BCM310

Does Poverty Porn bring any help to the poor?

‘The Other’ lecture from BCM310 made me think a lot about things that are said and shown to us. I questioned myself whether sharing the photos/videos of people suffering is right or wrong? Does it even help us to reflect or think about a serious problem? Due to technology development, especially the internet we all have the power to decide what we want to share and what we shouldn’t share as a publisher.

I have seen adverts showing conditions and lifestyle of African children, along with asking for donation from viewers. When I am switching channels on TV, I also came across shows misrepresenting the poor and their life on screen. Until now, I didn’t know all these issues fell into one category ‘Poverty Porn’.

Poverty Porn refers to the westerner’s portrayal of global inequity, hunger and disease, “it presents a distorted view of the sufferer”, by people who are more privileged (Theadgold, 2015). However, others describe poverty porn as some kinds of sympathy gain and support for a given cause (Bright, 2013), which could spark people’s emotions to have a positive change (Beresford, 2016).

For decades, media and images have been used to exploit people’s misfortunate situations in order to ask for donations/funding or support. Artist such as photographers have attempted to beautify the situation of the poor to fulfil their own tummy as opposed to realistically looking at the suffering people in poverty and providing aid and support for them. Is Poverty Porn empowering the poor or the artist? Obviously artists….not the poor.

Australian documentary show Struggle Street on SBS (2015) is a good case study example, it focuses on showing the disadvantaged side of Mount Druitt, a place known for unemployment, low wages and a lack of opportunity and services. It makes drug and alcohol abuse a great time pass (de Brito, S 2015). It was highlighted in conversation 2016 that this type of documentary focuses on “one side of the poverty story” (Bond, 2016), it state that the show failed in taking away the ‘classism’ in how we think about poverty, our stereotypical views hasn’t changed which are associated with the poor.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008) is another movie that involves exploitation of poverty porn. The story is about an Indian teen from Mumbai who’s bought up in the slums of India, he was accused of cheating on a TV show ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’. Many critics said this movie tried to glorify the poorest people in India which bought up issues of distortion and exploitation, it’s also criticised that the film reflect western fascination of poverty porn (Bisht, 2009). After the movie success, it won an Academy award. There was an increase of tourist visit in the slums of Mumbai area (Chin, 2016). It illustrates a connection of the audience with the depicted character shown in the film.

However according to the LA times (2009), many Indians didn’t; like how the movie represented their culture. Especially by depicting their nations poor to the western world for entertainment purposes as well as using graphic images. The film claims that it was made to create worldwide success by touching everyone through themes (Magnier, 2009). The film is what every white man would imagine India (Deduk & Lee, 2014).

Sadly, charities are also using poverty porn in their campaigns. In 2016 The Sydney Morning Herald published an article called ‘Poverty porn’ and ‘pity charity’ the dark underbelly of a Cambodia orphanage which goes into details of how children in the 3rd world countries are exploited in order to earn some bucks and attention. The article is about a small girl who’s put on the front page of the advertisement for Sunrise Cambodia, it’s an Australian Charity that gathers a lot of money each year for orphanages in Cambodia. The charity received a backlash and were criticised for poverty porn because the small girl was portrayed as a child sex worker which in fact is not the reality. She’s a village girl called ‘Pisey’ who was paid for fund raising campaign and was fitted in the advertisement in another identity. Critics are worried that the small girl will now have to live with this stigma for her whole life (Murdoch, 2016).

In my opinion Poverty porn create a stereotypical image in most of the people mind that poor are helpless and are incapable of helping themselves. I think it’s disrespectful to keep using people of colour, people living in slum area, alcohol/drug addicts as the mean to the increase their revenue or such for shows, movies and campaigns.

It is so obvious that the media and the popular culture have caught our attention by using poverty porn as the main hand, whether it was for entertainment or for giving a shock to people. But my question still remain unanswered, does poverty porn bring any help to the poor? Is it justified? Some critics say that poverty porn is just an excuse for westerners to produce and direct aesthetically entertainment to watch.

Do you think this is the case? What is your say on this matter, I would love to know more about it…

Signing Off,

Khan Sultana Nazish

References:

Beresford, P 2016, ‘Presenting welfare reform: poverty porn, telling sad stories or achieving change? Disability & Society.

Bright, W 2013, Poverty Porn: Media that intentionally exploits people in poor conditions. https://walterbright.org/2013/09/18/poverty-porn-media-that-intentionally-exploits-people-in-poor-conditions/&gt

Bond, C 2016, Why I struggle with the idea of struggle street filming in my suburb, The conversation http://theconversation.com/why-i-struggle-with-the-idea-of-struggle-street-filming-in-my-suburb-59678&gt

Chin, R 2009, ‘Slumdog Millionaire: Debate Poverty not “Poverty Porn”,’ Huffington post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-chin/slumdog-millionaire-debat_b_172646.html#&gt

De Brito, S 2015, “Struggle Street is not poverty porn, it’s powerful”, The Sydney Morning Herald http://www.smh.com.au/comment/struggle-streets-not-poverty-porn-its-powerful-20150507-ggw2os.html

Dudek, I, & Lee, k 2014, ‘How rich?: Crazy rich’, ArtAsiaPacific.

Magnier, M 2009, ‘Indians don’t feel good about ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ Los Angles http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jan/24/world/fg-india-slumdog24&gt

Murdoch, L 2016, ‘Poverty porn: Charity body denounces use of ‘pity’ advertising in fundraising campaigns,’ The Sydney Morning Herald http://www.smh.com.au/world/lindsay-20160607-gpdeec.html>.

Threadgold, S 2015, Struggle Street is poverty porn with an extra dose of class racism, The conversation. http://theconversation.com/struggle-street-is-poverty-porn-with-an-extra-dose-of-class-racism-41346&gt

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