Dharavi slum in Mumbai, India, was featured in the 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire.

Poverty porn, also known as development porn, famine porn,[1] or stereotype porn,[2][3] has been defined as "any type of media, be it written, photographed or filmed, which exploits the poor’s condition in order to generate the necessary sympathy for selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations or support for a given cause".[4][5]

It is a term also used to explain when media is created not in order to generate sympathy, but to cause anger or outrage.[6][7]

Contents

OriginsEdit

The concept of poverty porn was first introduced in the 1980s, a golden age for charity campaigns.[citation needed] Charity campaigns during this period made use of hard-hitting images such as pictures of malnourished children with flies in their eyes. This quickly became a trend and there were several notable campaigns such as Live Aid. Though some of these campaigns were successful in raising money for charity (over $150 million to help combat famine), some observers criticised the approach, claiming it oversimplified chronic poverty, this apparent sensationalism was dubbed by critics as “poverty porn”.[8]

In the 1980s the media used what some[who?] believed to be inappropriate use of children in poverty. However, towards the end of this era more positive images emerged to tell their stories, although, in recent years[when?] it has been noticed that the disturbing images are being highlighted once more.[9]

In charityEdit

The practice is controversial, as some[who?] believe it to be exploitative, whilst others praise the way it can allow organisations to reach their objectives. It has been common for charity organisations such as UNICEF and Oxfam to portray famine, poverty, and children in order to attract sympathy and increase donations.

 
Stereotypical charity campaign[10]

Although poverty porn can be seen as a tool to generate further donations, many believe it deforms reality as it portrays the image of an impotent society, entirely dependent on other western societies to survive,[11] as well as being overly voyeuristic.[12]

It is a common debate to have as to whether it is justifiable or not to portray stereotypes and to use sensationalism in order to generate empathy. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigerian writer: "The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”[13]

Throughout fundraising campaigns, charities attempt to interview those who they are trying to help, in order to get the word across to the general public. However, it is common for them to encounter ongoing refusal from those in desolated situations to take pictures or to publicly share their traumatic story. This further emphasises the concept that being in an uneasy, not to say miserable, situation is a shameful one, and poverty porn in media exposes those who do not necessarily have the desire to be exposed.[14]

In mediaEdit

Poverty porn is used in media through visually miserable images, in order to trigger some sort of emotion amongst its audience. It is commonly thought however, that to expose one’s misery publicly through images, interviews and other means, is an impermissible invasion of privacy.[14]

The use of one photo to label an entire country as destitute makes the audience falsely assume that the entire country share the same story.[15]

Alli Heller, a Nigerian writer and anthropologist says: "Imagine for a minute that you were chronically incontinent. Now imagine that you didn't have access to adult diapers or sanitary napkins ... Imagine how the acidity of the unremitting flow of urine burned away at your thighs, cracking your skin and leaving you vulnerable to painful infections. Imagine the shame you'd feel – a grown adult incapable of avoiding the small pool of urine you'd leave behind on a friend's chair after a visit ... Why must we highlight the extreme cases when the norm is bad enough?"[13]

In pop-cultureEdit

Poverty porn is highly exposed in today’s pop culture, as the concept has become pervasive in films and TV shows.[12]

Reality TVEdit

The British television programme The Hardest Grafter illustrates this as it portrays 25 of Britain’s "poorest workers", all having the shared ultimate objective of winning £15,000 through the completion of various tasks. In this case, the contestants’ poverty attracts a television audience which was, before the show even started, contested as various petitions were made in order to stop what was believed to be a “perverted audience and profit making operation”. It is considered to not only be perverted, but also discriminatory as the contestants can only be poor.[12]

BBC Two replied to these accusations by affirming that it would be a “serious social experiment to show just how hard those part of the low-wage economy work” as well as “tackling some of the most pressing issues of our time: why is British productivity low?”[this quote needs a citation]

A spokesman from the show’s production company, Twenty Twenty, stated that: “the show will challenge and shatter all sorts of myths surrounding the low-paid and unemployed sector.”[16]

Broome, a reality TV show creator, states that it exposes the hardship of some families and their ability to keep on going through values, love and communication. He assures that he would much prefer create these shows rather than those like Jersey Shore which depicts “a group of strangers from New Jersey as they party throughout six seasons”.[17]

