This paper will discuss the views ofClass and Power: The Major Themes (Porter, 2004, p. 187). Porter reported there is a false belief of equality in Canada, often based on the portrayal of media images. He further illustrated that North American society is predominantly focused on the consumption of goods. This will then be compared toFast-food Nation: The True Cost of America’s Diet(Schlosser, 2004, p. 138). Schlosser has argued that major corporations, fast-food chains specifically, have systematically oppressed those of middle and lower class. He goes on to explain that these corporations view their workers as expendable and therefore, have no reason to be granted reasonable wages or benefits. At the same time, the work of Porter and Schlosser will be used to highlight key concepts from Schaefer, T. R., & Haaland. B. (2006). Sociology: A Brief Introduction(2nd Canadian Ed.). Toronto, ON: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.
Specifically, this paper will focus on three key ideas. First, it will focus on the premise of media portrayal of class images. What are the implications of media images defining social norms? Who controls the media? Second, what impact do fast-food chains have on the remuneration of their employees and other job sectors? Fast-food chains are competing with one another, but how do they focus on the bottom line? Third, what are the ramifications of uniformity and are they already taking place?
You cannot seem to go anywhere without seeing an advertisement. They are on buses, in hospitals, in bathrooms and even on the clothing that people wear. What types of images do these advertisements represent? Sports athletes on T.V., considered by some to be role models, are often wearing a major sports brand such as Nike. The media image of a high profile figure wearing their brand of clothing to attract others. By wearing these brands of clothing many people feel they embody some characteristics of that person. This form of impression management, in which people wear clothing based on how they wish to be portrayed by others (Schaefer & Haaland, 2006), can often dictate which class they wish to be associated with. Overtime, these media images create a social change where social norms and values are redefined.
Celebrity figures are often portrayed in a glamorous light. Their lives are placed under a spotlight. What they wear, what they drive, and where they eat is often overly documented. Realistically, these displays of wealth are beyond the reach of middle and low class society. However, these images are ideal in capitalist society as it motivates people to work harder to attain these media induced goals.
Advertisements are culturally universal. They exist everywhere and often with it come the portrayal of happiness associated with a product. The familiar golden arches of the McDonald’s brand are more recognizable than the holy cross (Schlosser, 2004, p. 139). Furthermore, a study of American school children shows that the fictional Ronald McDonald has a ninety-six percent recognition rate; only Santa Claus was higher (p. 139). These examples of diffusion show how impacted our society is by media influence. How do the media portray the lower class?
In advertisements, there are rarely any portrayals of lower class existence. As a post modern society, people are more focused on the consumption of goods displayed through media images (Schaefer & Haaland, 2006) than helping the needs of the poor. It is as if these media images instill a form of content by showing happy families, determined athletes, and reliable brands. Society becomes spoiled by these images and anything that defies these norms is what people want to avoid. The irony is that the lower class people are overcome by this need of consumption as well. Therefore, they will often obtain work for little pay and poor conditions simply to attain beyond what is necessary. Unfortunately, this makes them exploitable by their employers, which is most commonly a fast-food restaurant.
A Japanese story comes to mind, entitled “The Monkey and the Moon.” The monkey, which we will consider the lower and middle class, is trying to reach up and touch the moon, the upper class. However, no matter how far the monkey stretches it cannot reach it. The monkey decides it will capture the reflection of the moon within a lake. After it captures the moon, the monkey goes into the lake and touches it, only to end up drowning. The point being, that as long as society is mesmerized by the images induced by the upper class it will only aid in its own oppression.
With the cost of living increasing, the minimum wage limit on the decline and societies fascination with goods come a deviance from old social norms. Housewives, for example, may need to start working to help pay the bills. Teenagers, from low income families may need to start working in order to pay for schooling, family debt, and even basic necessities. Realistically, these groups do not have much of a choice regarding jobs as they often lack desirable job skills. This results in acquiring a job at low requirement fast-food chains, such as McDonald’s.
Fast-food franchises primary focus is to cut costs and in some cases, have gone to illegitimate lengths. In a case with Taco Bell, eight hundred present and past managers have sued the company for not paying overtime wages. They were also instructed to destroy employment records and encouraged to hire illegal aliens to control costs (Schlosser, 2004, p. 142).
Entry level jobs at McDonald’s often accompany minimum wage payment. These minimum wages have been on the decline since the 1970’s in the United States (Schlosser, 2004, p. 138) and are attributed to housewives entering the labor force in order to help pay bills. However, the minimum wage is often not enough and proposals to raise the minimum wage limit have immediately been disputed by many major corporations. Furthermore, McDonald’s has implemented measures which it refers to as “flying squads” (p. 142) where it will send experienced managers to restaurants with suspected union activity in order to prevent any form of unionization from taking place. With there primarily being a closed system at McDonald’s, with virtually no possibility of promotion, comes the realization that many workers will quit. Fast-food chains have some of the highest turnover rates in the world. In which an employee is expected to work for roughly three to six months before quitting or being fired.