Monday, February 18, 2013

Recasting Questions from the "Up" Series

I like the "Up" series very much--the British documentary that interviewed 14 seven-year-olds in 1963 and returns to interview them again every 7 years-- but it's the kind of documentary that is as much about the director/interviewer-- Michael Apted, in this case--and his values as anything.

His questions are skewed--sometimes outrageously--to reflect his view of success. He himself admits this was a problem, especially in the early episodes:
"I've made mistakes on it and had to correct those mistakes. You know, particularly I got into a situation, I think, early on where I became judgmental about people — that if they didn't agree with my standards of success, failure, happiness, whatever, then I would feel they were the lesser for it. "
--from NPR Interview "Michael Apted, Aging With The '7 Up' Crew

This led--especially, but not only, in the first four films--to him asking the most judgmental questions, especially of the working/middle class subjects.

I wondered what it would look like if he'd asked the upper class people the same sort of questions. So I took some of those questions (or close paraphrases) and stuck them on some of those participants:

It would help if Apted himself were to appear in his Up series, which he doesn't (tho you can hear some of his questions). When you don't see the interviewer, it gives a false sense that this is an objective representation, which the Up series very much is NOT.

I understood better where Apted was coming from when he described his own background. 
Apted:  My father was in fire insurance; my mother was a homemaker.  I loved my mother but we had a fairly combative relationship that, quite frankly, I don’t think I have ever recovered from. 

"She came from an interesting generation of women. She was very, very smart, the youngest of six, had three children, and it was inconceivable that she would ever work. She looked after her aging parents until she got married; as the youngest child, it was her duty to do so. 

"She never really exercised the gifts she had or the intelligence she had, and she was very frustrated and angry about it.  And she realized it.  It’s why she wanted me to make absolutely the best I could of my life. I was the oldest of three. I was ‘the golden boy’ and always had to step up. She was always pushing, pushing, pushing; she felt I never did enough."
--from Writer's Bloc Presents "A special interview with Michael Apted, creator of the Up series"

So, maybe it's really his mother who wants to know...

1 comment:

momo said...

What an impact the questions have when you pair them with the images like that, especially for those of us who have seen the whole series. I haven't yet seen the latest one, but I'm going to be mulling these over. thanks!