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A few Sociological Observations on ‘The Circle’ (Channel 4)

The Circle’ is a new ‘reality’ show currently airing on Channel 4 in the UK…. It is quite literally a ‘popularity contest In which 8 contestants compete over a 3-week period to be the most popular person in ‘The Circle’. The most popular contestant at the end wins £50K.

The rub is that there is no actual face to face interaction: competitors set up a social media profile (this can be anything from a more genuine portrayal of themselves to an outright catfish profile) and interact with all other competitors via a specially designed social media interface, called ‘the circle’.

The Circle is basically like Watts App – in addition to the profile, the contestants can have private 1-1 conversations, various ‘wittily named’ group chats, and whole ‘circle chats’. The circle also provides news feeds from the outside world, which competitors are expected to discuss.

Every few days, the competitors rate each other (a five star, Trip Advisor style rating) – the top two or three become ‘influencers’ and get to decide who to ‘block’ from the bottom three….. whoever is blocked gets kicked out and replaced by a new circle member.

Competitors are confined to an apartment room for the duration of the competition and have no contact with outside world, except for the snippets of news mentioned above.

The programme says of itself that it is…. ‘Timely and provocative [and] will ask questions about modern identity – how we portray ourselves and communicate on social media’…. but does it?

A few sociological observations…

An easy ‘critical starter’ is to focus on just how unrepresentative of the wider UK population the circle contestants are. They are all young (typically in their 20s, with the odd ‘young’ 30 year old), but they do not represent young people in Britain today: nearly without exception the contestants are confident, outgoing, party-types, clearly selected for their ability to ‘entertain’ on camera. Then (OF COURSE?) there’s the fact that that most of them are very attractive.

I guess it’s no surprise that all of the contestants are very comfortable interacting via ‘The Circle’, that is comfortable interacting blind (as in not face to face) with communication in short, sharp bursts, and sentences of more than 20 words are rare and emojis and hashtags being very much the norm, as is the practice of ‘leaving someone hanging’ by signing off when they’ve had enough of a private chat.

Interestingly, most of the contestants have chosen to be (more or less) themselves. Only two contestants (out of about a dozen I’ve seen) have gone for a virtual sex-swap, and one more a sexuality swap, everyone else is ‘more or less’ themselves. They know how exhausting it is ‘putting on an act’ for any length of time. In short, there simply aren’t that many catfish!

Alarmingly, the contestants are very comfortable with rating people quantitatively…. they do so, and give their reasons, with relish. And they seem to love it when they come out on top.

The contestants also know this is a game and are comfortable with this fact that this is a game…. which is why I think parallels with Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror aren’t justified. It’s not a harbinger of a dystopian future, they know it’s just a bit of fun, even if the experience is stressful.

Final Thoughts…

Ultimately  ‘The Presentation of Self In Every Day Life‘ is the most relevant theory to draw on to analyse what’s going on here… clearly these contestants are putting on masks, not only via their Circle social media profiles, but also when they’re acting on camera for the C4 audience – let’s not forget, most of these contestants are media-personality wannabes!

Written for Educational Purposes!

Image Sources

The Circle

https://tellymix.co.uk/reality-tv/big-brother/360793-the-circle-channel-4.html

 

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The State COULD be watching you: and other lessons from #Hunted

In case you’ve been living in the dark-ages and missed it (like me) Hunted is a T.V. show in which ordinary individuals take on the role of fugitives on the run from ‘Hunters’ who take on the role of agents of the state (think of MI6 meets special ops).

Hunted C4

The latest C4 series kick-started with 9 individuals (although 6 of them paired-up, so really just 6 targets) bailing from a van in Manchester city center, and then spreading out to the four corners of the UK. If they can evade the Hunters for 25 days, the survivors each get a share of £100K.

The ‘Hunters’ consist of some serious (and not particularly pleasant, although that may be dramatic license) intelligence professionals based in  London HQ, who steer a number of ground-teams, some of whom are the ‘Hunters’ who are empowered to ‘arrest’ the fugitives, and some of whom are just covert surveillance operatives who aren’t allowed to reveal their identity.

I must say, I caught the second half of episode 5/6 entirely accidentally during a Thursday evening channel hopping session last week, and enjoyed it so much I binged-watch the entire series over the next couple of days.

At time of writing (5 episodes in to a series of 6), 4 out of the 6 targets have been captured by the Hunters using a variety of surveillance and closure tactics, and 3 remain: because one original pairing has split up.

