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).


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.


“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).


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.


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;.


Blog Reflection.

Throughout the process of studying BCM288, I have come up with a range of topics which provide me with a comprehensive knowledge about transnational media and culture. In this blog, I will briefly summary my understanding achieved from the course.

First of all, I have understood the meaning of this field of study to media audiences. This is the era where communication is so developed that people are no longer want to stay solely within their native culture and network anymore. Beyond that, they want to approach a range of different cultures and perspectives. Therefore, it is witnessed that different types of media with various content and origins are being enjoyed by audiences with diverse backgrounds. MasterChef, an Australian series creating a huge wave in India or If you are the one, a Chinese dating reality show being famous in Australia are several dominant examples. This phenomenon sets the foundation for ‘intercultural communication’, in which media content is able to approach a massive and diverse amount of audience by conveying universal values. It is understandable because according to Rohn 2009, universal values ‘can be detached from any culture’.

Credit: Photobucket.

Secondly, knowledge about transnational culture and media is also beneficial for media producers. Due to the fact that audiences are looking for transnational media product, producers have to seek ways to satisfy that demand. As a result, cooperative events such as film festivals are established to provide producers with chances to meet, interact and exchange ideas (Stringer 2001). These kinds of events also promote co-production, which can be understood as the collaboration of producers to create hybrid products once they have achieved a common understanding. Film festivals varies from large and broad events namely Cannes, Berlin or London film festivals to small and centralized ones in Busan or Istanbul. Moreover, co-production can also attract government’s investment on cultural and media industries as producers are able to show their potential by working together (Kwon and Kim 2013).

Credit: 48hourfilm.com.

Finally, I am taught to overcome barriers to be a part of cosmopolitanism. According to McLuhan 1964, with the help of technology and the Internet, the world is transitioning into a ‘global village’ where global citizens communicate across barriers. Stated by Waldron 2000, cosmopolitanism is when “all human beings belong to a single community”. Therefore, the Internet and other digital communication tools are providing me with not only opportunities but also responsibility to know, sympathize and support what is happening around me in a large scale. Wider news coverage about world issues raises the awareness of people about being more updated to be able to realize, understand, maintain what is good and fix what is not.  Virtual cosmopolitanism is a great movement for young people to turn social media practices, which used to be considered daily activities, into something really meaningful by broadening their network, achieving cultural understanding and forming new ‘third cultures’ (McEwan and Sobre-Denton, 2011).

Credit: wslr.org.

To conclude, studying BCM288 allows me to understand the importance of transnational media and culture, which is essential to me as a person and in my future career working in the field of media. The subject raises my awareness that although there are still gaps and challenges in co-production or media piracy, the benefits of being actively engaged with intercultural practices to be a cosmopolitan and a global citizen are still significant.


Kwon, S H and Kim, J 2013, ‘From censorship to active support: The Korean state and Korea’s cultural industries’, The Economic and Labour Relations Review, 24(4), pp.517-532.

McEwan, B and Sobre-Denton, M, 2011, Virtual cosmopolitanism: ‘Constructing third cultures and transmitting social and cultural capital through social media’, Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, 4(4), pp.252-258.

McLuhan, M 1964, Understanding media: The extensions of a man, McGraw-Hill, New York, USA.

Rohn, U 2009, Cultural Barriers to the Success of Foreign Media Content, Peter Lang, Frankfurt, Germany.

Stringer, J 2001, ‘Global cities and the international film festival economy’, Cinema and the City: Film and Urban Societies in a Global Context, pp.134-144.

Waldron, J 2000, ‘What is cosmopolitan?’, The Journal of Political Philosophy, vol. 8, no. 2, p./pp 227-243.           


Media piracy: on the bright side.

It is obvious that in order to create high quality media content, the producers have to spend a lot of time and effort on the work. Therefore, they are deserved to receive in return what is respective with their dedication, in terms of both materiality and mentality (Karaganis 2011).

Credit: The American Assembly.

Currently, media producers are struggling with a phenomenon when their products are being distributed in a massive amount, at a low cost and most importantly, without their awareness and permission. This is what is defined by Karaganis 2011 as ‘media piracy’. ‘Media piracy’ is more likely to happen in developing countries where policies against copyright infringement are not as effective as that in developed nations. Furthermore, even in developed countries, media piracy still exists in the form of consumer goods in grocery stores, especially those of immigrants. For example, in Australia, it is totally possible to buy un-authorized DVDs with a relatively low price in, for example, Asian or Indian grocery stores (Athique 2006).This notion is serious in the way that media content is made available at a much lower price than what the producers want and the money earned is not going into their accounts.

