‘Fish Tank’ is a film that is directed by Andrea Arnold. It is staged in an estate in Essex and majorly features the life of Mia, a teenager who had a very bored life. However, her life is transformed from the time when her mother brings home a new boyfriend. His name is Connor. Mr. Connor, in this film, is seen to bring a lot of light to the life of this family, especially to Mia’s life, where he makes her feel more appreciated by taking interest in her dream of being a dancer and exposing her to new experiences. However, as they grow deeper into friendship, Mia becomes very suspicious of the real intentions of this man. With that, this paper will focus more on the representation of class, changes in class structure, and class conflicts that are addressed in this film.
Firstly, though not explicit, it is evident that there is a class representation of race and ethnicity. Mia is a young girl who needs a lot of parental love, especially that of a father. Therefore, when Connor comes into her life as her mother’s boyfriend, it brings a lot of changes and opens the girl up to a completely new world. Connor shows so much support and care to this family, more especially, in this context, to Mia’s dream of being a dancer. He gives her encouraging words like “You dance like a black. It is a complement” (Fish Tank, 2009). This particular quote by Connor highlights the representation of blacks as exquisite dancers, which he uses with the aim of making Mia to feel better about her dance moves and to encourage her to pursue her dream because she is good at it. Nonetheless, the representation of ethnicity is apparent because the major characters of the film are white, hence representing a stereotypical White’s town with very few other races.
Additionally, there is a representation of the White British Working Class. This is more explicit at the house party where there is a lot of alcohol to represent the British lifestyle. The film shows Mia drinking vodka straight from the bottle though she is a teenager, and it is illegal. Nonetheless, when Mia’s mother drags her youngest daughter from the kitchen, it shows her maternal instincts, which is different from the conservative traits of motherhood.
Moreover, Robert Ebert highlighted in his book that there is a class conflict in the “Fish Tank”, especially where there is a gender dispute in the film (2011). This is shown where Mia attends a dance audition and is asked to present herself in very revealing cloths. In another scene, while Mia is fighting with other people, the men in the scenario tend to abuse her by publicly touching her in the indecent way. These scenes like many others explicitly show that there is gender exploitation, where women are perceived as being inferior to men in the estate, and the men feel that they can rightfully assert their dominion and power over women. Moreover, age is also regarded as a representation that cannot go unnoticed. Mia is a very young girl, however, some of her behaviors with fellow age mates is a representation of the rebellion amongst the British youth. This is captured in scenes where she is drinking beer and smoking in the house without showing respect to the elders, especially when Mia shouts and curses her mother, which is a show of total disrespect for authority.
Further, there is a show of differences in class structure and status. The film reveals this while exposing the lower social class of the council estate. Residents of the council estates are generally shown to be disrespectful, aggressive, and unemployed. This is possibly the reason why in other scenes of the film, most young men are seen spending most of their time hanging out in the streets while drinking, smoking, and just watching women who pass by. Similarly, most ladies, like Mia herself, spend most of their time dancing in the streets without any pay. It is a clear show of a jobless community. On the contrary, the film highlights a working middle class group which Conner belongs to. He has a nice car and a house for himself and has a steady job to earn a living. This is a clear representation of the two different classes in the film.