The film People Like Us opened up my eyes to how broad the class system is in the United States. The film states that, “naturally Americans have a really hard time talking about the class system because they don’t want to admit that a class system exists”. The class system in America is based on many different characteristics as well as categories that people fall into within the class system and can be described as “a nation of tribes” and “every American is a member of at least one of them”. Couri Hay, a society columnist, says that class is sometimes based on “looks, popularity, money, how big your house is or where [ones] daddy works”. Different class categories, as described in the film, included the fall gentry, social climber, working stiff and social critic.
Now, according to the American dream, everyone has a shot at moving up. But, “navigating class orders in American can be tricky and it is never as easy as it looks”. Paul Fussell, an author, was asked if it was possible to change social class successfully. He believed that “it might be possible, but it would take a whole lifetime of study and actress changing to do it”. Then he decided, “[he] didn’t think it was possible” and that [he] thought you are for a lifetime in the class in which you grew up. I would have to disagree with Paul Fussell. When I look at my father, I look at where he started off in the class system as a child which was low middle class at the most. He worked hard, paid for his own schooling and now he can successfully say that he is at least in the middle to upper middle class of our class system. I believe with hard work, motivation and a dream you can move up in society if it is something you truly want.
As far as the class system being invisible in this culture, I’m not so sure it is. I think people are aware of what class they are in society and that a class system exists. Do you think those who are upper class don’t know they are upper class? Of course they do. And those who are lower class know they are lower class and those in the middle class are aware of that as well. I think I became aware of class probably in middle school. That is when I started observing what kind of houses people lived in, what kind of clothes they wore-were they brand name, something else, or was it a mix, and whose parents did what for work. People may not go around saying they have more or less money than other people, or better or worse jobs but they know where stand in the class system. I know how hard my parents worked, and still work, to be where they are in our class system today. They wanted to provide for me, for my sisters, for our family, the best life that they could and they truly have. I am appreciative and grateful for everything they have done for me, and I want to provide for my future family at least the same as my parents provided for me. I feel that generation from generation builds on each other to work their way up in the class system or, if they are happy, stay where they are. But, Americans seem to always want more, more and more so I think the goal is to usually work their way up that economic ladder.
Although I think the film did a good job of showing that different classes exist I wish it had done a few things differently. The way the film was divided into different parts was nice as it set up an outline for the film but I don’t quite understand how they decided to focus on those specific topics that made up the different parts. One part was “How to Marry the Rich” another was “Sale of the Earth: Blue Collar Life in a White Collar World (Gnomes R Us)”, another was “Friends in Low Places” and there was also “Belles Belles Belles”. I think the part that could have been the most interesting was a blue collar life in a white collar world. I would have liked to have seen more of how people transitioned from the blue collar life to the white collar life, but the majority of it was a segment on some lady selling concrete lawn figures. How to Marry the Rich was entertaining, but I’m not sure what is really showed. I liked how that part mentioned that “in America, we like to think if we are not satisfied with our class we can change it” and “to many of us, it seems that the view is the better a few rungs up on the economic latter”. This, I could relate and this I could understand. But, they showed Ginie the millionaire coaching some women about how to attract rich men and it ended with them at an auction, with what I am assuming, were a bunch of rich men. If they had showed how the women was doing in a couple of years, if she was able to move up in society I felt like that could have explained more about the class system and if it is possible to move up. They didn’t show anything though which left me slightly disappointed.
I think overall, the film brought up some interesting points about the class system and showed the lives of different people but, to me, it fell short. It seemed that they showed the extremes of people. I could easily sort out rich upper class and then I had a hard time deciphering the rest. Maybe, why I had such a hard time with this film was because I couldn’t tell which people in the film were like me. Is the phrase “People Like Us” supposed to show that stereotypes of people in certain classes do exist? If so, then class cannot be that invisible in society if people are aware of those stereotypes. Maybe I am completely off in my thoughts, or maybe I am not understanding something that others are because I think class is visible in America and people do know it exists. So, if anyone wants to help me look at this in a different perspective, please do. I’ve come to the conclusion that you can categorize people in different class systems, but it is more than class that makes up a person-it is the values, beliefs, goals and experiences that shape a person which is so much more than one label given to them based on what class they fall into in our society.