Poverty porn: calling for change, not charity.

Since the media industry is developing significantly, new genres of media product have been emerging. Among those depicting ordinary topics, there are some that dig into more sensitive, strange and narrow aspects. In this blog post I will focus on the case of ‘poverty porn’, a genre that can be defined as any type of media exploiting the poor’s condition to create sympathy in order to sell newspapers, attract charity donations and support people (Roegnigk 2014).

vulture-child

Human beings do feel sorry for the inferior, which I suppose you guys will all agree with me. Once we see a starving kid, a homeless person, an innocent citizen suffering from war or similar stuffs, we feel sorry for them at a certain degree. I understand that, you understand that and above all, the media understand that too. It is not difficult at all to find poverty porn elements in everything we encounter on a daily basis. We see such pitiful cases in pieces of news, TV shows and even images on Facebook. Exposure to such media products do make us sympathize with ones featured, but have you ever wondered what are the purposes behind all these ?

Obviously we can all understand that by showing such content, the media want us to be aware of other sides of the world which we may not know or even think that they exist. Moreover, we have a chance to realize the degree of seriousness of them by coming up with materials capturing what actually happens.

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“If I don’t take pictures like these, people like my mom will think war is what they see in movies” – war photographer Kenneth Jarecke.

That is the way it is. If we do not know enough, we can never develop enough sympathy or empathy. In this way, it cannot be denied that the media is doing a good job by introducing poverty porn to inform people (Middendorp 2015). However, the consequent actions that are called from poverty porn is what actually worth concerned.

I still remembered one detail in the video above about the story of Hollywood actor Jack Black and a homeless kid in Uganda when the kid told JB “I want to go with you” and he replied “I don’t think I can take you with me”. I liked the whole video in which Jack Black tried to raise funds to offer homeless kids education, except for that detail. Personally, I think that detail makes the whole mood of the video seem to be hopeless. I was born and grown up in Vietnam, a developing country in Southeast Asia in a middle class family. Although I live in one of the most modern city in the country, Hanoi, which is also the capital, I still encounter similar circumstances quite often. I see homeless kids on the street all the time and like anybody else, I always want to help them. I am pretty sure that when I was small, more than once when I saw a homeless kid I told my mom: “Can we take him home with us?” and I received the same response: “No we can’t. We don’t take them home, but we support them. That’s the way it is” and mom gave me something, maybe a little amount of money or food, and told me to gave it to them. And from those moments on, I realized that is how life works. It is not fair for everyone, but who are more privileged can support inferior ones, to make it less unfair (Beresford 2016).

madonnamalawi

The above points lead me to my final conclusion. I do not say that people should not adopt homeless kids or offer the poor people or those in harsh situations a new better life. The ones who do that are so admirable as they turn on the light in those dark segments of life. However, that should not be the purpose of poverty porn. By introducing poverty porn, the media should not encourage people to adopt homeless kids because that does not solve the problem radically (Dortonne 2016). There are millions of abandoned kids that we cannot adopt them all, and we avoid the issue by taking home the kids that stay in front of our eyes and fool ourselves to forget the all the remaining kids behind our back. Media makers, through poverty porn, should encourage people to support the inferior instead, by offering them opportunities to earn a better life themselves (for example, education) and beyond that, challenge the policies that push them into, or do not let them get out of those situations (Allen and Silver 2014). Instead of “neglect and obscure the systemic challenges and compounding disadvantages that people face”, the media should “deliver policies that can affect the challenging realities” (Allen and Silver 2014).

Poverty porn should call for change, not for charity. Because that is the way it is.

Reference:

Allen, K and Silver, D 2014, It’s easy to hate ‘poverty porn’ but harder to fight inequality, The Conversation, viewed March 31st 2017, <https://theconversation.com/its-easy-to-hate-poverty-porn-but-harder-to-fight-inequality-33555&gt;.

Beresford, P 2014, ‘Presenting welfare reform: poverty porn, telling sad stories or achieving change?’, Disability & Society, Vol. 31 Issue 3, pp. 421-425.

Dortonne, N 2016, The dangers of poverty porn, CNN, viewed March 23rd 2017, <http://edition.cnn.com/2016/12/08/health/poverty-porn-danger-feat/&gt;.

Middendorp, C 2015, Poverty porn: look at these vulnerable people, The Canberra Times, viewed March 23rd 2017, <http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/are-pictures-of-the-vulnerable-poverty-porn-20151003-gk0qv6.html&gt;.

Roegnigk, E 2014, 5 Reasons poverty porn empowers the wrong person, One.org, viewed March 23rd 2017, <https://www.one.org/us/2014/04/09/5-reasons-poverty-porn-empowers-the-wrong-person/&gt;.

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Reality TV: extraordinarily ordinary.

