other things.

Illustration:  Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1769-1830, British, Lord Granville Leveson-Gower,  later 1st Earl Granville, between 1804 and 1809, Oil on canvas on canvas, courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.


nokomarie said...

Of course, there was barely anybody in this clip who wasn't incredibly gauche. But then, so was Mr. Darcy.

MaryJeanAdams said...

Although the word "class" is the same, it's apples and oranges when comparing the concept of class in America and class in countries like England, especially when you're writing about the aristocracy. Aside from perhaps becoming part of the "merchant class" there was very little class mobility in England. Mobility between classes defines the concept of class in America. The poor can become wealthy and vice versa. While changing one's station in life may not be easy, it's not forbidden as it often is with classes in other societies.

Anonymous said...

I once dated an American aristocrat. They have their own quiet small very inter-connected world with their own calendar and nobody EVER asks anybody what they do for a living. They frequently have English aristocratic relatives because of all the heiress marrying the Brits did around 1880-1914. The one appealing aspect is that they were actually not "consumers", but valued the time and leisure to pursue their interests. ( some of which were very eccentric and not inexpensive!)

Esgaroth said...

I had always thought that class in America was something you could overcome, whereas if you were born into a certain class in Europe, you were born into it, you were expected to ONLY move within that class and you could never entertain leaving it and especially could not work to have your children rise above the status. Here in America, if you turn out to be a person that falls below your status, no one expects to blame it on anything other than your own individual choices, and the children are almost always held in sympathy and encouraged to be different. Sure we have classes in America, but no one who understands what is going on in our society thinks that they are not able to become better or that it is something that is written in stone.

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