Despite enjoying the show, I couldn’t help but do a little sociological analysis:

Sociological Observations of Hunted

We may as well start with the obvious – YES the state has deeply-penetrating powers of surveillance.

Without giving too much away, the ‘Hunters’ use the following techniques to track down the fugitives:

  1. CCTV – obviously
  2. Bank card transactions which PING an alert at hunter HQ as soon as they’re used (should’ve used steem)
  3. Phone taps – some of the fugitives use ‘burner phones’ to avoid detection, the problem being that as soon as they ring someone in their network, the Hunters have that burner phone on record and can tap it.
  4. Bugging computers – the Hunters are allowed access to the fugitives’ network to interview them and use USBs to hack into their computers so they can take control of them (whether this happens in real-life, I don’t know)
  5. Car tracking devices.
  6. Analysis of the fugitives’ social media profiles.
  7. Network analysis – this actually proves to be the most important aspect of tracking people down, simply analyzing the network of family and friends and focusing surveillance on these is what typically leads the ground teams to the fugitives.

Secondly – the show demonstrates the extent to which we live in a ‘Network Society’

The Hunters have access to the fugitives’ phone and social media records, which clearly show the fugitives’ recent life-histories mapped out, and, crucially for most of the captures, the ‘densest’ lines of communication within those networks.

With some of the individual fugitives, we really get to see the ‘strength of weak ties’ – especially the guy who is ‘Deputy Mayor of Sheffield’, whose network is huge. However, there is one person who stands out, and this is what gets him caught in the end.

With the three pairs, what is further apparent is that all of them have quite different personal networks, despite being very close to each-other, which really goes to show to complexity of networks in contemporary Britain.

Hunted2.png
The Network Analysis which ultimately led to the capture of the Deputy Mayor of Sheffield. 

Thirdly – the show demonstrates dramatically the continued importance of local and family connections

Interestingly, MOST of the fugitives return to their home turf, and most to the support of their local friends and families – so it is clearly not correct to say that our networks are free-floating and virtual – our meaningful relationships are still very grounded.

Finally – it gives us a nice insight into Multi-cultural Britain!

I don’t know if it was a deliberate ploy of this year’s recruiters to demonstrate British multiculturalism, but it’s very interesting to note that 2/6 targets were African Immigrants, all from different countries: it’s actually quite rare to get such an in-depth insight into the back-stories of black-Britons, quite a nice escape from the usual, generalized tokenistic representations we get in ‘black history month’ for example.

Very Finally – what I probably find most interesting about the show (although this might just be me) is that it does put you on the side of the fugitives… you do want them to win, and this is a potentially disruptive show… it wakes you up to the awesome surveillance powers of the State: the extent to which they can penetrate into our daily lives, especially if we leave an electronic trace… although it might also be performing a subtle ‘social control function’ by sending out the message that….

The State COULD be watching you.

Final thoughts:

I think the addition #Hunted really needs is a ‘how to avoid state-surveillance’ guide… and what would my strategy be? Actually I’m not going to say, I fancy a pop at this for season 4!

 

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The Church of Stop Shopping – A Sociological Analysis

Reverend Billy and The church of stop shopping are critical of our addiction to shopping – especially at Christmas. They suggest we are facing a ‘Shopocalypse’ – arguing that over consumption fuels the debt crisis, global warming and destroys local economies and communities if products are purchased from TNCs.

Instead, they suggest that we should use Christmas as a time to develop positive new low-consumption habits – learning to be happy with less! The video below – ‘What Would Jesus Buy’ is an excellent documentary outlining their ‘activist performance art’ and their general critique of consumption at Christmas.

The Church uses its performance art to protest more widely than just at Christmas – they target unethical companies, such as banks who fund logging in the Rain Forest, and target their lobbies to protest their involvement, and get arrested a lot in the process!

There’s all sorts of links with the A level Sociology syllabus:

  • Linking to sociological theories… the Church is coming from a broadly leftist, Marxist perspective in its criticisms of our consumption habits.
  • Linking to Crime and Deviance – obviously what they are doing is deviant! More interestingly, it’s interested to note how their dealt with by the state – during many of their protests, they get arrested, spend a night in jail, then they’re back out again… while the far more harmful practices of the Corporations they protest against just carry on.
  • These activists are protesting what they see as ‘Green Crimes’ – companies which harm the planet, but of course these acts are not defined as such by the state.
  • Linking to Methods – you could argue that what they are doing is a form of ‘ethnomethodology?’ (look it up, it’s not a core part of the A-level syllabus!)
  • Linking to the Family – Personal Life Perspective maybe?
  • Linking to Education – well it’s educational!
  • And linking to religion – I dunno, I’m a bit confused about this! Possibly nothing at all?

