The Apprentice Final Five and Class Inequality

Last Updated on December 30, 2016 by

The Apprentice – The Final Five demonstrates some of the subtle ways in which the class structure disadvantages those from working class backgrounds –


To focus on just one example, Frances was a straight A student who dropped out of the University of Durham because ‘it sounds ridiculous’ but she didn’t feel liked she fitted in.

Frances Bishop – eventually fired after the interview round

Here’s some class-based theorising about why she may’ve dropped out… of course it’s just theory, with any luck she’ll comment and say whether there’s any truth in it or not, can’t beat a bit of qualitative feedback after all…

From a broadly Marxist perspective, the 18 year old Frances’ naive lack of awareness of the class structure may have played a role in her dropping out – had she realised in advance that elite universities are are chock full of hot-housed middle class students then she might have been better prepared to endure three years of alienation and anomie.

Better days?

I imagine her first sense of dislocation came from her material disadvantage – it’s likely that many of her peers would be familiar with going for regular meals-out/ regular wardrobe changes/ maybe even ski-holidays, which someone from a poorer background (her step-dad was a truck driver) wouldn’t be familiar with – I’m sure Francis’ weekly budget was considerably lower than the average, and with no middle-class-daddy safety net to back her up, her days keeping up with the fillees were always going to be numbered.

Then you have to add to this her lack of cultural capital – Frances’ lack of knowledge of middle class values and tastes would further alienate her – I’m sure concepts such as weekend breaks , ponies, and ski holidays would be misnomers, for example, hardly grist for her conversational mill.

(UPDATE 30/12/16 – Frances did comment, and my speculation seems to have been ‘close to the mark’! What can I say – looks like social class barriers are a social fact!)


If only Frances had read some Bourdieu in advance of going to uni, she might not have expected to fit in at all,  and maybe this would’ve helped her to endure and get her degree – then again, maybe that would’ve left her worse off, she seems to have done alright for herself in the end, even if she doesn’t win Sugar’s cash.

Frances isn’t the only media celebrity to fall fowl of the evils of cultural capital – Mary Berry tried doing the same to Gregg Wallace as the Durham fillies did to Frances, but Gregg seemed to be more able to resist the affront.

I feel like I’m gradually collecting celebrity victims of cultural capital, maybe one day we’ll all find each other on the front line of the coming class war… it’d make for a good selfie.

Related Posts 

Lies, Damn Lies and The Apprentice – How we’re supposed to think The Apprentice works compared to how it actually works

The Myth of Meritocracy and The Structure of Luck – The later half of the post focuses on the role luck played in Alana’s (the eventual winner of The Apprentice 2016) eventual victory – the blonde one to the left in the above picture.


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