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In Television Dramas, and Sit-Com’s, the issue of social status and class is regularly portrayed. In the past, it had been quite neglected, but more recently, it has become a very common topic. From the way a program has been directed, we can usually tell a bit about the writers or director’s view about social class. If we look at the major characters and the setting we can tell a bit about it. We have been asked to look at the depiction of social status and class in an episode of Spooks, so I have taken a short extract from the episode and will analyse the use of sound, lighting, camera and mise-en-scene.
By analysing this part, I will show some of the elements about social status and class that are highlighted. The first section of the scene starts off in an office with a man and a woman conversing. The scene is quite lowly lit. The main source of lighting is the light being given off by the computer. We see during the conversation that the man and woman are in fact special agents. They are both dressed smartly, one dressed in a suit. This pair would undoubtedly come from a middle class background. We can see this from the way in which they are dressed and groomed, and also by the job that the pair have.
Agents would draw in quite a bit of wealth, and we can see the amount of power the woman has as she says she wants the gun as soon as possible. The resources available to the agents are not at all limited, and we can see from this room alone, and the fact that the man says his computer has a filter that flashes up when any military equipment is being sold online. We can also see good resources scattered around the office, and as these and the computer programs would be quite costly, we can assume that the pair are middle class.
The second scene is in Kitchener Estate in London. The scene starts off with a car driving into an estate. We hear police sirens and cars in the background. The music turns drummy. This would suggest that perhaps there is danger ahead. Danger is usually associated with lower class rather than middle class. The house is quite small from the front, which would immediately suggest it is a lower class area. Once it is inside the house, we hear a beat beginning. This could represent a heartbeat, which once again would suggest danger.
The house is very cluttered which makes it look smaller, and would possibly suggest that the Mother is a single Mother, which is once again more commonly associated with the working class. There is diegetic sound coming from the radio, which could also be thought of to be associated with the lower class, as perhaps the middle class would be listening to music from an iPod dock, or maybe a surround sound system, rather than a relatively cheap looking radio. The son’s bedroom has graffiti covering the walls, and posters which could perhaps suggest a lack of respect for property.
It would suggest that perhaps the son used to or does vandalise, which would be largely associated with the lower class. Society’s influence on us means that we would not consider a bedroom covered with graffiti to be the norm for the middle class. We would expect someone from the middle classes bedroom to be neat and tidy, and perhaps plain. The beat in the music varies from a slow indefinite beat, to a fast one which creates tension in the scene. It makes us wary that something important and perhaps dangerous may happen.
A contrast has been created between the agent and the residents in the house, in that although both are dressed casually, the agent looks more groomed, and his clothes look like they would be better quality, which would suggest that they were more expensive. For the duration of the scene, it was mostly high angles being used. This may show the inferiority in relation to the residents, and the agent. The next scene takes place in the constitutional club in Mayfair. Even before we consider the building itself, Mayfair is a well known wealthy location in London.
So before we even look at the building, we are getting a sense that it is a middle class to upper class area. My feeling was that perhaps the director chose Mayfair as a location, because it is one of the most expensive in Monopoly, and would therefore be quite well known as being very expensive. Moving onto the building, the building looks very big and extremely well made. From the outside of the building you can tell that it is the kind of place where important meetings would take place. Once the dialogue starts, we can see that the room that it is in is big and the shelves have a lot of books in it.
It would nearly suggest a library. This would definitely signify wealth. The woman that begins talking is in a suit, and looks quite posh. She speaks in a very dignified manner, which would suggest she had a good upbringing, and that she most likely grew up in a wealthy environment. The camera angles used throughout this scene were low angles. This is used in the same sort of way as in the scene before, creating a sense of superiority towards the woman. In the same was as the first scene I analysed, we can see from the language that she uses, and her requests that she has a lot of power.
She says to the agents, “I want a minor army protecting him”, which would suggest that she is extremely high up in the force. We can see here a pattern developing through editing, that the director constantly cuts from a lower class area or setting to a middle class setting. This highlights the large contrast between the two. In the next scene, it has returned to the son’s bedroom, from the lower class estate. We see the boy reach into a tattered (this again would suggest a lack of money) looking bag, and hand the agent the weapon.
There is a large drum beat as the boy is paid which starts to build up tension, and give us the strong feeling that something bad is going o happen. As the boy starts to leave and we see the agent becoming startled by something as he looks out the window. The music has now got a slightly eerie feel to it, with the occasional loud drum, which maintains the feeling of tension. Using an eyeline match, we are shown what the agent has become startled by. It is a very expensive looking black car, that doesn’t fit in at all with its surroundings, driving towards the house.
We can tell immediately from this, that this car does not belong to someone in this area, and that this is perhaps a sign of trouble. We are shown another car of the same kind start to drive towards the house, which in a way confirms our initial thought of something bad that is going to happen. The scene quickly cuts back to the agents with the foreign secretary, which shows us a great contrast between the rooms. The room in the constitutional club is very bright, clean and spacious; where as the son’s bedroom is quite dark, small and mysterious. This would seem to suggest that the lower class are usually more likely to be up to no good.
During the phone conversation, we are shown the people sitting in the car waiting outside. They are dressed in all black suits, and seem very mysterious. This would lead us to believe that something bad is going to happen, and that perhaps they want the weapon that the boy has just given the agent. When the agent brings the boy back downstairs, we cans see just how small the house actually is. The hallway is very small, which we can see from the small distance between the living room and the kitchen, and the distance between the front door and the backdoor, is once again not very large at all. This suggests a lack of money.
We are shown that the men have guns, which definitely suggests that something bad is going to happen, and perhaps whenever the men break the glass that would suggest a poor quality of glass, meaning that the window wasn’t double glazing because they didn’t have the money for it. In conclusion, we can see the high contrast between the lower and middle class through the way in which they are dressed, the area in which they live, and the way in which they talk. The director emphasises this by constantly cutting from a lower class environment, to a middle class environment, which makes the contrast a lot more noticeable.