A literature review to inform: ‘The analysis of the ways in which social class is represented in episode one of ITV comedy Benidorm’.

This literature review will discuss the texts that I will peruse to help answer the research question: ‘an analysis of the ways in which social-class is represented in ITV comedy Benidorm (Litten, 2007)’. I will focus on reading around two key themes, namely; ‘reading television’ and ‘televisual representation’. The texts that I have selected will expand on these two themes, helping to inform my wider knowledge of the subject and assisting me in answering the research question.


The first theme that I explored is ‘reading television’. This involved reading around research methods that can be harnessed to critically analyse and delineate a television programme. Specifically, I was concerned with semiotic analysis and rhetorical analysis. Nick Lacey’s (1998)book Image and Representation – Key Concepts in Media Studies discusses the former, whilst Jack Selzer’s (2003)chapter Rhetorical Analysis – How Texts Persuade Readersdebates the latter. Both of these texts are discursive of key arguments of television research.


Both Lacey and Selzer discuss appropriate methods of reading television – semiotic and rhetorical analyses. Semiology and rhetoric share a number of unifying features. For example, they both offer means of qualitative research – unable to provide any true quantifiable data to a study. Also, they both rely heavily on the connotative perception of the researcher.


Nick Lacey’s book Image and Representation – Key Concepts in Media Studies offers an in-depth, nine-page review of Ferdinand de Saussure’s (1916)theory of semiology. His theory explains how one can read an image through the connotative relationship between the signifier and the signified. In his book, Lacey discusses how the theory was conceived and how to apply it to modern texts. Specifically, with the latter, this offers crucial insight on how to answer my research question by conducting semiotic analysis of Benidorm’s mise en scene – particularly: costume, props and setting.


However, despite Lacey’s comments on the broader reading of television, he offers no specific analytical tools in terms of analysing the ways in which social-class is represented on television. As a result, it can lead one to question whether his proposed methods are so widely applicable. Although he is a credible author and the theories discussed in his book are timeless – there is an ever-growing gap between the time in which Lacey’s book was published, and today. Written in 1998, this text is now over twenty-years-old. The rapid ways in which media and digital technology proliferate could render his analyses, and certainly his examples, obsolete, in modern media discourse. The central example of semiotic analysis used in Lacey’s book is a Nokia232 advert. Although typical semiotic analysis is applied, a basic tv-advert is far-removed from the more elaborate content that research into Benidormwould involve.


Jack Selzer’s chapter, called Rhetorical Analysis – How Texts Persuade Readers begins by stating that ‘there is no generally accepted definition of rhetorical analysis, probably because there is no generally accepted definition of rhetoric’. This statement encapsulated a gap in my knowledge that I was aware of. Rhetorical analysis was something I wanted to implement in researching Benidormas ITV (Independent Television) had the platform to inculcate their class-based rhetoric to Benidorm’s average ‘6.6 million’-strong weekly audience (Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board, 2019). However, it was difficult to ultimately place exactly whatrhetorical analysis was. This text offered me a clear definition of rhetoric by which to follow, whilst colluding with Lacey’s book to aid me in selecting a combination of research methods that would be successful in exposing the implicit iconography that ITV used in creating their class-based rhetoric.


The second theme that this essay will explore is ‘televisual representation’. For this, it was important to read around the wider subject of representation and also the apparatus that enables us to identify different social-classes. Here I will discuss Richard Dyer’s ‘typography of representation’, Basil Bernstein’s ‘language codes’ and also review an example of academic study into televisual representation.


Found in David Lusted and Phillip Drummond’s book TV and Schooling, media scholar Richard Dyer (1985)discusses what he describes as the ‘typography of representation’. This, essentially, summarises the four different ways in which social groups are represented on television. These are, firstly: re-representation – when the media simply reflect a true image of society. Secondly, he discusses how representations are representative – saying ‘what matters is not thatwe have typical representations on television, but rather whatthey are, what harm they do and the well-being of the groups that they represent’. Thirdly, he discusses the idea of simply representing – giving all denominations an equal voice and platform to be seen and heard. Lastly, Dyer discusses representation in terms of audience. He challenges the audience to think ‘what does this programme represent to me?’


The use of this text offered clear definition as to what representation really is. To enhance that information, though, it was important to further explore televisual representation by discussing what enables us to identify different social classes.


Basil Bernstein’s (1964)theory of language offered further substance to Dyer’s typography of representation in the form of social characteristics to observe. His writings on the neologised ‘elaborated and restricted codes’, featured in the American Anthropologist in 1964, became the crux of my evidence in terms of working-class discourse. Bernstein expanded on Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of cultural deprivation. This explains how those who are deprived of education, socialisation and other cultural and material factors such as books and art as children, often end up as working-class delinquents (Bourdieu, 1977). Language is often used to represent this delinquency. Basil Bernstein identified a difference in language and a correlation with the British class system. He noted that the working-class were often saddled with a ‘restricted code’. This involved the basic use of language and the inability to construct complex sentences using expression or emotion, whilst excessively using foul and crass language. Middle/upper-class individuals, however, are endowed with an ‘elaborate code’, which allows them to paint a picture with words in a way that working-class individuals cannot.