Merry Christmas.

And don’t forget to slow down your consumption, Ahmen!  Although it’s possibly too late for that…?

church stop shopping

 

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Mary Berry Doffs Her Bonnet – and Legitimates the Class Structure (Again)

I’ve blogged about how Mary Berry’s uses her middle class cultural capital to maintain the class-order through demonising working class taste , but in her latest series of outings – Mary Berry’s Country House Secrets, she takes this to another level…

Mary Berry Age.jpg
Mary Berry’s Country House Secret Hegemony?

I could only stomach one episode, which I watched to confirm my suspicions about the general format and broader function of this series – it basically consists of The Berry visiting Lords in their large estates, and having a jolly nice time cooking for them and dining with them….. making it seem as if ‘they’re just like us’.

From a Marxist Perspective the narrow and uncritical agenda of this show perpetuates the class structure through suggesting that we should identity with the elite.

The truth is, according to a broadly Marxist analysis, that these Lords and Ladies are are not like us- they mix in their own privileged circles and ‘fine dining’ is precisely one of the mechanisms they use to distinguish themselves from us ‘plebs’.

The deeper truth is that this ascribed status, which people are born into through sheer luck, is an affront to meritocracy – and needs to be challenged, or at the very least questioned, rather than ‘doffed’, like The Berry does.

Then again, and again from a Marxist point of view, what would you expect from The Berry? Doffing to the elite class above you is a widely used tactic by the upper middle classes (you see it in the Daily Mail a lot, when they defer to the royals), suggesting that the majority of the rest of us, like Gregg Wallace, in The Berry’s case, should doff their working class caps to her.

At least according to Marxism… these views in no way represent my own on the matter!

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Rich House, Poor House – Spreading the Myth of Meritocracy

In this Channel 5 series, one family in the ‘wealthiest 10%’ of Britain swap lives for a week with a family in the ‘poorest 10% of Britain’. As I see it this programme performs an ‘ideological control function’ – spreading the myth of meritocracy.

They two families swap houses, budgets and leisure-timetables for a week – in episode two for example, the poor family, living on the rich family’s typical weekly disposable income, have to live off about £3000 per week, while the rich family, have to live off just under £200 per week, and in this episode, both families seem to be genuinely hard working and just, well, nice.

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The ‘Poor House’

The meat of the programme consists of watching the families hanging out in their respective houses, doing whatever activities the other family would normally do, and meeting their respective friends/ work colleagues, including some running reflections on how ‘nice’ it is to be rich, and what a ‘struggle’ it is to be poor.

Rich house.jpg
The ‘rich house’

Here’s how the programme performs the function of ideological control – basically it spreads the ‘myth of meritocracy‘.

  1. It misrepresents what the top 10% look like – the narration keeps talking about how the rich family is in the top 10%, they are, but their weekly disposable income of over £3K, and the fact that they own 12 restaurants and employ 60 odd people, puts them easily in the top 1%. This fact alone really annoys me – it is the extreme minority that lives like this. I worked this out using the IFS’ income calculator)
  2. The family in the top 1% are further unrepresentative in that the father genuinely worked his way up after failing school, cleaning toilets and then getting into restauranteering. This is most definitely NOT how the majority get into the top 1%, especially since social mobility has been declining in recent years.
  3. The working class father keeps saying ‘I want my children to see this and want this’ – he seems to take the experience of his week in the rich mans world as evidence that anyone can make it if you try hard enough – in fact there is LESS CHANCE TODAY HIS KIDS than he would have had to climb the career ladder.
  4. Maybe the same point as above – the working class guy has 4 kids – I wonder what the actual chances of all four kids from one working class family independently becoming millionaires actually are? It’s probably lottery odds.
  5. The ‘luck’ word is mentioned once, apparently it’s all about hard work. NO – this view is just plain wrong, Malcome Gladwell convinced me of this in his book ‘Outliers’

Personally I think this series (if it carries on this vein) is lazy and appalling television – it wouldn’t take much to add in some depth analysis, have some commentary or stats overlying how likely it is for someone to go from working class to millionnaire, for example.

