Representation of Class in the Film Quiz Show
When producing any form of media you must be careful with your
representation of people. You have to be extremely cautious when you
produce something that will be seen by lots of people. It is too easy
to offend people in this day and age, and it is therefore imperative
that you give accurate representation. However, because of the
over-sensitivity in society we are left with very little belligerent
or provocative content.
The main characters in 'Quiz Show' are two men, one is
Herbert Stempel, a working-class Jew who lives in Queens, New York.
The other is Charles Van Doren, a wealthy, well-educated WASP. His
family, or his father in particular, is a well-known lecturer and
author; the family name is very well known and respected in the
community. The two men are both very intelligent, however, Stempel
seems to have an average academic education and a great deal of
general knowledge, whereas Van Doren had a great academic education as
well as considerable general knowledge.
NBC's "Twenty-One" executives and sponsors watched the ratings, and
realized that some contestants drew more viewers than others. A
grating know-it-all named Herbert Stempel won for weeks on
"Twenty-One," partly because he was being given the answers. The
executives decided his appeal was wearing thin. So they broke the news
to him: He'd had a free ride long enough, and now it was time to lose.
Stempel took that news very badly. Meanwhile, America liked his
successor, an attractive, disarming intellectual named Charles Van
Doren, who was a member of one of America's great literary families:
his father, Mark, and his uncle, Philip, were beloved and respected.
Blinded not so much by money as by fame, Van Doren had agreed to
cheat. And when Stempel blew the whistle on the whole set-up. The
movie shows the sponsors casting the contestants as if they were
regulars on a soap opera. It also reflects intriguing conflicts of
race and class: Stempel is portrayed as an unpolished Jew who is
replaced by Van Doren, an urbane WASP. The congressional investigator,
Richard Goodwin, is a Jew who is attracted to the refined
intellectualism of the Van Dorens (who, at a family dinner, play a
Shakespeare trivia game). Goodwin attempts to bring down the quiz
shows on Stempel's testimony while giving Van Doren a pass - just
because he likes him. It is this reaction of unconditional respect
that gets him into and out of trouble in the film.
"You're the Uncle Tom of the Jews,"
This was the harsh statement from Goodwin's own wife. However, he
cannot help himself; Charles himself has become such a friend that he
cannot bear to bring him crashing down. In a way, the movie subtly
argues, Goodwin arrived at the same casting decision as the sponsors.
It is because of the...