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The British Sociological Association and Discrimination in British Film and Television

By Alyssa Rosenberg  

"The British Sociological Association and Discrimination in British Film and Television"

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James Bond famously transcended Britain's rigid class system.I’d take this news of study with a large grain of salt—or maybe some well-buttered crumpets, because it’s English, and I do adore me some crumpets—because the authors only interviewed 77 people involved in television and film production. But it’s interesting to see the extent to which a new report reveals that people who work in those industries in the UK feel that class still plays a major role in determining who’s able to gain entry to jobs and to influence:

A survey of professionals in the industry has found that working-class people are discriminated against because they do not have the “right accents, hairstyles, clothes or backgrounds.”

Presenting the study yesterday at the British Sociological Association’s annual conference, researchers said people from working-class backgrounds, women and those from ethnic minorities did form networks within the industry, but they were not as powerful and were “discriminated against because they were not trusted insiders.”

“Most jobs were gained through friends and friends of friends,” the researchers from Durham University and the University of St Andrews said. “Openings were rarely advertised and producers tended to rely on the grapevine.”

It’s not that this is totally different from the American entertainment industry. But I was struck by the sense that class is so legible in the UK. Perhaps this is only my experience, but I’ve always read accents as regional markers and grammar as a class marker: what shows Boyd Crowder is a Kentuckian as his accent, and his syntax and use of words like “ain’t” show that he’s less educated than other characters. It’s got to be incredibly frustrated to be judged by something that’s hardwired into you before you have a chance to know that it might be important. And it’s a worthwhile reminder that there’s no perfect, bias-free entertainment industry out there in another country for us to emulate. We’re all stuck replicating our prejudices and class systems.

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