Working Class White Men part two reveals moving stories of fatherhood and family

Tuesday, 16th January 2018, 11:54 am
Updated Tuesday, 16th January 2018, 1:22 pm

In part one of provocative Channel 4 documentary Working Class White Men, presenter Professor Green tackled poverty, anxiety and the far-right.

With this concluding second episode however, the focus is turned towards fatherhood and families, with genuinely touching results.

Crucially, there is a greater emphasis on the reasons behind the issues facing working class white men, rather than just the issues themselves.

It gets closer to the nub of why life has become such a struggle for many.

'A broken relationship'

In Southend we're introduced to Karl, who has become a step-father to partner Kim's three kids - and is expecting his own first child.

A boxer who battled problems with cocaine ("at one point I was like Tony Montana in Scarface - there were piles of it on the table"), family life with Kim has got Karl back on the straight and narrow. He's determined to be a good dad - even if it means sacrificing his talent in the ring.

In Leeds, meanwhile, Green meets 29-year-old Gav - who has his own checkered history with drugs. The cameras follow him on his first day out of prison, where he was sent for growing cannabis.

Gav's 11-year-old son Jake ("he's a star, isn't he?") is able to laugh when he recalls the more farcical aspects of his Dad's arrest. But for more than half of the previous four years, father and son have been separated by Gav's time inside.

Gav is full of regret for the time apart from his son (Photo: Channel 4)

Though Jake is an outwardly bubbly, cheerful boy, he (understandably) missed his Dad, and is also angry at him for not being there.

Gav, for his part, has clear self-awareness, and speaks with candour and regret of their "broken relationship". A relationship he seeks to repair.

The last of Green's subjects is a 17-year-old lad from Birmingham, also called Jake, who has followed his three older brothers and father into a career as a construction worker.

But Jake has aspirations - and the potential opportunity - to be a professional model, and wants to "swap the building site for the catwalk".

Uncertain working lives

As Green notes, it is work itself which is the biggest problem facing working class white men. With thriving industry, people followed in their father's footsteps. They had a defined path. Now, much of that has gone.

Gav was able to earn money in the cannabis trade, but struggled to elsewhere. Now he's having I, Daniel Blake style problems with the Kafka-esque job search system.

We see Karl walking around Southend enquiring about work, but there is none.

As Green points out - with reference to Gav - there are 35,000 working class white men currently in the prison system. With steady, decently-paid jobs hard to come by, this could be one reason why.

Green also links family breakdown to a decline in traditional jobs.

Karl's own dad was an absentee father - and now he is petrified of becoming a parent himself ("Your biggest fear is watching them go down the path and make the same mistakes").

By contrast, Green believes aspiring model Jake's lofty ambitions are a direct result of a tight-knit family upbringing, and a close relationship with his dad. He has a strong work ethic - derived from having a strong male role-model.

The battle for status

Green believes another issue facing working class men is that they have an in-built sense of "worthlessness". That they are all striving to be somebody - which implies they start off "feeling like nobody".

In the modelling industry, it's noted, many white boys don't have the necessary confidence to make it.

Gav's cannabis business, meanwhile, gave him status. But now he's faced with the prospect of a warehouse job on minimum wage - obtained through the help of a local charity.

When he turns down a low-paid job, the suggestion from said charity is that he "needs to come back down to Earth".

Jake has some interesting things to say about the way certain jobs are viewed (Photo: Channel 4)

Construction worker Jake speaks of the assumptions people make about labourers. That they must be stupid, and have failed their GCSEs.

The implication is that there's a stigma attached to the working class jobs that still prevail. A lack of appreciation for an honest trade.

By contrast, when Jake takes part in a photo-shoot, he's the centre of attention. And people can't do enough for him.

Warmer and more positive

Green, who sees his own experiences reflected in Gav's fractured relationship with his son, and Jake's desire to make it in the entertainment business, is a sincere and insightful presence.

Real humour comes through in the interviews and family dynamics, and this is generally a much warmer and more positive instalment than the first.

Three articulate, endearing young men share their experiences, and the results are frank and revealing.

Working Class White Men part two is on Channel 4 tonight (16 Jan) at 10pm. Catch up on All4 afterwards

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