Associated worksEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "famine porn « An Africanist Perspective". kenopalo.com. Retrieved 2016-05-25. 
  2. ^ "Famine Africa stereotype porn shows no letup". Development Research Institute. Retrieved 2016-05-25. 
  3. ^ ""Famine Porn" and the Marketing of Poverty | Subversive Influence". subversiveinfluence.com. Retrieved 2016-05-25. 
  4. ^ Matt Collin (July 1, 2009). "What is 'poverty porn' and why does it matter for development?". Aid Thoughts. Retrieved 2014-01-19. 
  5. ^ Flinders, Matthew (January 8, 2014). "Down and out in Bloemfontein". Oxford University Press blog. 
  6. ^ a b "Benefits Street: Channel 4 boss resents poverty porn accusation". Digital Spy. January 10, 2014. Retrieved 2014-01-19. 
  7. ^ "'Poverty porn'? Who benefits from documentaries on Recession Britain?". Joseph Rowntree Foundation. August 23, 2013. Retrieved 2014-01-19. 
  8. ^ "Controversial poverty advertisements are making a comeback". DeseretNews.com. Retrieved 2015-11-02. 
  9. ^ "At What Point Does A Fundraising Ad Go Too Far?". NPR.org. Retrieved 2015-11-02. 
  10. ^ "Report: Up To 200,000 Somali Children Could Die From Malnutrition". publichealthwatch. Retrieved 2015-11-03. 
  11. ^ "What is 'poverty porn' and why does it matter for development?". Aid Thoughts. Retrieved 2015-11-02. 
  12. ^ a b c "It's a bit rich moaning about poverty porn | Rachel Cooke". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-11-02. 
  13. ^ a b Meikle, Glendora. "Poverty porn: is sensationalism justified if it helps those in need?". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-11-02. 
  14. ^ a b "Poverty porn: look at these vulnerable people". Canberra Times. Retrieved 2015-11-02. 
  15. ^ "Africans are fighting media poverty-porn by tweeting beautiful images of their real lives". The Plaid Zebra. Retrieved 2015-11-02. 
  16. ^ "BBC's new 'poverty porn' TV series has everyone raging". The Independent. Retrieved 2015-11-02. 
  17. ^ "'Poverty porn' reality TV: Does it have the capacity to do good?". www.cbc.ca. Retrieved 2015-11-02. 
  18. ^ "The Scheme: Gritty TV or poverty porn?", The Guardian TV & Radio Blog, 28 May 2010
  19. ^ "The Scheme: A brutal eye-opener or poverty porn?", The Scotsman, 28 May 2010
  20. ^ "Debate over housing estate portrayal on The Scheme", stv.tv, 19 May 2010
  21. ^ "The Scheme, a TV documentary of life on a Kilmarnock estate, has already been dubbed Scotland's Shameless. But what's life really like there?", The Scotsman, 20 May 2010
  22. ^ McTague, Tom (January 13, 2014). "Benefits Street: Iain Duncan Smith uses 'poverty porn' show to justify savage Tory welfare cuts". Mirror Online. Retrieved 2014-01-19. 
  23. ^ TV and Radio (April 23, 2013). "Paralympic star Tanni Grey-Thompson attacks Channel 4 over its 'poverty porn'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2014-01-19. 
  24. ^ Charlie Brooker (January 12, 2014). "Benefits Street – poverty porn, or just the latest target for pent-up British fury?". The Guardian. 
  25. ^ Kanter, Jake (January 10, 2014). "C4 rejects Benefits Street's 'poverty porn' tag". Broadcast. Retrieved 2014-01-19. 
  26. ^ "Richard Chin: Slumdog Millionaire: Debate Poverty not "Poverty Porn"". Huffington Post. March 6, 2009. Retrieved 2014-01-19. 
  27. ^ Evan Selinger and Kevin Outterson.2009.The Ethics of Poverty Tourism.Boston: Boston University School of Law
  28. ^ "After Benefits Street, it's another round of poverty porn – with added celebrity". The Guardian. March 5, 2014. Retrieved 2014-03-20. 
  29. ^ "Get on Up: From Rhythm to Richness". National Review. August 1, 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-02. 
  30. ^ Nick Galvin. "Struggle Street: SBS ponders how to follow ratings smash". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 December 2015.