As she points out, not all portrayals of rich people reinforce conservatism. On the other hand, where our culture is conservative about class, it’s usually in leaving it unmentioned. For every joke about the excesses of the super-rich, there are hours of TV quietly reinforcing the idea that being poor or deeply economically insecure is an aberration. And when we do see self-identified working class characters show up on TV, too often it’s as the bearers of “cultural” conservatism, making a guest appearance to complain about gay people hitting on them or immigrants speaking Spanish in public (not that there are too many of either on network TV).
Update (7/19): Here’s an interesting e-mail I got from someone considering the impact the TV-ville economy had on him when he was growing up:
Back when I was a young child in the early 80’s, I would watch sitcoms like “Diff’rent Strokes” and the “Brady Bunch” — all of whom, of course, were about families rich enough to afford a maid. I really believe those shows were a bad influence on me, because it led me to believe that having a maid was “normal.”
When I was seven years old, my older cousin was staying with our family for a while and helping around the house — and I referred to her as the “maid.” My mom got really upset, and slapped me — and well, when you’re 7, you never forget something like that.
Looking back on it, my attitude was reflected from the TV shows I watched — where every family had a maid (or a “housekeeper”), so of course that’s how I came to that conclusion. When our pop culture portrays rich families with a maid, it’s a horrible influence on young kids — who develop this unhealthy attitude about class.