Happy Valley satisfies all of the Kalmanovitz criteria for a worthy television series: it has a perfect rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it features engaging representations of working-class characters, and it is readily available for streaming on Netflix. In today’s Working-Class Perspectives blog post, Nick Coles recommends the BBC series whose protagonist a working-class female sergeant in a community policing unit.
Most of young men making minor trouble for the police in Calderdale are working-class lads “off their heads” on “skunk” or “smack.” They belong to the class of youths known in sociological terms as NEETs: Not in Education, Employment, or Training. The hands-on perpetrators of the area’s worst violence – kidnapping, rape, and murder, including the serial killing of prostitutes – are also young white men, but with particularly chaotic or abusive family backgrounds. Writing in the Guardian about a recent study showing poor white kids losing ground in school achievement, Paul Mason explains the cultural shift that formed the NEET generation:
A specific part of their culture has been destroyed. A culture based on work, rising wages, strict unspoken rules against disorder, obligatory collaboration and mutual aid. It all had to go, and the means of destroying it was the long-term unemployment millions of people had to suffer. . . Thatcherite culture celebrated the chancers and the semi-crooks: people who had been shunned in solidaristic working-class towns became the economic heroes of the new model – the security-firm operators, the contract-cleaning slave-drivers.
The Working-Class Perspectives blog is brought to you by our Visiting Scholar for the 2015-16 academic year, John Russo, and Georgetown University English professor, Sherry Linkon. It features several regular and guest contributors.