In this essay I will unpack how social class is shown through the television show Ja’mie private school girl. Social class has as defined by (George Ritzer) is “ Classes are social categories sharing subjectively-salient attributes used by people to rank those categories within a system of economic stratification”. Class is commonly broken up into many categories: lower class, working class, middle class, and the upper class. There are a number of factors that influence which class group an individual is placed in. (George Ritzer) explains that economic earnings/potential is a main factor in determining class as well as the type of job an individual has and the geographic location an individual lives and works in also has some influence.
Through this essay I will show how social class has an impact on the opportunities an individual as and how through an elevated social class she is able to exercise her power and authority even if it has a negative impact on others. The class structure that is shown within the show is one that is present in the country of Australia and another class structure that is specific to the private school Ja’mie attends.
The clip I have selected is from Ja’mie private school girl titled We’re so quiche . This is from an Australian television show which aired in 2013. It is a show based on the life of Ja’mie, a private school girl from a wealthy white upper class family who reside in Sydney Australia. Through the show she is shown exploiting her social status and exercising her power to benefit herself. In particular she targets boarders who she regards as lower class and torments them on a daily basis. Her status within the school is elevated even higher as she is one of the school prefects. She uses this position to justify her actions and persuade the school officials to let her behaviour go unnoticed and unpunished. It is to be noted that this is a show satirical show parodying the racist, classist, and gender issues of Australian society. Ja’mie herself is played by a male actor called Chris Lilley.
The opening of the scene shows Ja’mie walking arm and arm with her friends who are all mirror images of herself. They are all slim, blonde, attractive females wearing their prefect uniforms. They are a unified group surveying what they believe is their territory. Walking behind them is Kwami a Ugandan teenager who Ja’mie and her family “rescued” in a previous episode. Ja’mies family originated from South Africa and like many others from that background have a misconception that “Blacks” as they refer to Kwami as are uneducated and of a lower class.
She takes him by the arm and explains to him “ So this is the Oval and this is like where all the seniors hang out, except Asians, and all the groups sit around and stuff. What it is is that basically the hotter and more important you are the closer to the centre you sit. So we are dead centre” She then sees another group sitting in “her” spot and screams at them “Move out of our spot, for fucks sake”
Here she is asserting her class dominance in a multitude of ways. First she is subjecting Kwami to a position of submissiveness by having him trail behind the group and only allowing him to link arms with her when she choses. This is in part due to her efforts to preserve her class position within the school as the highest level in society and also making a potential member of their group work for their place beside her. This may also be due to her families belief regarding the apartheid and that black and white people are not equal. This is not only a class issue but an extension of racism. Colonial values of racial hierarchy are prevalent in the minds of Australians especially within Ja’mies family as they immigrated from South Africa a historically racist country that believes in creating and enforcing class structures.
The next way she is asserting her class dominance is through educating Kwami on the inner working of the Oval. To Ja’mie and her peers the Oval is the equivalent of the food chain with the wealthy upper class people taking the highest position in the food chain or in this case being closest to the centre of the oval. From this position in the oval Ja’mie and her group are able to be watched by all those around her and in turn she is able to watch her peers and keep them in check. She has had confirmation of her power by the role she was given as prefect.
The school elected her to a position of power not based solely on her merits but the social class she belonged to. By informing Kwami she also further establishes that she believes she is more educated than he is and that it is her obligation to teach him the ways of the school. It is to be noted that the school Ja’mie attends is a private all girls school and that Kwami has no need for the information she is installing in him. He receives no benefit from the education he is given by Ja’mie but must comply with it in order to be accepted within the group. This may be considered a modern form of the white mans burden. A belief that white people are entrusted with a duty to educate minorities as they have historically been perceived as less intelligent and less civilised (Kipling, Rudyard, Wise)
When she identifies that another group who are of a lesser class level sitting in her spot she does not hesitate to assert her dominance once again. This time in an aggressive manner. By screaming profanities at the other group she is communicating to them that her position of power is not to be challenged and that they do not belong at the centre of the Oval and that they do not meet the criteria of hotness and importance she has created. Asserting dominance is a way to justify the hierarchy of the upper class group.
(Leo Kuper) explains that assertion of dominance in both class and race is due to the need for preservation of power and status within upper class people and people who belong to the dominant race within their society. Ja’mie belongs to both of these groups so her aggressive persistence may be due to the dual roles she plays in society and the authority she believes she has over people because of her position as prefect. Ja’mie is faced with little to no negative consequences from her friends, family and school officials so she is in a way being encouraged to enforce the values of the dominant ideologies that governs the society around her.
Ja’mie continues her tirade in the Oval with her next comment “ See those girls over there? They are my year eleven friends. I kind of phased them out because they got fat” This comment is directly related to the social structure within the private school. The social structure is determined by wealth, attractiveness, popularity which is not dissimilar from the class structure of the outside world but as the people within her peer group are not capable of making an income as an adult would they are classified by how they look compared to their economic wealth. As these qualities are important to Ja’mie she allowed younger people into her social circle as they embodied the traits of her social class. As the girls no longer met her requirements due to weight gain she excluded them from the group.
In conclusion this television show and in particular the satirical main character Ja’mie highlights the persistent class and race struggles within Australia. The clip shows that she has been put in a position of authority with her role as prefect, which enables her to enforce and justify the beliefs she has had instilled in her due to her upper class position in society and her position as the dominant race within Australia. She has has created rules and ideals surrounding these beliefs which she enforces within her peer group. This includes forcing Kwami to take a submissive role within the group due to his class and race and educating him on the class structure within the school, she has created a invisible barriers within the Oval to seperate classes, she is aggressive when enforcing these rules to justify her position in society as being elite or upper class and she as a dominant person of authority regulates the social classes as she pleases.
Wright, Erick Olin. “Social class” (2003)
Kipling, Rudyard, and Thomas James Wise. "The white man's burden." (1899): 8.
Harcroft, Houghten Mifflin. Types of social classes of people. Cliff notes, 2016. https://www.cliffsnotes.com/study-guides/sociology/social-and-global-stratification/types-of-social-classes-of-people
Kuper, Leo. “Race Class & Power: Ideology and Revolutionary Change in Plural Societies” (2017)
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