28 Up Reviews
What's most irritating is that, for some reason, the streaming version of this felt the need to include the entire first segment. I don't know if that was part of the original television airing. I don't know if that would be true if I had watched it on DVD. (A couple of the later installments are about to stop being available on Instant Play, so I'm rushing my way through the rest of the series.) As established, the original "7 Up" is only a half-hour long, so it's not as bad as it could be, but I'm still less than pleased about it. In 1984, airing them together made a sort of sense, if they did. We had our first VCR by then, I know; Dad had died the year before, and we got a VCR when he was alive. But not all families had one, and airing the pair together would ensure that everyone could remember the histories without having to spend too much of the new edition in recap. We don't need that anymore.
Another seven years had passed, and the fourteen children selected from several classes in the UK have lived more of their lives. It is not unreasonable to believe that those who will have careers have settled into them. Indeed, most of them do. Most of them are married, too, and most have children. Not all live in England anymore. Paul had long since moved to Australia. Suzy moved to Paris. Nick discovered that he could get a better job in the US in his career in nuclear physics. Some spouses are happier than others about inadvertently marrying into probably the most famous documentary series in history. And, for the first time, two of the participants have dropped out. Charles and John, two of the boys presented as upper class, decided that they did not want to be involved with the project anymore. (In one case, it seems to have stemmed from that upper-class identification, which he thought was exaggerated.) Their absence is noted but not dwelt upon.
I think some of the people are deluding themselves about how much or how little influence class had to do with what happened to them. At very least, you can do a lot more with money than you can without it, and they don't want to acknowledge that. Mind, I understand why. After all, every child who grew up as part of this group grew up knowing they had been chosen because of the impression of class. Where they were born was believed to be perhaps the most important thing about them. That has to be frustrating. The three women chosen for being lower class knew exactly what people expected of them, and doubtless the men who grew up in the East End did as well. And it is certainly true that none of them have lived that expected life. However, it is still true that, of the four girls, Suzy was the one with the most choices about where her life would lead whether the other girls liked it or not. That isn't entirely about class, unless you consider money and class to be inextricable from one another.
Though of course there are still options. Bruce, who went to a ritzy boarding school and then Oxford, chose to teach in the East End, while Nick grew up with one other child in his entire village--his own brother. He went to a not-as-ritzy boarding school and ended up in a high-level field that takes a lot of education. And after all, none of the poorest children ended up in the kind of poverty that some might expect of them. The one who was the worst off at this point in the series, Neil, was from the suburbs of Liverpool, hardly the East End. (I find myself wanting to use the terms "characters" and "story" even though I know that this is all nonfiction. This is probably because of how involved and long-running the whole thing is.) I suppose that it's kind of what they were aiming to show one way or another when they made the choices they did, in which case the documentary had begun to achieve success well before this installment, though that didn't mean there was any reason to stop it here.
I will be going almost all the way to the end, or anyway the farthest we've gotten, in the next few days. This is rather faster than I'd intended to watch it, and rather faster than I really think it should be watched. I don't think you have to watch the series with seven years before installations, goodness knows, and if I did, the only reason I would probably get through the whole thing is that I'm considerably younger than the people in it. Even then, only probably. However, I think that watching it all in a great rush is not the best way. The only advantage I see is that I'm less likely to forget the details of the people in it. As I've already admitted, I have a hard enough time keeping all the people in these straight, though it is getting easier as they get older. There are two groups that blend together most for me, and at least in this installment, I can remember "the one who actually appeared" and "the one who's a librarian" to tell them apart from the others of their groups.