January 24, 2007


For those who haven't seen them, there are good pieces on Jade Goody at Antigram, Charlotte Street and the Weblog (see also the response to this last at Foucault is Dead).

Antigram's question is well-posed: 'A millionaire lumpen prole gargolyle on the one hand, a glamorous Bollywood actress on the other: is this, then, what we supposed to believe constitutes the class divide running down the middle of this country?' Part of the displacement of the class question in the culture is that class tensions can only appear in this caricatured form. The freakshow exhibiting of Jade is all of a piece with Channel 4's fascinated-repelled depiction of the working class as in need of makeovers, domestic training or education about diet (Ten Years Younger/ How Clean is your House? / You are what you Eat). The much-hyped Shameless, with its silly, overwrought stereotypes, strikes me as part of this Proleface trend, actually. It goes without saying that Goody's impotent acting out of class resentments confirms, rather than challenges, the representational grid in which she is enmeshed.

The comparison between Goody and her defender Julie Burchill tells us a great deal about how class relations and prospects have changed over the last thirty years. Burchill benefited from an earlier version of the ruling class fascination/ repulsion with proletariat; in her case, the progression from self-taught intellectual Marxist firebrand to prole-for-hire ('some of them can even write proper sentences, don't you know') had its tragic dimensions, its disappointments and betrayals. Yet Burchill's presence has always been about working class intelligence, the very possibility of which Jade Goody's success has implicitly denied.

Posted by mark at January 24, 2007 12:47 PM | TrackBack