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Andrea Arnold’s film the Fish Tank is an exemplary British film that exposes the plight of the working class. In recent years, the subject of class representation has taken deep root in the film industry. In Britain, Arnold’s films have made a significant impact on the society by focusing more on the working class as compared to other classes—middle class and the elite. In the film, Arnold has employed a number of strategies to paint the various classes of people in the British society along with the forces that shape how people in various classes react, aspire, relate and carry on with their daily lives. In the Fish Tank, Arnold focus is one a family and a small community of Essex council estate—a home to middle class citizens. By using the protagonist of the play—Mia—who is a daughter to a single mother, Arnold gives viewers a rare glimpse of the how various classes of people behave, how changes occur in classes, and presence of conflicts between societal classes.
Representation of Class
Throughout the film, Arnold uses various scenes and dialogue to reveal the working of various classes. This is a fundamental part of the film given that the movie belongs to the genre of social realism. Arnold reveals in the movie that Mia, the protagonist of the movie, hails from a dysfunctional family. Arnold attaches this vital attribute that to the working class living in a poor council estate. While watching the movies, it is evident that Mia, who is 15 years old, comes from a family that is wretched and a reason why she is extremely frustrated in life. The movie paints the white working class as the real people with problems in the society because of the way they take charge of their lives. The movie represents Mia as young and irresponsible woman who drinks Vodka, yet she is a teenager with no legal right to drink. This is a peculiar attribute that Arnold make use paint the teenagers as having problems of following laws and other forms of government policies. By taking vodka, Mia is sneering at the chance of her being arrested and placed taken to prison.
Arnold makes use of Mia, to reveal the mindset of the white working class. In the movies, Mia passion for casual clothes goes a long way to depict the thinking of the working class. First, the hooped earrings that Mia is fond of wearing reveals that she has a chav stereotype, which paints her as someone from the underground class. Indeed, this is true looking at the place where Mia stays with her mother and her younger sister. Second, Arnold use of grey tracksuit top that Mia wears gives a lot of information about Arnold representation of the working class. By wearing this suit, Mia, a representative of the working class, indicate that she is not concerned at how she looks like. This, according to Arnold, is the mentality that has currency among the working class.
Arnold has also made use of grooming as a technique to reveal some notable traits of the working class. Within one of the streets in a council estate, children take part in the favorite activities with some dancing—something Mia treasured a lot. While taking part their favorite activities, ladies are seen playing with revealing clothes an indication of trying to attract attention towards themselves. In addition, the act of dancing in the street rather than at home is a clear indicator that the ladies from working class seek attention away from homes. Coincidentally, this is reflected by the nature of home these women come from. For Mia, she comes from a home where her mother’s does not appreciate her, as a teenager would want. The facial expression of the teenagers playing gives much information that many ladies in Essex do care what others think about them. Certainly, these attributes point to the working class has a weak class with many social ills affected them.
The movie portrays the middle class as people with little respect for modernity, rather than ascribing to modern culture and practices, Arnold’s movie clearly show that many of the urban people lack appreciation for modern ways of life. For instance, one scene of the movie depicts a man and a women hugging while the man is holding a can of beer. Besides this awkward behavior, another woman also smokes in a party making viewers realize that the people of middle class have less value for health and modern, which negate these practices. Most importantly, we see how the middle class disregard etiquette and modern ways of doing things. Rather than sitting on the chair, Mia’s mother like sitting on the cabinet showing her little respect for health and hygiene in the kitchen.
Arnold’s class representation of the working class is also evident in the way boys and girls of Essex interact. In the street when everyone has a right to play, the fight between the girls and the staring look from the boys reveal those dysfunctions of the working class. During the play, one girl walks over and raises an argument with Mia because the girl think that Mia does not do well. This leads to a heated exchange that forces Mia to leave the playground. While this was happening, the boys remained attracted to the argument, but they did nothing to stop it. This is an indication that such fights are the order of the day within the middle class, and the case of Mia and the girl arguing was not any different.
At the family levels, the Arnold’s movie illustrates that conflicts that operate within families owing to a number of stress factors. At home, Mia is not a happy teenager and more than often caught in heated debate between her and her mum. This escalates to the use of aggression where Mia openly accuses her mother of being immoral. This event demonstrates the lack of respect that many working class families are facing. Consequently, the conflict between Mia and her mum goes a notch higher when her mother uses force to try to sit her down. This is a sign that many families use aggression and force to quell any arguments. The movies give an expectation that many middle class parents are more likely to use aggression to contain delinquent children like Mia, but this also reveal the lack of cohesion in families.
Changes in Class Structure
The movie also reveals the desires of the middle class to change the structure of the classes. Mia, though she comes from a poor background, does her best to seek a better life for herself. The poverty she has grown in complicates her life, but his mother’s boyfriend makes her life more unbearable than before. Mia’s mother engages in a sexual relationship with her boyfriend and this make Mia feel a lot of pain and frustration. This reason make Mia fall for her father’s boyfriend who she discovers to be a married man. This frustration partly makes her focus on ballet dancing, which does not give her the seascape she was yearning for. Instead, his friend make to college, a change of class structure, while Mia even refuses to take part in an audition. Her preference is to join a club and serve as a pole dance. These factors cause her to remain irrational, angry, and violent. Even her younger sister is also trying to escape the middle class society by relying on a man who has a car. This car symbolizes wealth or a means of escape from the poverty facing them in Essex council estate.
To conclude, Arnolds movie the Fish Tank clearly illustrates that dysfunctional attributes that define the working class. Among the working class, children are grappling with many issues that render them pawns in a game of poverty. These children, as Mia reveal, hold anger and frustration, which occasionally makes them fight and argue. The adults also tend to embrace a carefree life making them hold parties and embrace a life that lacks modernity and appreciation for hygiene and health. This is the class Mia and her sister are try change.