Thursday, June 09, 2005

Class is Out

Yet another NYTimes article on the class gap in the US. I know I harp on this a lot, but it's quite visible to me. I spend half my week in Buffalo and half in Toronto and they're worlds apart. Toronto is the thriving economic hub of Canada and Buffalo is the hardscrabble up-and-comer. Is there any doubt about which one I prefer? Well, a clue would be that I don't have a link to "Toronto Rising".

Anyway, the article talks about authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Frank O'Hara who mined all the class distinctions in great American novels. The author argues that today's authors generally write about a comfortable upper middle class life without any real interest in the social gap. Same with television and movies. If you didn't live here, you might think we're all upper middle class urbanites like on Friends.

Are there still class markers? I guess things like the mullet haircut could act as social markers. Of course, Paris Hilton wears trucker caps and SoHo denizens wear the mullet, but they do so with a strong stench of irony. Maybe irony is the new class marker. Anyway, I think what's happened is that the upper middle class kids that make media are pretty convinced that everyone in, say, West Virginia is a semi-retarded hick. So, they don't take those people seriously. Have you ever noticed that every character in a Hollywood film who speaks with a southern accent is either: a) A cross-burning cretin, b) A kindhearted simpleton like Forrest Gump, c) A battered wife, or d) A Bible-thumper?

Again, this gets at my Nobility of the Image argument. The suggestion is that, if you don't live in a pricy NYC loft and buy shoes all day, you don't exist, or you shouldn't. I think people in Iowa pick up on that, and I think it's what they resent about the "liberal media". The Republicans may screw working class people from sunrise to sunset, but they pay them respect. And we don't. And that's more tangible really.

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