Poverty porn can be defined as “any type of media, be it written, photographed or filmed”, which exploits the poor’s living conditions in order to generate sympathetic attitudes from the privileged and encourage donations. In turn, poverty porn also causes outrage due to the fact that nothing really changes in the lives of those in poverty, only making those who don’t live in poverty feel better about themselves. An example of this can be seen through the SBS documentary “Struggle Street” , which features the lives of people living in Mt. Druitt, NSW.
The documentary has received criticism not only from the Mt. Druitt residents themselves, but from the local council as well. Blacktown’s Mayor Stephen Bali mentioned in a debate with the Head of SBS, “What I saw wasn’t a documentary, it was simply publicly funded poverty porn”. He continued to add,”With all the funding cuts in the local area to domestic violence and the whole heap of great education facilities that are losing funding, to spend $1 million dollars on this crap…It shouldn’t happen”. Mr. Bali makes a valid point about poverty porn, but lets hear it from the less privileged.
Mother of 10, Ms Kennedy, told the daily telegraph, “When we signed up for it, we thought it was supposed to be about peoples struggles and going through their problems and getting back on their feet, but this is awful”. The residents of Mt. Druitt are clearly appalled by how they’ve been portrayed. After watching some parts of this documentary in the BCM310 tutorial, many of these people were stuck in a difficult situation. Most are living in government-funded housing, some experienced the death of a loved one whilst battling a drug addiction. Others like Mr. Kennedy were unable to work due to poor health and injury. Is the death of a loved one a valid excuse for being unemployed for the rest of your life? Other parts of the documentary away from the Kennedy family showed people of a younger age caught up in drugs, crime and unemployment. “Because we are from Mt. Druitt”, was their excuse. Some scenes showed young men loitering around all day and doing burnouts in old commodores, other scenes showed young women sitting in a park talking about how no one employs them because they are from Mt. Druitt. The excuses just kept coming along throughout the episodes.
Here is an ambitious Ugandan boy who wants an education, he doesn’t have the opportunity to go to school, nor does he have a roof over his head. Here are two amazing refugees who came from nothing, had nothing, but were given the opportunity to become something. Just because you’re from Mt. Druitt, doesn’t mean that you should use the area as an excuse to call a centrelink building your daily hangout. Teenagers from Mt. Druitt have the opportunity to go to high school and thats clearly taken for granted. Who do they look up to ? Who’s there to tell them that ending up on the pension and doing burnouts all day isn’t going to help their situation?
Poverty porn might outrage many people, but it highlights another problem about poverty in Australia. Unfortunately, the person who just bought a $3 million dollar apartment at Cremorne Point overlooking Sydney Harbour isn’t going to help you. How can we restore faith into the lives of youths growing up in such areas? How can we let them know that not all hope is lost for their future? Poverty porn is certainly not the answer to this. Poverty porn only increases the sadistic attitude of feeling sorry for yourself, whilst others who are more privileged than you are made to feel better about their life.
More To Come
1. Fife-Yeomans J 2015, We’re not bogans! Mt Druitt fury at SBS struggle street series described as ‘publicly funded poverty porn’, viewed 19th March 2017, <www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/were-not-bogans-mt-druitt-fury-at-sbs-struggle-street-series-described-as-publicly-funded-poverty-porn/news-story/aced8475335c73fbc7d64dc69227810c>
2. Kerin L & Ong T 2015, Struggle Street: Mount Druitt community up in arms over ‘poverty porn’ documentary series on SBS, viewed 18 March 2017, <www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-05/sbs-struggle-street-series-poverty-porn-says-mt-druitt-mayor/6446648>
3. Wikipedia 2017, Poverty Porn, viewed 17 March 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_porn>