Poor family.jpg
The Poor Family – now none the wiser as to how they’ve been shafted by 30 years of neoliberalism

There’s also absolutely no mention of the sheer injustice of the fact that both sets of parents are doing similar amounts of ‘work’ but the rewards are so incredibly different, and no mention of how good it is that we’ve got social housing so at least the poor family have a decent house.

rich family.jpg
The rich family – nice enough, but so few these days climb the class ladder. 

In short, my intense dislike of this show stems from the misleading portrayal of the richest 1% as representing the richest 10% and from its total lack of analysis of the actual chances of social mobility occurring.

NB – It was also quite dull viewing. If you think it sounds a little like Wife Swap, it’s much less entertaining as it’s the whole family doing the swapping, so there’s much less conflict.

 

 

 

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Postmodern Methods in Louis Theroux Documentaries

Louis Theroux documentaries are a great example of ‘postmodern’ research methods.

I say this for the following reasons:

  • Firstly, these documentaries select unusual, deviant case studies to focus on, which is especially true of the latest series – ‘Dark States’ which consists of three episodes about heroin users, sex trafficking and murder.
  • Secondly, they tend to have a narrative style, focusing on people’s stories.
  • Thirdly, there’s a lack of structure about the documentaries… Theroux makes a connection with people and sees where that leads.
  • Fourthly – there’s no real attempt to be critical, or provide any analyses of the role of economic and political structures which lie behind these stories. In short, they are not properly sociological!
  • Finally, these documentaries seem to be produced for entertainment purposes only – they simply invite us to marvel or gawp at the ‘fantastically fucked up’ individuals before us, without offering any real solutions as to how they might sort their lives out, or how society should deal with them.

A brief analysis of two episodes of ‘Dark States’ demonstrates the postmodern nature of these documentaries:

In the first episode in the series, Heroin Town, Theroux looks at how the over-prescription of painkillers has unleashed a heroin epidemic. Theroux says that he largely steered clear of the pharmaceutical companies, regulators and politicians who permitted the disaster…. Instead, he hung out on streets where heroin and opioid addiction is “off the scale, unlike anything I’d ever seen before” and made addicts the stars, giving them space to express themselves and showing how many are beguiled by the romance of being outlaws.

The third episode, on Sex Trafficking in Houston, focuses on the relationships between sex workers and pimps, also shows the ‘postmodern documentary method – in which Theroux deliberately avoided making any value judgments:

Theroux says that he avoided the term “sex slave”: “If you overdo the abusive dimension, you strip the women of agency – it’s oddly disempowering and kind of neo-Victorian. The women are getting a kind of emotional fulfilment in their relationship with the pimps, even though it is poisonous and often damaging.” The pimps tended to be stylish, eloquent and intelligent. “These guys are, in their own way, deeply damaged, often the children of prostitutes, who may have had dads or family friends who were pimps. The closest analogy I have is that they are living in semi-apocalyptic conditions where the police are just not an option.”

Of course there are both strengths and limitations of these postmodern methods… I guess the biggest strength is that they allow the respondents to speak for themselves, and it’s down to the viewer to interpret the information as they will, and analyse deeper if they feel the need!

Sources:

The Guardian

 

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Meet the Natives (Sociology on T.V.)

Meet the Natives involves five people from a tropical island visiting a ‘strange land called England’, where they find many of the customs unusual.

At various points throughout the video the ‘natives’ from Oceania have problems understanding British dinner rituals, the food we eat, housework/ the amount of stuff we have and even the concept of wearing clothes.

Videos like this are a great way to introduce the ‘sociological imagination’ to students, because they are shot from the perspective of ‘the outsider’ and remind us that many of our taken for granted activities are actually quite unusual….

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Return to Eden and Eden Lost – A Case Study in Problematic Masculinity?

Starting in Spring 2016, Channel 4’s ‘Return to Eden’ was a year long social experiment in which 23 people moved to Inverness-shire in the Scottish Highlands – their mission – to form a community and survive for one year.

The experiment was a somewhat artificial community-experiment – in that the people were selected by the show, on the basis of their having the different skills thought to be required for a community to survive for a year; and with the exception of electricity and modern technology (most significantly phones and computers) they were given a shed load of equipment necessary to meet their basic needs – although they did have to grow their own food.

Oh, and the community members all had cameras, along with a bunch of fixed position cameras to film the whole experience.

