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Class and the Fight Against Aliens

By Alyssa Rosenberg

"Class and the Fight Against Aliens"

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I’ve been talking about this with folks at work, the fact that American pop culture is so solidly middle class these days. We’ve got rich people, sure, but everyone else is relatively financially comfortable, unless they’re the object of some well-intentioned white person’s salvation project (there are exceptions, of course, like Shameless). There aren’t really respectable, star-level blue-collar or working-poor characters, especially in television. I’ve long thought that American and British attitudes towards public housing. In the UK, council estates may be menacing, they may have the potential for violent unrest, but real people live in them, and real stories get told there:

I don’t think you’d ever get a movie like Attack the Block made in the U.S., at least without some sort of sub-plotline about an eventual reconciliation between people who live in public housing and the cops. The presence of public housing in American popular culture almost flips a genre switch, winnowing down the kind of stories that can be told there to heartwarming tales of rescue or tough-sounding stories of hardness. In the UK, you can tell a story where the residents of council estates aren’t just able to manage aliens, they’re the best possible people to stop an invasion because the estates are rough. Sure, that says something about what it means to grow up in council housing, but it manages to be comedy rather than primarily sociology. The message gets delivered, but there’s no particular exhausting need to dwell on it, and as a result, maybe it’s less easy to shake off or groan over.

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