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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

10 Comments

  1. Alex Watts
    February 4, 2019 @ 10:27 am

    That the show is overfocused on trauma is a good point – everyone has blood and horror in their past to a slightly unlikely extent. But I think that’s a function of genre, isn’t it?

    This is YA TV: heightened emotions and situations in much the same way that YA books dramatise the heightened feelings of adolescence into world ending narratives (be they literally world ending apocalypses or personally world ending traumas).

    It comes across as a bit lurid in the show, but it’s not a massively off base instinct considering who it’s meant to appeal to.

    Reply

    • Przemek
      February 4, 2019 @ 1:26 pm

      Heightened emotions and massive traumas are all well and good but we need a reason to care about them. I’ve been watching “This Is Us” recently and it’s a show that (not unlike the RTD era of “Doctor Who”) aims to regularly make its audience cry. And it works – precisely because all the drama is deeply rooted in realistic, believable characters who have depth. As this essay demonstrates, you can’t really do that with paper cutouts.

      The best YA I’ve read was able to convince me that whether this cute boy asks this cute girl to the prom is just as important as the world literally ending. But in “Class”, neither of those feels important.

      Reply

      • Alex Watts
        February 5, 2019 @ 3:21 pm

        Whether or not it’s well done is a slightly separate issue, I think. Judged by the standards of Young Adult storytelling, I don’t think it’s fairly to call to the show “weirdly over-focused on trauma”. It’s focused on trauma to the exact extent that most YA literature is.

        That it doesn’t consistently do much interesting with it is a problem. Another problem is focusing your show at young adults to begin with. I’m not sure people in the YA age bracket are going to the BBC for their entertainment these days (or were 2016). This show was always going to struggle to find its audience, because its audience had gone elsewhere.

        Reply

  2. Przemek
    February 4, 2019 @ 1:43 pm

    This was a brilliant exploration of why “Class” doesn’t work. I think you hit the nail on the head. Thanks for this essay.

    “It’s a show that takes place in the TV image of an American high school.”

    If they just wanted to do play with images, why not at least use the TV image of a British high school? It would immediately add a layer of authenticity and depth. It reminds me of this Polish TV show I watched called “Belfer” (“The Teacher”) where you have a teacher-turned-detective investigate a string of disappearances in a prestigious high school. It works pretty well… until in episode 3 they suddenly introduce a school shooting. And just like that, the show drops any pretense of being set in the real world, or even the Polish TV world. Because we’ve never had a school shooting in Poland and buying guns is almost impossible here. And anyway, a school shooting is such a recognizably American thing that it’s impossible not to see it as a foreign element in the story. It was certainly shocking, but not really in a good way.

    Reply

    • TomeDeaf
      February 4, 2019 @ 3:24 pm

      The answer is probably “because Patrick Ness went to school in the US”. I didn’t say it was a satisfactory one!

      The irony is that of all the post-2005 Doctor Who writers best suited to writing “Buffy but in a British school”, the most suited would be the one who actually was an English teacher …. Steven Moffat.

      And Steve Thompson, who taught Maths. But I’m sure none of us want to see “Class, but with its wokeness dropped down to Blind Banker levels”.

      Reply

      • Przemek
        February 5, 2019 @ 8:16 am

        Ugh. Yeah, let’s pair Stephen Thompson with Gareth Roberts and see what shenanigans they can get up to!

        Patrick Ness going to school in the US sadly explains a lot. But the worst part is, there was still a lot of potential here. At the very least, he could’ve made “Class” a show about the an American teenager dropped into a British high school (or vice versa). Explore the differences, smash the two TV images together. But nooo, that would be too interesting, wouldn’t it.

        Reply

  3. CJM123
    February 5, 2019 @ 1:10 am

    I think this is the first time a group of comments I was involved in has been directly mentioned. Made me smile a little.

    A really good exploration of CLASS, and how it fails. Thank you El!

    I look forward to seeing where you can go now!

    Reply

  4. Horse Wee Everywhere
    February 5, 2019 @ 5:03 pm

    “In 2016 it might have been a good idea to make a show about people instead of how much Patrick Ness liked Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

    They did that, it was called Stranger Things. (Really, that show succeeds in most of the elements that Class doesn’t overall- actually getting the audience invested in its characters, atmospheric direction, not looking slapped together on a tight budget, capturing the positive qualities of the genre it’s emulating, the list goes on. Say what you like about its problematic elements, they bother me too, but it’s a more coherent and engaging piece of drama.)

    Reply

  5. Camestros Felapton
    February 5, 2019 @ 6:02 pm

    “Class often ends up demonstrating is how narrow the line between TV that works and TV that doesn’t quite actually is”

    I think that sums up the show completely.

    Nightvisiting was my favourite episode and shows what Class could have been capable of.

    Reply

  6. Daru
    February 5, 2019 @ 11:00 pm

    Yeah I feel for myself also, that the largest element that didn’t work in Class was the Americanising of the school setting. I mean, I commented last time that I had vivid memories of the school sports changing rooms, and I know also that I certainly never had a ‘coach’. Off topic I know from this episode, but on brand at least.

    Reply

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