In the short video clip we just watched in BCM288 tutorial, the presenter of TED show, Andy Dehnart, cited Mr Roger’s quote which stated that reality TV is where everyone can feel special. This helps explain his mentioning of the fact that reality TV is thought to be one of the lowest forms of culture but it is beneficial and able to change the world.

reality-tv

According to Moran 2009, a ‘reality show’ is a television programme in which ordinary people are continuously filmed, designed to be entertaining rather than informative. Hypothetically, there is no script in reality shows and every event happens naturally. Therefore, this kind of TV show attracts audiences with unexpected events where participants simply act based on their personal feelings and ideas rather than following guidance from the producer.

First of all, reality TV still matters although it is claimed to be a low form of culture. Stated by Deery 2015, reality shows are not expensive to be made because it requires no writers or actors which are one of the most costly production elements. Because there is no script, reality shows are easier to be produced simply by letting event happens naturally, capturing then editing them (Swain 2014). Two reasons above are on the producers’ perspective only, but one more thing that producer shares with audiences about reality TV is that producer does not require much of the audiences, or in other words, a diverse audiences can enjoy reality TV.

Moran 2009 stated that reality show is a kind of ‘peak realism’ with focuses on extraordinary events of ordinary people. In this way, audiences can easily relate to the characters because those characters are ordinary people just like them so they can find similarities in between. Moreover, the unusual circumstances that the characters experience interest the audiences which makes them to watch more and even want to be a part of. Therefore, viewers have the feeling that they can be in the position of the character and undergo the same situations. Eventually, they might find themselves (or their characteristics) presented in the show performing extraordinary actions, being noticed by the crowd and so, being special.

Another advantage of reality TV is that it notices people with good characteristics required to participate. They have to have trust, which is essential because they will play, live and perform tasks with total strangers. They must have skills, not only to accomplish missions but also to be appealing in front of the camera (Wikihow 2016) which promotes their image in order to stay with the show. Whether or not reality shows are scripted, they create the aspiration of viewers to participate and therefore, push them to acquire the required attributes. In this way, reality TV turns ordinary people into extraordinarily ordinary ones.

References:

Deery, A 2015, Reality TV, Polity Key Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies, Wiley, Cambridge.

Moran, A 2009. TV formats worldwide: localizing global programs.

WikiHow 2016, ‘8 steps to get on reality TV show’, <http://www.wikihow.com/Get-on-a-Reality-TV-Show&gt;.

Swain, C 2014, Why Reality TV Still Exists (and Why it Matters to your Student Ministry), LifeWayStudents, viewed October 25th 2016, <http://www.lifeway.com/studentministry/2014/10/07/why-reality-tv-still-exists-and-why-it-matters-to-your-student-ministry/&gt;.

Media ownership: what really matters ?

It is clear that media plays an important role in people’s life especially in this digital era. Beside providing information, media enables us to develop our own perspectives since we interact with different points of views in various aspects. However, media is experiencing a significant transformation as they are converging to the ownership of fewer individuals and private organisations. Opinions have been proposed of whether this change makes any difference.

First of all, let’s take a look at the benefits this change brings about. Media concentration also means that regulation is less strict so it stimulates democracy and the freedom of speech. Communication channels convey the opinions of not the government but the people owning it and those people represent the grassroots so the contents are less filtered. Media is an industry so its main purpose is to serve the customers – the audiences. Therefore, people are able to see what they want. In this way, the consolidation proves to be positive.

Does this shift result in a negative outcome ?

As mentioned above, the opinions transmitted are those of the people owning the media. Those ideas are personal ones of those people or of others that are supported by them. Consequently, media contents are not contested. People’s mind is directed in certain ways that media owners want. Moreover, because media belongs to private owners and it is becoming an industry, its main target is profit so the contents selected are those can generate great revenue rather than those with high values. Under these perspectives, media ownership change is not beneficial.

But does it matter  and create any differences ?

Let’s take the example of Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul, the media godfather. It is undoubtful that he is one of the most powerful people of the media world as a huge communication system is under his procession. And Murdoch also shows that he does use his tool to convey his personal points of view which are really controversial such as denying climate change. He even bought the National Geographic Channel to support him in this debate. However, the evidence of climate is so obvious that people do not have a blind trust in this case. It proves that people are not absolutely affected by the change in media ownership instead they have their own reasoning.

It does not matter who own the media, but the views they hold and the purpose they want media to serve. The most important, is people’s interpretation of media.

Reference:

Goncalves, R 2016, SBS FINANCE | Government discusses media ownership, online video, Youtube, viewed 26th March 2016,

<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUO4KwBTVyo&gt;

Jardin, X 2015, Climate change denier Rupert Murdoch just bought National Geographic, which gives grants to scientists, Boing Boing, viewed 26th March 2016,

<http://boingboing.net/2015/09/09/rupert-murdoch-just-bought-nat.html&gt;

Nuccitelli, D 2014, Rupert Murdoch doesn’t understand climate change basics, and that’s a problem, The Guardian, viewed 26th March 2016,

<http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2014/jul/14/rupert-murdoch-doesnt-understand-climate-basics&gt;

Solanski, P 2016, Pros and Cons of Media Consolidation, Buzzle, viewed 26th March 2016,

<http://www.buzzle.com/articles/pros-and-cons-of-media-consolidation.html&gt;