19 January 2015 | l_rawjalaurence
Pointless Documentary About a Vanishing Breed
In 1956 Nancy Mitford published an edited collection of essays under the umbrella title NOBLESSE OBLIGE - AN ENQUIRY INTO THE IDENTIFIABLE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE English ARISTOCRACY. The contributors, including Mitford herself, Evelyn Waugh, Alan Ross and John Betjeman, offered an analysis of how one could distinguish the true blue-blood from the pretender, the true upper-class person from the nouveau riche. The book coined the now-famous distinction between "U" and "non-U" behavior; "U" standing for upper-class, and "non-U" for non-upper class (obviously).
Viewed from the perspective of nearly six decades, the book seems an anachronism, a bid to recall the days when England had an established social class-system and the landed gentry lived a life of leisure; the kind of life recalled in Waugh's BRIDESHEAD REVISITED (1945).
Bearing this knowledge in mind, it seems surprising that anyone would really be interested in making a series such as POSH PEOPLE. Ostensibly designed to provide a candid look at life behind the scenes in THE TATLER, a magazine with a circulation of just over 300,000 that caters to what remains of the aristocracy (as well as the would-be members of that class), this three-part documentary series actually ends up making the protagonists look absurd. The editor and her staff insist that they are not upper-class, but simply members of the "working-class" - whatever that means - but their cut-glass accents and impeccable public (i.e. private) school education belies their true origins. The series merely rehearses familiar arguments that reveal the lingering English obsession with class; despite the fact that social distinctions no longer really exist (at least, those based on status rather than money), people insist on defining themselves as upper, middle, or working class, and use such adjectives as "posh" to describe those they believe are socially superior to them. What does "posh" mean, exactly? The program doesn't even begin to define the term.
What we are left with in this series is the sight of ordinary people going about their legitimate business of publishing a magazine, while claiming quite falsely to be socially superior than their colleagues at other style magazines. A spurious enterprise if ever there was one.