Generally speaking, humans are really nosey. We always want to know whats happening around us. For example, if we drive past a car crash, we generally cant take our eyes away from the scene. Same goes for celebrities, we want to know what is happening in all aspects of their lives. Perhaps this is the reason why we are so invested in reality television? We crave to know what is happening in the lives of other people, maybe this helps us to feel better about ourselves? With this in mind, let’s explore the idea of ‘poverty porn’.

Poverty porn can be described as the showing of “exploitative” images of individuals or groups caught in impecunious conditions (CNN, 2016). This is a tactic emphasises by media in order to gain empathetic views. These views should be frowned upon – do we take comfort in feeling someone else’s pain? It can be argued that these images should be censored, but in today’s society, it seems impossible to disregard these images, we are simply to curious to think otherwise.

af21

It can be difficult to distinguish what is real and what has been altered in the current media ways. The system appears to focus on grasping the attention of viewers, often leaving out the main point behind the story, which overall detracts from the meaning of an image to become marketable. Poverty porn is ultimately used in today’s media in order to gain views. It should bother us that we have become conditioned to the way in which the media formats humans to their bare characteristics in order to emphasise a point. In turn, this generates an emotional response and makes a profit to the media formats (Roenigk, 2014).

From personal experience, these tactics were very prominent in film and advertising industries. However, other forms of media have taken on board into the world of exploitation for monetary gain. It is very common to see images on the news of an evening and even in the newspaper. The exploitation of suffering for financial success is very wrong. Could it be possible that these forms of media are trying to highlight the objectification of minorities to a majority (western audiences) in order to gain an emotional response and better yet, financial growth? Poverty porn enables us as viewers to feel better about ourselves, as if sympathising or empathising is enough to justify the situation. We can argue that not showing these images or showing the raw images rather than one that ha been altered would be beneficial. However, with our curious nature, we will want to view and possibly respond to these images.

5dc837b8-36d5-4ccb-a23f-6c523a1e1ec9

When SBS release the three part series “Struggle Street”, it allowed viewers to see what living in Mt. Druitt would be like. We are introduced to different families, who live their lives without jobs, with drug addictions and rely on the government for money. One of the people on the show is Bailey, a troubled teen who is portrayed as a heroic character because she returns to school, and the potential for an underdog story makes the audience feel good for supporting her. Alternatively, it can make viewers feel better about themselves because they don’t rely on the government for money, have an education and are richer and smarter than these people. Bailey’s friend, Erin, is a single mother who struggles to make ends meet and is used for bait for viewers to feel better about making better life decisions by not getting pregnant at 16 and being unable to make ends meet.

So why do these shows exist? Is it just for monetary gain for the television stations? Or do they exist because these examples get people talking, initiating discussion of the good and bad things happening in our world? In the end, the issue with poverty porn is that it does not creat a deeper knowledge of the issues being produced and it doesn’t show the structural changes needed to address it.

Advertisements