rich white people problems

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rich white people problems

Post by spacefem » Sun Mar 13, 9:49 2016

I'm reading way ahead on our book list, I know I said I'd post a thread about "the perks of being a wallflower" in June but I just read it. Let's not discuss this specific book just yet - just a related question that came up in my head as I was reading it and especially watching the film based on the movie.

how many books and movies have you read where the main characters were rich powerful privileged people, or kids growing up in rich families?

I feel like there's an overabundance of these voices in our world, you don't have to look hard in the media to hear what a rich celeb thinks about life. so it makes it hard for me to feel sympathetic for them as fictional characters.

Citizen Kane. Catcher in the Rye. The princess in "The Breakfast Club". A lot of people love these stories, I do not. If you're sick of the pressures involved in having money and power, that's a sign that you're not using what you have to make the world a better place, right? or maybe I'm off.

I guess the question is: do you agree with me that our popular stories are all too often focused on the privileged? are there stories about rich people that you feel happy to have experienced?
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Re: rich white people problems

Post by Unvoiced_Apollo » Sun Mar 13, 10:26 2016

Could you name some recent examples? Most movies I've seen in the past year I don't recall dealing with rich people having trouble with the pressures of having money. I'm not yet saying I disagree with you, but I think I need some better context.

As for your second question, A Christmas Carol is the only one that comes to mind.

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Re: rich white people problems

Post by Sonic# » Sun Mar 13, 11:23 2016

The short answer - yes. I think you're right. I think it goes back into the earlier history of our literatures. There are stories that don't focus on upper class people, but heroes tend to be aristocrats. They tend to be knights or warriors. They tend to be high-born. I think these ideas still come through today, either directly (they come from a privileged family) or indirectly (they come from a privileged family but don't enjoy all the benefits of that privilege.

Take Harry Potter. He lives with his aunt, uncle, and cousin and is treated like rubbish until he finds out that his parents were really somewhat more influential and awesome than he'd been told. He inherits more money than he knows what to do with, and everyone treats him differently, which is quite a shock to him. This is one way he is a sympathetic character - he should have been rich and happy, but his family was taken away from him. Noble by birth, unfortunate in circumstance: we could count the stories in SF that focus on that premise, like A Series of Unfortunate Events (rich family, parents die, relative tries to disinherit them), Mercedes Lackey's Magic's Pawn (rich family, son and heir is seen as "effeminate," he gets sent to Haven to not bring shame on family), Marvel's Iron Man and indeed much of comic books (rich family, parents die, son tries to live up to expectations amid stresses of being a hero), Star Wars (rich families, father dies/goes to dark side, son struggles with legacy) - there are so many of them.

Spacefem, do you like Star Trek better partly because family backgrounds either seem relatively more modest (Picard as son of winemakers, Crusher as daughter and granddaughter of healers) or are less important to the narrative (Worf and Troi both have their aristocratic families, but it's not as central to most episodes)?

I pick on this pattern because it's a common narrative pattern that relies on privilege while also distancing itself from the direct benefits of that privilege. Personally, I do find myself liking that pattern more, sometimes despite myself, because they seem often to depict class differences and issues more. In comics and comic-based materials, I've never liked the heroes with in-born nobility or wealth as much as I've liked those who get their qualities along the way. I like Captain America more than Iron Man, for instance, and I go back and forth on Superman and Batman.

One other thought - are almost all my examples men reflective of a sexist bias in how we think of this kind of narrative (it's easier to think of men in this powerful a position), or is this a part of most of our stories? (Romances where the man is wealthy and powerful and has issues but the woman is at most middle class - I could name a lot too.)

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Re: rich white people problems

Post by Nerd1987 » Sun Mar 13, 19:19 2016

Yes even tv shows.