This text offered a means of implementing a theory that had a direct link between social-characteristics and social-class. Whilst methods of television reading, such as semiology discussed previously, rely on the connotative understanding of the researcher, Bernstein’s rules of language offer a set of clear parameters to follow in terms of reading televisual class representation.


Whilst it was important to peruse texts that would influence my research, it was also useful to explore whether any similar televisual representation study had been conducted in the academic sphere. Featured in the Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change, Casey and Prietto-Arranz’s (2014)Critical Reading of ITV’s Benidorm provides an example of how said academic research had previously been conducted. This journal article offers the most relevant and specific information, as it focuses specifically on working-class representation in Benidorm. The text proved useful in citing specific shots, frames and scenes within Benidormas to where working-class representation is explicit through elements of cinematography and mise en scene. In addition, this text helped fill gaps in my knowledge in regard to descriptive techniques used to discuss representation. For example, I harnessed terms such as ‘kitchen-sink feel’ to use in my analysis – a term which is intrinsic to the working-class values of Benidorm.


All three texts offer insight into televisual representation, be it: how to read it, how it is constructed and how to discuss it. Dyer’s typography offered a means of analysing representation in four different ways as opposed to the more binary, singular way in which I had operated before. Bernstein’s rules of language propose an overt link between social-construction and social-class whilst giving clear indication of what to be aware of in televisual representations of class. Lastly, Casey and Prietto-Arranz’s journal article delves into the discursive side of representation and gave inspiration on how to analyse and discuss televisual representations.


In order to enhance this research and continue it in the future, it would be necessary to peruse further texts to greater influence my wider understanding of the subject. A chapter called The Nature of the Audience in the book Questioning the Media – A Critical Introduction (John, Mohammadi, & Sreberney-Mohammadi, 1995)would provide helpful insight as to whether representations constructed in Benidormreally do have an indoctrinative effect on viewers, further exploring Dyer’s typography of representation. Secondly, a chapter named Media Voices – Accents, Dialects and Register featured in the book Language, Society and Power – An Introduction (Irwin, 2011)would offer more substance to Bernstein’s theory of language mentioned previously whilst also discussing the connotative implication of a ‘northern’ accent. Thirdly, a section in The Media Student’s Book – Fifth Edition (Branston & Stafford, 2010)titled Content Analysiswould propose information of other research methods that could be pertinent to the study – specifically the use of more quantitative research. Next, a journal article named Voice, Silence and Social Class on Television(Jakobsson & Fredrik, 2018)would offer specific insight into working-class representation on the wider platform of television; not merely the comedy genre or just Benidorm.Lastly, the perusal of a journal article named Side-splitting masculinity: Mr Bean and the representation of masculinities in contemporary society (Neville, 2009)would offer some insight into representation within the television genre of comedy and how it can approach delicate societal subjects through the medium of humour.


To conclude, then, the literature that I intend to consult will not only influence my work, but also my knowledge of the wider subject of media. It is imperative that I fill gaps in my understanding to enable me to fully appreciate the methods and theories that I intend to implement. ‘Reading television’ and ‘televisual representation’ are two areas that I had scarcely investigated before – this task allowed me to understand them more overtly. These texts offer perspectives ranging a span of over fifty years, written by scholars, sociologists and pedagogues alike. This combination allows me to inform my knowledge with an eclectic mix of perspectives that would have a pertinent impact on my research.



Bernstein, B. (1964). Elaborated and Restricted Codes: Their Social Origins and Some Consequences.University of London.


Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a theory of Practice.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Branston, G., & Stafford, R. (2010). The Media Student’s Book – Fifth Edition.London: Routedge.


Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board. (2019). ITV Benidorm. Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Benidorm_episodes#Ratings


Casey, M., & Prietto-Arranz, J. (2014). The British Working Class on Holiday – A Critical Reading of ITV’s Benidorm. Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change, 68-83.


de Saussure, F. (1916). Cours de linguistique générale.


Dyer, R. (1985). Taking Popular Culture Seriously. In P. Drummond, & D. Lusted, TV and Schooling.London: BFI Education.


Irwin, A. (2011). Language and The Media. In A. Mooney, J. Stilwell-Peccei, S. Labelle, B. E. Henriksen, E. Eppler, A. Irwin, . . . S. Soden, Language, Society and Power – An Introduction(pp. 74-78). London: Routledge.


Jakobsson, P., & Fredrik, S. (2018). Voice, Silence & Social Class . European Journal of Communication, 522-539.


John, D., Mohammadi, A., & Sreberney-Mohammadi, A. (1995). Questioning the Media – A Critical Introduction.London: SAGE Publications.


Lacey, N. (1998).Image and Representation – Key Concepts in Media Studies.London: Macmillan Press LTD.


Litten, D. (Writer), & Johnson, S. (Director). (2007). Benidorm[Motion Picture]. Spain: ITV.


Neville, P. (2009). Side-splitting masculinity: comedy, Mr Bean and the representation of masculinities in contemporary society. Journal of Gender Studies, 231-243.


Selzer, J. (2003). Rhetorical Analysis – Understanding How Texts Persuade Readers. What Writing Does and How it Does It.


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