Eden Lost 

‘Return to Eden’ initially aired in summer 2016, documenting the first three months of the experiment. Originally, it seemed that Channel Four were going to provide updates on the community throughout the year, but after the initial summer raft of episodes, there was a near total media blackout until the show ‘returned’ as ‘Eden Lost‘ in summer 2017, 3 months after the year long experiment ended.

Eden Lost starts in the summer of 2016, following the participants from 3 months to the end of their stay (by the end, there are only 10 people left, 13 people dropped out, mostly women, before the conclusion of the experiment).

After the first three months – the camp has basically divided into three – a group of five males who have ‘bonded’, 2 ‘outsiders’ who are living in a cabin on their own, and everyone else.

Episode 1 of ‘Eden Lost’ focuses on the group of five males, seemingly led by a character (a plumber) called Titch who at one point proposes a ‘gendered division of labour’ which offends pretty much everyone else outside of the clique of five. This group of lads seems to be quite the ‘Laddish subculture’ – openly joking about ‘sharing women’ in front of, well, the women in the community, and teasing them for ‘getting emotional’ when they got upset about their laddish behaviour.

You can see them throughout the episode justifying their behaviour, employing various of Matza’s ‘techniques of neutralisation’, clearly never taking responsibility for or really ever seeming to care about how their juvenile misogyny was having a negative effect on group dynamics.

The formation of this group seems to have led to yet more women leaving, further entrenching their position of power in the wider community (five in a group of fifteen, which is roughly how many were left by this point is quite a significant number too!)

Episode two focuses on the two outsiders – who effectively get voted out (75% majority required) by the others. These two seem to have been used as a scapegoat, constructed as a venting point for certain people in the main community.

Episode three – ‘Valley Boys’ focuses on the developing split between the five ‘valley boys’ and the other six people left in the original group. These five increasingly isolated themselves from the wider community, wanting to focus more on ‘themselves’ rather than doing things for the community as a whole.

It also seems that the lads deteriorate further into their laddishness, with scenes of derogatory ‘banter’ directed against the gay guy in the group (justified as just ‘banter’ by the lads).

At one point, the lads start eating nothing but meat, pushing the slaughter rate of animals up from one a week to six a week, which offends Rob P, the vet who has respect for animals and can’t see to see so many ‘shot in the face to feed greedy wankers’ (or something along those lines – and he becomes another one who leaves, effectively forced out by the relentless laddish subculture.

NB – what’s particularly grim about they way they deal with their meat fest is that they leave bits of bone and carcass lying around the valley, which makes it ‘stink of death’.

The final episode stars off with  Christmas Day – which seems to be going fine until Artist Katie, the girlfriend of the vet who left in the previous month, decides to leave the party stating she doesn’t want to spend the day with any of the people there because they’re all revolting (as far as she’s concerned)

There’s an issue with people getting contraband smuggled into Eden, and a debacle over someone having been using a mobile phone, although we never actually find out who was using it. which kind of makes a mockery of the whole experiment.

By this final episode, the two groups are living entirely separate lives, but they come together for a final fire-party on the beach.

What does Channel 4’s recent social experiment tell us about ‘community’ and social life more generally?

TBH I think it tells us very little…

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Social Experiments on T.V.

There have been a lot of T.V. productions which have run ‘social experiments’ in recent years. This post simply outlines a few examples of these and some of the strengths and limitations of social experiments run by media companies. Channel 4 seems to be the main outlet for these experiments….

Some (relatively) recent examples of televised social experiments

Return to Eden and Eden Lost

Eden social experiment.jpg

Channel 4’s Return to Eden featured 23 people heading to an island in the Scottish Highlands for a year to see what happened if a small community of people ‘started again’. They had sufficient resources to last the year, so I guess the experiment was just about of seeing how people would interact when their economic basics are sorted out.

The show wasn’t a great success: after the first four episodes (aired in spring 2016), viewing figures slumped to 800 000, and the show only returned in July 2017 as a ‘retrospective’, now called ‘Eden Lost’.

The experiment wasn’t a great success – 13 people left before the experiment ended, with only 10 left at the end. I just hope none the candidates had hopes of becoming a Fogle 2.0 who managed to segway into his media career after the BBC’s Castaway 2000.

The Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds

This is much less ‘media manufactured’ than the example of Eden above: more of a ‘proper’ experiment with just cameras being present.

old-peoples-home-4-year-olds.jpg

The point of the experiment is to measure the effects of having children present over the course of a few weeks on the physical and mental health of elderly people.