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Re: rich white people problems

Post by Meperidine » Sun Mar 13, 20:15 2016

I was talking with deanimal about this once, we pinned it down as a reason we don't like Jane Austen novels. We're supposed to consider the main characters underprivileged because their mansion is slightly smaller than the neighbors' or they only have a dozen servants.
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Re: rich white people problems

Post by rowan » Mon Mar 14, 0:47 2016

^haha right? I'm glad I'm not the only one!
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Re: rich white people problems

Post by monk » Mon Mar 14, 17:25 2016

spacefem wrote:I guess the question is: do you agree with me that our popular stories are all too often focused on the privileged? are there stories about rich people that you feel happy to have experienced?
I think it's almost a requirement though. I can think of plenty of examples of stories about the non-rich. But most of those stories are about survival and overcoming hardship. But adventure stories? or stories that aren't about acquiring the basic necessities almost have to involve privileged people because they're the only ones to have the time to have adventures. Everyone else is at work earning rent. I think stories of rags to riches are the most common because everyone wants to dream of rising up above wherever they are and making it.
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Re: rich white people problems

Post by spacefem » Mon Mar 14, 20:23 2016

I definitely like star trek because it's a meritocracy, and because it's got different characters and everybody throws what weirdness they have into facing the challenge, there's not just one all-knowing, born with brilliance in his blood, perfect hero for every situation.

examples though... uhg, I dunno, you're right there's lots of stories in the world out there. maybe I'm too sucked into netflix telling me to watch these slow dramas about nannies who get too attached to the rich kids they're watching. titanic was about rich people, why did we love it so much? maybe my family got WAY too into downton abbey. I can't bring myself to watch The Wolf of Wall Street.
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Re: rich white people problems

Post by Aum » Wed Mar 16, 9:20 2016

Yup I've noticed exactly what you're talking about. Stepping away from literature and looking at movies, there are so many protagonists who live in these big suburban homes with a lot of luxuries. The settings are absurdly lavish but the popular discourse pitches these settings as normal, natural lifestyles. I remember growing up watching some of these movies thinking, "Wow, they have such a huge home!" And I was middle class too but even I noticed. It's to the point where those voices are so common place that they're practically expected as part of the narrative.

One thing that just occurred to me is that maybe these narratives are there in order to facilitate easy story telling. Like, if we're not focused at all on the character's material survival then it leaves room for other kinds of plot explorations. Let's face it, most media where the protagonist is poor tends to focus mainly on their poverty as a central theme, instead of making it incidental. Compare that to privileged media where the fact that they're privileged is always incidental. So poor people get marginalized in media twice: by virtue of their existence and usually because it gets turned into the whole point of the story.

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Re: rich white people problems

Post by Enigma » Fri Mar 18, 19:36 2016

I just read Nickeled and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich (She tries to live for a few months on minimum wage in the states) and one of the more powerful things she said in it was that the fact that the actual stories of the poor aren't really part of our culture and how much easier that makes it to demonize them (I'm paraphrasing) and therefore take away welfare and other benefits. It is odd how even the "average" people on tv have perfect hair and clothes and massive houses.

If I think about my favourites of things I loved Gilmore Girls (rich girl runs away and has baby, defiantly proves being middle class isn't so bad), Veronica Mars (middle class girl becomes poor in a rich neighbourhood, solves all the crimes caused by their hedonism), Donnie Darko went to private school? My favourite books don't seem to be about the rich though.

It is weird how the very poor don't seem to exist in our culture outside of depressing lifetime movies.
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Re: rich white people problems

Post by Sonic# » Fri Mar 18, 22:30 2016

It is odd how even the "average" people on tv have perfect hair and clothes and massive houses.
^ That's a great point that my partner and I have observed watching home buying shows. The price range is usually in upper hundreds of thousands, and each time we're like, "Daaaaaaamn." And that's home buying, where I expect people to have enough credit to at least get a decent mortgage. I just don't think in the scale of such a high cost of living.

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Re: rich white people problems

Post by Elise89 » Mon Apr 4, 0:09 2016

Sonic# pretty much nailed it in her reply.

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Re: rich white people problems

Post by Nachos » Mon Apr 4, 9:30 2016

I hadn't really noticed this until you pointed it out. It's not in all the literature I read but it is a lot.

I think however that the Jane Austen and other stories talking about how poor they were because they had less servants etc were the only ones that survived/were published. Not everyone had time to sit and write and then also get manuscripts published.
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Re: rich white people problems

Post by geldofc » Mon Apr 4, 15:37 2016

rich white ppl get in on social justice because it's trendy now, while they sit in their rich white ppl houses
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