The Presentation of Working Class Life in Raised by Wolves

Caitlin and Caroline Moran’s sitcom Raised by Wolves is all a viewer could want from a comedy with political overtones. The working class life the Morans present is actually close to perfect, unchallenged in its honesty and powerful in its unwillingness to apologise. Coming from a working class background myself, my family has always managed to find the humour in ridiculous, unfair and ultimately awful situations; for a TV show to openly capture the ‘if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry’ attitude is wonderful. Caitlin and Caroline Moran have taken an experience of life with no sweet sugar coating, making it one of the most important sitcoms at the minute. If you’ve not yet watched Raised by Wolves, both series 1 and 2 are available to watch on All4.

As you’ll know, if you’ve read much of her work, Caitlin Moran writes a lot about class. The setting of Raised by Wolves is not too dissimilar to her own childhood: both feature large families in a small house in Wolverhampton, with children who are home-schooled. The awareness of a class identity – based on family wealth, backgrounds and political ideas – and how this identity manifests itself form the foundations of this show.

The topics discussed by Caitlin and Caroline Moran are what make Raised by Wolves so important. Family life is most evident: in the first season Della stays at home, home-schooling the six children – ranging in age from new-born to 15 – while her ex-husband Sean works on an oil-rig in the North Sea. Sean is laid off in the second season, so Della takes a job in a pound shop. Making the house even more crowded, Della’s mum (hilariously called Shit Nan by the kids) divorces Grampy, Della’s dad, and he moves in with Della and the kids. This family is far from what is deemed traditional, taking the nuclear family trope and proving why ‘different’ families are nothing less.

Another prominent topic is education; though the kids are home-schooled, Aretha, the second eldest, chooses to go to school to take her GCSEs in the second season. She is warned by her family that the local school isn’t a good school, and that OFSTED only congratulated them on their target of one chair per student. She gets excluded on her first day, after angrily reacting to the disruptive kids’ lack of “respect for learning”. Another key thing is that Della went to university, allowing the Morans to highlight the reality for many that university is not a rite of passage, nor will it guarantee a life free from poverty.

The reason why I love Raised by Wolves so much is that it highlights the working class I know: the side that refuses to be idle – the reality the right wing media refuses to show the rest of Britain. Raised by Wolves shows what working class families do to get on with life: the kids get in baths after each other to save water, if the internet bill is too high it has to be cut off for a while, bunk beds in tiny rooms remove the idea that personal space is a human right. Arguably one of the funniest episodes centred round the family almost being evicted, while Aretha made polite and eloquent comments to the landlord about how guilty she must feel in her exploitation of poor families to increase her own wealth. Other scenarios have included a day of selling old toys at a car boot sale, foraging for food in the local park, and going on a holiday to Grampy’s dead mate’s caravan in Wales.

The beauty of Raised by Wolves is that it’s not as politically-charged as it could seem; above everything else, it’s a comedy about teenagers. The two main characters are Germaine and Aretha, obviously inspired by Caitlin and Caroline at ages 15 and 14. It shows the development and understanding of their own sexualities, and how this is expressed through masturbation, hopeless crushes and first relationships. Feminist ideas, alongside socialism, are shown beyond politics, and the reality of these in everyday life is shown. Poverty, and the issues that surface as a result of this, aren’t dwelled upon: they are simply dealt with.

In the British broadcasting media, dominated by right wing ideas and the prejudices enshrined within it, the only insight into the working class is often presented through heartbreaking stories, slanderous news articles and ‘documentaries’. It has reached the point where Benefit Street is one of the only representations of working class life, and we all know that its only role is its use as a criticism against the welfare state. Raised by Wolves is much more honest, and therefore so much more important a TV show. I urge everyone to watch.

Words by Caitlin O’Connor.

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