Three (Working-class) Girls: Social Realism, the ‘At-risk’ Girl and Alternative classed Subjectivities

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article focuses on the BBC One three-part drama Three Girls, broadcast in July 2017, which dramatized the Rochdale child sex-grooming gang scandal of 2011 and won 5 BAFTAs in 2018. Whilst many of the dominant press narratives focused on the ethnicity of the perpetrators, few accounts of the scandals spoke to the need for a sustained public discussion of the class location of the victims. This article considers how the process of recognising the social problem is set up for the audience through a particular mode of address. In many ways the drama rendered visible the structural conditions that provided the context for this abuse by drawing on the expanded repertoires of television social realism: the representation of the town as abuser; the championing of heroic working-class women; and the power of working-class vernacular. However, ultimately, the narrative marginalises the type of girl most likely to be the victim of this form of sexual abuse. By focusing on the recognisable journey of the girl ‘who can be saved’ this renders the poor girl as already constitutive of the social problem. The analysis draws attention to the difficulties of recognising alternative classed subjectivities on television because of the way boundary-markers are placed between the working-class and the poor and suggests that the consequence of these representations is to reify ideas about the victims of poverty and exploitation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-90
JournalJournal of British Cinema and Television
Issue number1
Early online date31 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'Three (Working-class) Girls: Social Realism, the ‘At-risk’ Girl and Alternative classed Subjectivities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this