Saturday, July 31, 2010

7 UP & The UP Series: Saturn Cycles?

A fascinating example of what is now known as "reality TV" began as a single documentary during early years of television in Britain. In 1964 Granada Television produced 7 Up. It has slowly grown into The Up Series. The original programme was followed, at intervals, by 7 Plus Seven, 21 Up, 28 Up, 35 Up 42 Up and 49 UP. From which list the mathematically inclined reader will deduce that the programmes had some connection with 7-year cycles. Sure enough. The programmes followed the lives of a group of British children, all born in or near 1957, from age 7 onward into adulthood, at 7-year intervals. The children came from very different backgrounds, wealthy upper-class, local authority children's home, urban, rural, and much inbetween.

The "Up" series was based on the Jesuit motto "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man." In tandem with that premise, the shows aimed to show that, like it or not, the British class system remained largely in place.

I recently bought the DVD set of the full series to date. I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing some episodes again after many years, and discovering, at last, what has happened to the group during later, unseen, episodes. My American husband has found the films fascinating in their Britishness, yet not completely unrelatable to life in the USA. People are people are people!

Astrologically inclined readers will already be thinking: Saturn! For a rundown on the 7-year cycles of Saturn see Jim D'Amato's article The Saturn Cycles. It has been a source of mild frustration to me that I can't know the birth data of those involved in the series, for this would be a wonderful opportunity to study natal charts with life patterns. However, these people have probably been exposed to enough already without a nosey blogger like myself adding to their discomfort. Even so - it'd be such an interesting exercise.

Respected movie critic Roger Ebert wrote in his review of the DVD set:
They (the programmes) also strike me as an inspired, even noble, use of the film medium. No other art form can capture so well the look in an eye, the feeling in an expression, the thoughts that go unspoken between the words. To look at these films, as I have every seven years, is to meditate on the astonishing fact that man is the only animal that knows it lives in time.

Paul Almond, a Canadian television and motion picture screenwriter, director and producer was 7 Up's creator. His English assistant and researcher Michael Apted (Sun in Aquarius)soon took over from him and has continued directing the programmes. He was involved in the original selection of the children. The kids were chosen, often with advice from their schools, on ability to express themselves well and be reasonably outgoing. It's remarkable that the group chosen has provided such varied and fascinating life stories. One of the group has emigrated to Australia, one to the USA, one likely to move to Spain. Most have married and have families, some have divorced - some re-married. Two teach, one dropped out of society completely but later found a way back, two practice law, one is a taxi driver, one is a fork-lift truck driver, one works in the construction industry, one for the BBC, one is a children's librarian, one a secretary.....and so on.

Class - the curse of the British - raises its ugly head often in the series. Some of the most amusing interviews, early on, are with priggish and pretentious little 7-year old boys and a girl from upper-class, wealthy backgrounds and expensive private schools. Some of these kids mature and develop rather more compassionately than others, and here lies much of the programme's fascination. Watching early episodes, it was easy to make assumptions about the futures of the boys and girls. Those assumptions often turned out to be very wide of the mark. The gorgeously bright and lively 7-year old Liverpudlian who seemed like the star of the first show, but in adulthood became an anti-social depressive. A development that shocked many viewers. The shy country lad brought up on an isolated farm in the Yorkshire Dales became a nuclear physicist and Professor at a university in the USA.

It's a sobering experiment to look at one's own life in 7-year slices. In my own case, until my 28-Up, or even 35-Up years, I hadn't got into a groove at all. My life didn't properly fit me before then. I'd have made a very boring subject.

One of the best reviews of the DVD set, other than Roger Ebert's, linked above is this one by Bill Gibron at DVD Talk. In his last paragraph he says:

All plaudits and platitudes aside, The Up Series is phenomenal. There is nothing else like it in the history of cinema, both in the documentary and straight narrative format. It proves the age-old adage that truth is stranger and more dramatic than fiction, and as a film series, it never once fails to move and manipulate you. Apted has plans in place to keep the series going on indefinitely – or as long as there are enough participants willing and brave enough to open up their lives to the invasive invitation over the next few decades – and the possibilities seem endless. Just like life. Indeed, The Up Series is really a devastating portrait of life as it is lived.

