Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Core Response 4: Made In Chelsea - In Florence

In his article, David Morley asserts that there must be an “integration of the analysis of the ‘broader questions’ of ideology, power, and politics... It is a question of how to understand all these issues (television’s ideological, ritualistic, and domestic/social consumption) in relation to each other” (Morley 5). He suggests that we develop a ‘double focus’ on television viewing as a means of understanding how television structures daily life (predominantly in a national community), consumption, and how it further operates in the realm of ideology.

When I was in Florence last year, I lived with three girls, all of whom are from the England. No matter what we were doing each week, all three had to watch E4’s Made in Chelsea, which is essentially England’s version of a show like Laguna Beach or The Hills. The series follows around a group of elite twenty-somethings living in South London.   

The problem with this show is that it has, like American television, designed a space in which the elite are celebrated beyond measure for simply being wealthy. This enables its own sort of ‘information gap.’ Albeit, it is different than the one that Morley addresses in his article, but its intention is along the same lines. A show like Made in Chelsea promotes the idea of high culture and establishes a line between accessibility and inaccessibility, ideologically speaking. This show, and its lifestyle, is perhaps the most important show amongst young adults in the UK. It influences their music choices, fashion choices, and even the places they choose to eat and shop. This, though, is a different conversation, and is perhaps a bit of a tangent.

What is important to Morley’s point in relation to ‘double focus’ is the consumption discussed about the ritual of viewing itself. No matter what we were doing each week, all three had to watch this program the week it premiered, and their viewing could not be too far past the original airdate. They not only watched the show via piracy each week, but they also followed the whereabouts and goings-on of multiple cast members via Twitter and Instagram. Furthermore, their knowledge of American culture stemmed from this show’s international trips and Stefanie Pratt. For these girls, all of whom are from very different parts of England and economical backgrounds, this show stood as their connection to their respective local spaces and communities. It was a way to connect to ‘home’ whilst living hundreds of miles away. Thus, for its audience this show operates on various macro- and micro-levels, as it seemingly constructs a relationship to the outside and ‘unreachable’ (this wealthy elite lifestyle and its global participation/connection) as well as a relationship of homogenized investment. Its influence structures daily routines, as its viewing is very ritualistic and promotes a connection to its national community.

Personally, I do not see its appeal, and it could very well be because I do not have any micro-investment. Or it may be because this elite reality lifestyle is not my thing - I happened to be in Florence the same time that the Kimye wedding happened and my response was, "So the gardens are closed?" All I know is, the next time I go to Florence, Made in Chelsea will not interfere with my plans to climb the Duomo. 


  1. Kelsey –

    This question of elitism on teen soap operas and its cross-cultural influence raises a question about the link between these shows and a deliberate marketing / overflow strategy on the part of the producers. If viewers become invested in certain brand identities, spending patterns and/or cultural practices (i.e. following celebrities on Twitter or Instagram) in the same way U.S. soap operas habituate housewives to women’s work according to Modleski, might these international productions habituate their teen viewers to an international practice of global capitalism and information management? In this case, I wonder if the form of these serials has updated or changed from the earlier examples in the 1950s, or become a global phenomenon updating tried and true (and perhaps international) techniques from these earlier forms to new international spaces and new technologies.

    -Allison Ross

  2. Interesting! I wonder if this idea of cultural exchange functions similarly on the other end of the class spectrum, though. I'm thinking specifically of ITV's The Only Way Is Essex, which could somewhat reductively be called England's answer to Jersey Shore. What do the demographics look like for one program or the other in terms of class, sex, etc.? Do these shows both fulfill the same baseline need for entertainment for viewers, or do they operate along the same aspirational vs. mocking line that American reality television tends to draw for shows in this vein? Do the different levels of access to technology have any kind of impact in the reception these shows receive? Is any of this relevant at all?