Social Structural Limitations in Michael Apted's 42 Up

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“…Because daddy goes to the White Club”: Social Structural limitations in Michael Apted’s 42 Up.
In the documentary 42 Up by Michael Apted, he shows 14 children at the age of seven, and every seven years Apted will come back and document their life and it is to give a glimpse of England in the year 2000. In my paper I would like to argue the way social structures has affected the way the children live their lives and how difficult it is to break out of their classes. The participants of the documentary are either trapped in the top, middle, or working class. If their lives aren’t structured, their lives would fall out of place. It comes from the Jesuit Maxim which states, “give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man”. Whatever those 14 children were like at seven, they are the same way at 42, social classes, structure, and all. Firstly, I am going to argue the way the upper class seems to disregard the existence of classes rather than the middle and working classes and the way it affected their pursuit of “happiness”. Secondly, I will argue the inexistent change of career choices that took place from the time the children were seven till they were 42, and lastly I will be arguing that these social structures affected the later generations in a negative way.

I believe the ever since the children were born, they were born in a distinct social class, and these classes have wide gaps between them. In 1964, when they were seven, the class structure was pretty distinct, and when the children grew older, they all had a thought of where Tehrani 2

they were and what kind of career they wanted. Over time, as the gaps of the social classes changed, the participants of the documentary thought the gaps either existed or didn’t. I believe that this distinct gap in social class has affected the children in a negative way because it makes it impossible for them to break out of their classes, especially for the working class. Andrew, for example, thought that there was no distinction with the upper and lower classes, while middle class Suzy thought that it “still exist[ed] to a certain extent,” (Hudson Review). Bruce brings up exactly my point, which is that there are a range of opportunities, and they are all limited depending on your background, meaning you get a range of careers depending on your social class. Lynn and Paul both agree when they say that there is a certain distinction of classes that still existed until the time of the documentary. Neil, who is from the working class, says that the only reason for the existence of classes is ignorance. He is the only exception of the trap of social class because even though he hit rock bottom by being homeless, he dramatically turned his life around by running for public office. He became the most interesting person in the series, who “put words into spirit that stayed alive in the film” (Hubert). Even though he never really moved towards the upper class, he turned his live around from being in a class even lower than the working class, living in poverty, to running for office and joining the working class. In regards to upper class, since all of them were so pampered, they had no idea what the middle and working class was going through. They had the “silver spoon”, which eventually led them to fulfilling lives and valuable careers (Schneider). Working class Jackie, on the other hand, thought that “class and such” has disappeared and she said that money the upper class had didn’t account on their happiness. Whatever class the children were born in, it depicts what kind of career they will get. This comes from the Karl Marx quote that states, “Men do make their own history, but they Tehrani 3

do not make it as they please, not under conditions of their own choosing, but rather under circumstances which they find before them, under given, imposed conditions” (Confino 1064). I believe that their decisions have already been made from the day they were born,...
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