In the last episode of the series so far, 49Up, some of the participants began to air their grievances about the programmes. One indicated that this would be her last: "This is me - I'm done!" she said candidly, but without rancour. Others hinted that the intrusion into their privacy every 7 years was becoming unwelcome. One was very vocal about her lack of control. One, rather scathingly, likened the programmes to Big Brother or I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here (the same one who "couldn't see the point of it all" at age 7.) He had only taken part in some of the later episodes to publicise his charity though - so actually the programmes had a point for him, if he could manage the humility to see it! Only one participant said the programmes were "important", even though he found the early ones painful, reminding him of his roots and homeland, which he misses. Two of the original group dropped out completely in their 20s, for their own reasons. Others of the group seem accepting and have taken it all in their stride.

It'll be interesting to see whether a 56Up does emerge in the next few years, and how many of the original group are still willing to take part.


anthonynorth said...

I've watched these programmes over the years and yes, they are fascinating. Certainly, in the 7 yr cycles, my life never turned out as expected.

gian paul said...

The biblical 7 years: I noticed in my own life, as in the one's of some people I know closely, that this 7 year cycles work very precisely.

Only did I find that the each of the 7 year segments does not necessarily start at year 1, then 8 etc. In some cases the cycle, I saw, started - clearly - not at age 28, but 31. Or 24 and not 28. The subsequent 7-year phases were then very precise.

Has it to do with retrogradation of an important outer planet in the respective person's horoscope? Might be a clue.

A Jewish friend for whom since years now "I give a glance at his map" shortly before we meet, has a very marked 7 - year cycle. It started at age 31 for him. And some time ago, he had turned 59 (i.e. 28 years precisely after he had entered the textiles business) he was knighted in the UK by some textiles confederation. We looked at the details of these events, and the 7 year phases in between the 31 and 59 years could not have been more precise.

To the point that from his age 45 to 52 he had not been involved with textiles at all, having run for exactly those 7 years another division of that Multinational where he was a director. Amazing!

Twilight said...

anthonynorth ~~~ Oh good! I'm glad someone can confirm the shows' fascination. :-)

We watched an interview of Michael Apted with Roger Ebert (well-respected US film critic) yesterday, it is at the end of the 49 UP DVD. Very interesting interview, and as it closed Mr Ebert remarked that these films, in 100 or 200 years' time will stand as excellent historical documents of life in England in the 20th/21st century. True!

Twilight said...

gian paul ~~~ Thanks for the input and detail personal experiences.

I wonder whether the various cycles (not only Saturn's) affect some people more than others depending on how their natal charts are configured.

while I can see some evidence of 7-year cycles in my own life story, what stood out more to me when I investigated tis a few years ago, was the cycles of the lunar nodes.
My life changes seemed to link more to times when they hit their natal position - or close to it.
But I have natal Uranus on the South Node, which might be the reason - as Uranus is Aquarius's ruling planet, and my Sun is in Aquarius. Cancer is my rising sign and Cancer's ruler is the Moon - Moon - lunar nodes.....well, it's a theory.

Your point about retrogrades could link in to this too for some people. I doubt that anything in astrology manifests in the same way "the same" for every

I suspect we could all trace several different cycles in our stories, but Saturn's do seem to be those most often traced.

Vanilla Rose said...

I am pretty sure that Americans have a class system too. My retort to those who say it does not is exactly the same as to those who mock our British teeth: what about Cletus and Brandine on "The Simpsons", then?:)

Twilight said...

Vanilla Rose ~~~ Yes, there is a class system here - in fact I wrote a paragraph to that effect in my draft of this post, but deleted it because the post was getting too long.

It's not exactly the same as the British class system. Never having had an aristrocracy in the way Europeans have, their system comes mainly from the acquisition wealth and/or power. Higher education, too seems to breed a noticeable class system, where those who have attended Ivy League universities (or any university) look down their noses at the unfortunates who were unable for one reason or another to do so.

It's simply a part of human nature I guess - this hierarchical patterning.

Americans like to broadcast that they don't have a clas system - who do they think are they kidding?

Vanilla Rose said...

I am trying to work out whether I know anyone who is undoubtedly upper class. At the moment, everyone I can think of is either middle class or working class or sort of a mixture.

Twilight said...

Vanilla Rose ~~~ Well, yes, the classes have blended into one another quite a lot since the
1950s, in the UK anyway.

There still remains that top layer of aristocratic elements in Britain, and the top 1% in the USA who hold most of the nation's wealth. Outside of those thin layers the rest are harder to distinguish these days.

The professions in the UK were always thought of as "middle class", I guess that remains still, but the rest is probably becoming more blurred as the years pass.

In the USA the cry goes up regularly that their middle class is disappearing into the poverty level. The class system is rather different here.