People Like Us: Social Class in America Film Review
America is a complex and diverse web of individuals marked by social stratification, a system by which a society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy (Macionis, 2011, p.204). The film People Like Us: Social Class in America discusses the class system, social stratification based on both birth and individual achievement, which the American people use to define others (Macionis, 2011, p.206). It explores the many variables that contribute to the determination of a person’s class; such as, ancestry, education, and money. Ancestry will be a main focus because it has such a strong influence on the class system of today. The film provided an informative and entertaining basis for understanding inequality within our nation. Description
Part 1-Bud or Bordeaux
The film introduces the concept of Bud or Bordeaux. The meaning of this title displays how language can invoke a “feeling of class” (Alvarez & Kolker, 2001). According to the film, individuals defined class as having money, how you were raised, and your state of mind (Alvarez & Kolker, 2001). In many cases we use status symbols in order to show others were we should be within the social hierarchy. Status symbols can are displayed through what is known as conspicuous consumption, or buying and using products because of the “statement” they make about social position (Macionis, 2011, p.216). In society, the items that we buy may lead to the determination of our social class.
This first part of the film took us through the contrast of classes based on products. We were able to see the pattern of consumption of our nation, such as buying products that are not necessarily needed like a specialty blender. It also discussed the battle between classes when a co-op supermarket took over a Shaw’s supermarket in a working class community. The co-op food was organic and did not sell white bread which exposed the class differences (Alvarez & Kolker, 2001). The working class people tend to be less tolerant and therefore did not want to be told what was good for them to eat (Macionis, 2011, p.225) Part 2-High and Low
The next part of the film, takes the viewer through the visual of the high society and low society of our nation. It reveals the inside life and thoughts of the WASPS and takes us into their world of the inherited rich. The next section displays the relationship between race and social class in the Bourgeois Blues. It’s a glimpse into the black-middle class and the idea that attaining success means losing your roots in African American U.S. society (Alvarez & Kolker, 2001). After that, the film tells the story of Tammy, a single mother struggling in poverty and working at a low-income job. Part 3-Salt of the Earth
Salt of the Earth showed the values and traditions of the working and middle class people. An owner of a lawn ornament shop discusses why American’s like to dress their yards up. She simply states that “It’s America and who has the right to look down on anybody” (Alvarez & Kolker, 2001). It then transitions to the city of Baltimore, where the people value their blue-collar lifestyle and have a street festival. One man said that the working class does 80% of the work and gets 10% of the pay (Alvarez & Kolker, 2001). Many people feel a prejudice against them as being part of the working class. The section closes with a woman named Dana who is native to Kentucky, but now lives in Washington DC. It discusses her problems that she must deal with while trying to belong to the working class people of her hometown and the white-collar people in her new city. Part 4-Belonging
The final part of the film focused on how to gain acceptance into the upper classes of society. The main idea was that “all you need is cash” in order to fit into the most elite communities and that money will only get you “in”, but it will not get you “accepted” (Alvarez & Kolker, 2001). The message is also conveyed that...
References: Alvarez, Louis (Producer), & Andrew Kolker (Director). (2001). People Like Us: Social Class in America [Documentary Film]. United States: WETA Washington D.C. in association with the Independent Television Series (ITS).
Macionis, John J. (2010). Society. The Basics. (11th Edition). Prentice Hall: New Jersey
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