Harry and Katniss are very different heroes because they live in very different worlds. But if I had to guess whether most people felt their world more closely resembled the private boarding school with clear-cut lines between good and evil, or the dystopic district with frustrated and struggling neighbors, I'd say there's a real reason Katniss's mythology has captured audiences as thoroughly as Harry did in his more prosperous heyday.
In Harry Potter, then, social class is a way of telling us something about the characters more than the actual lived reality or a source of conflict that it becomes in The Hunger Games. This is because in the wizarding world, power doesn't come just come from money and other forms of social privilege, power comes from magic—and it seems that magic is quite an equalizer.
Finding North is a title so perfect it doesn't fully sink in until after you've finished watching the film. The documentary by filmmakers Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush doesn't allude to it at any point during its 84 minutes (except in song lyrics during the opening credits), but it provides a powerful paradigm for the rest of the film: quite simply, any country whose citizens go hungry while there is enough food has lost its direction and must get back on course.
Unions are supposed to help workers have jobs that are safe, fairly compensated, and have opportunities for upward mobility. But unions are having trouble doing that these days, in large part because so many legislators and executives (like the ones on Undercover Boss) are going so far to limit their power.
Few women of color are allowed to represent themselves on television with much nuance; frequently they are reduced to stock characters like mammies and Jezebels that deny them full, complex humanity. Successful women of color are slammed with stereotypes of the "Angry Black Woman" or are forced to represent all women of their race as impossibly perfect standard-bearers.
Within this all of this, the Real Housewives of Atlanta become caricatured and over-representative of what we think wealthy black women should like like.
For the Bluths, their wealth is a performance, but their class privilege is real. They live in a former shell of their old life: they share a model home built by the once-lucrative Bluth construction company that stands alone in an unfinished development. Beautiful inside and out, the home deteriorates throughout the series, but the façade remains intact. And to most of the members of this family, that's what's really important.
Trailer trash, white trash—these ways of describing low-income people aren't new. They're meant to make people quite literally disposable, a way of denying their humanity and their potential to offer anything of value. With Jersey Shore, though, we get the "trash" without talking about money at all. What the castmates wear, how they behave, how they style their hair, how they speak, these all communicate to the viewer their lack of cultural capital and, consequently, their social standing.
Yet, what Downton Abbey also offers for the modern viewer is the idea that, today, class differences have been overcome. The stark separation between the lives of the family and the staff illustrate a segregation that is no longer overt in today's society. Few people have lives in literal servitude, and even fewer have actual servants. We like to believe that now, a hundred years later, class is really something entirely different, something more transmutable, blurrier, and more easily overcome.
Shows like The Bachelor and Millionaire Matchmaker not only reduce romance to opulent displays of consumerism and gender conformity, but they distract us from actual consideration of the role of class in relationships and the need to negotiate those differences on a real, ongoing, interpersonal level.