In the experiment variables such as reaction time and mobility of the elderly residents are measured, then the home is effectively turned into a day care nursery for four year olds, with the old-people taking an active role in their day-care, and after a few weeks, their health is tested again.

The results are remarkable!

No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free?

This sort of thing is sociology gold-dust – a school in the Isle of White is turned into a gender-neutral zone…

Boys-girls-gender-stereotypes.jpg

Some strengths and limitations of televised social experiments 

Obviously each of these social experiments have their own individual strengths and limitations, but there are also some generic strengths and limitations which stem from the fact  media companies are involved in the production of these experiments.

  • There are some obvious practical strengths to the social researcher – you can just watch the show and relay the results, this is secondary data after all.
  • There are also some obvious ethical advantages to the social researcher – the respondents have given their consent to the company involved in making, so in effect the ethics of the research are down to the media company – there are no obvious additional ethical problems which might be a barrier to research simply by using what material is made available by the media company.
  • Usually in terms of representativeness, media corps are pretty good at representing a range of classes, genders and ethnicities in these experiments.
  • Probably the biggest problem of televised social experiments is that the primary reason for making them is to make a profit, and to do this they need to be entertaining – thus the kinds of topics chosen will not necessarily be those of interest to social researchers.
  • The ‘entertainment problem’ also comes into play where ‘controlling variables’ and testing hypotheses are concerned – entertainment trumps the kinds of questions asked and the shape of the experiment
  • When it comes to validity, there are also lot of potential problems – you only get to see what the media company wants you to see.  The Hawthorne Effect might also apply – respondents may act differently because they know they are on T.V.
  • Finally, in terms of reliability, this could be difficult because there’s a chance that people doing any repeat experiments will have seen previous experiments, which could influence future results.

So all in all, while these televised social experiments may be entertaining (if that’s your thing), it might well be that they give us very little valid or reliable data about how people interact in the real world.

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My Top Ten Fictional Films with Sociology Content

Films are a great way to teach sociological theories and concepts – and there’s lots of films out there which do just that.

In no particular order…. (And links to analysis to follow)

  1. Fight Club – The most obvious reading is of this as a classic critique of the false consciousness and alienation the working classes suffer under consumer capitalism, but no doubt there are other interpretations out there.
  2. A Bug’s Life –  Useful for illustrating basic Marxist concepts.
  3. Black Mirror: The National Anthem – Charlie Brooker’s short film – The Prime Minister has to have sex with a pig live on T.V. to save the life of the nation’s princess whose been kidnapped. This is the best film, hands down, to convey the meaning of ‘hyperreality’.
  4. Catfish – About a guy that meets a girl on Facebook, and on taking a trip across the States to meets her realises she’s not as good looking as her photos suggested. Most people who’ve gone on a date can relate to this, just maybe not to this extreme. (P.S. I’m calling it fiction, I simply don’t believe it wasn’t set up, just don’t tell the kids before you show it them.)
  5. Lord of War – A nice introduction to the module on Global Development – Set over a ten year period from the mid ‘80s to the mid ‘90s Nicholas Cage plays an arms dealer who comes into own selling ex-Soviet military hard-ware to African Dictators and rebels. Quite a nice introduction to the history of international conflict post Cold-War
  6. Hotel Rwanda – A bit slow, and a not so nice introduction to Global Development – set around the Rwandan Genocide – Especially useful if you are going to teach conflict as an aspect of development given the ongoing concerns in neighbouring DRC in 2012-13
  7. The Freedom Writers – Based on a true story a teacher encourages her marginalised, mostly ethnic minority students to get into literature by telling their stories in diaries. It may be based in ‘90’s America, but you find another film that’s about education and research methods and I’ll eat my diary.
  8. Visitor Q – O.K. It’s an 18, so I’m not recommending you show this to your teenage students in class – but let’s just say if you thought gay marriage was contentious or divorce-extended families somewhat unusual, by the standards of the family in this little gem, the rest of us are all pretty much singing from the same song sheet.
  9. Threads – Really not that much to do with anything I teach, but this is simply the most harrowing movie I’ve ever seen. The fact that it’s set in the in Sheffield in the 1980s is scary enough for starters, and it gets worse as it imagines what a real life nuclear holocaust would actually be like. Unlike most other films there is no happy ending, so if you have a burning hatred for a particular class or have just had a stressful year and want to end the term by putting the students on a downer – this is the video to choose.
  10. Kung fu Panda – Simply the best film ever made period. Richly layered with many levels of meaning, and deeply, deeply moving.