Credit: WordPress.

However, this situation can also have a bright side. According to Karaganis 2011, ‘high prices for media goods, low incomes and cheap digital technologies’ are the main reasons leading to media piracy. As mentioned before, media piracy is more popular in developing countries, where have lower living standard so people have to spend their little earnings on many expenses, which makes official, copyrighted media products something too luxurious.  Therefore, the question is: “Do people have unequal right of consuming media content because of their different circumstances? “. In this way, media piracy brings about the ‘mentality’ return (mentioned above) to producers as it promotes media circulation and distribution by giving chances to more audiences to consume (Jenkins 2004). This argument is reasonable in the way that without exposure, or audiences, media content is just worthless regardless of the quality because no one realizes or even knows about it. Therefore, media piracy can be considered a trade-off for media producers.

Credit: MakeUseOf.com.

On a whole, if media producers want to create high quality, not just ‘high grossing’ products, this is what they want to achieve. With a larger amount of audiences, media producers and their products are more likely to be known and recognized. This explains why nowadays more and more artists are choosing to distribute their products publicly on digital platforms for free. Latest hits or music videos with high quality are released online requiring no fees for audiences. In this way, media producers promote their reputation both in number and scale, which can earn them money in return from advertising activities or concert.


Athique, Adrian Mabbott 2006, ‘Bollywood and ‘grocery store’ video piracy in Australia’, Media international Australia, no. 121, pp. 41-51.

Karaganis, J 2011, Media Piracy in Emerging Economies, Social Science Research Council, United States of America.

Jenkins, H 2004, When Piracy Becomes Promotion, MIT Technology Review, viewed October 24th 2016, <https://www.technologyreview.com/s/402969/when-piracy-becomes-promotion/&gt;.




Media regulation: no longer joint experience.

Over years of development, media all over the world have experienced various types of regulation. The main purpose of media regulation is to decide whether the content conveyed by media is suitable for different types of audiences consuming it. According to this purpose, the presence of media regulation is essential and crucial that it protects audiences from content that may negatively influence them and guide them to content that fits. However, media regulation also has several drawbacks that it may diminish media circulation or limits the interaction between audiences and content creators that producers are not able to reach their desired consumers. Another point that needs to be taken into consideration is the effect of media regulation on the notion of space and places. This blog post will indicate the effect on space and places of media regulation with analysis of the case of Australian Classification Board.

Australian Classification Board is the regulation that gives ratings to different types of media namely films, TV or video games. The ratings varies from E (exempt from classification), G (general), PG (parental guidance recommended) or M (recommended for mature audiences) that decides the suitable audiences for particular contents.


One possible effect of classification board is that it may reduce the ‘joint attention‘ that audiences have when consuming media content with varied types of people in the way they share the same experience and attention with strangers. It is obvious that children are not supposed to watch movies with M (mature) rating. However, there are cases that ratings are not quite true or blurred. For example, in the case of the newly released episode of the Star Wars series called The force awakens. Although I’m not a big fan of this series, I still aware that it is enjoyed by audiences of different generations. However, this episode is given the M rating, which prevents children under 15 to watch it. This movement of the Australian Classification Board also confused parents who ‘saw the first three Star Wars films as they came out as a child’ (Gough 2015). Therefore, it is hard for different generations to consume this episode together in one cinema room and subsequently, they will not have such ‘joint attention’ experience, which they used to have in the past with the previous Star Wars episodes.

Beside films and cinema experience, we can also relate the problem to the aspect of games. It is reported that the new gaming classification system has banned ‘219 games in just 4 months’ (Reilly 2015), which means nowadays a lot of young gamers are not able to play games that previous generations have played at their ages. Therefore, the gaming space could changed in the way that kids may not have the chance to experience playing the same games in the same living room as their brothers used to do, or a mature brother may not be able to play the same game with his little brother in their living room like they used to do. Their experience of the living room in their own houses or gaming centers may change due to this regulation, and people’s ‘joint attention’ experience can also never be the same again.

In a whole, it is essential to have a regulation such as Australian Classification Board, but it needs to be flexible in order to allow people to consume media in the best ways for them and in the places that give them the best experience. Due to the classification board, a mom would have to go hire a DVD of a film with an M rating to watch it and decide whether it is suitable for her children (Gough 2015). It needs to take into account opinions of ones who directly consume media, in order to prevent it from ‘deciding for those it does not represent‘ (Guy 2012).


Gough, D 2015, Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Why the M rating is confusing for parents, Sydney Morning Herald, viewed September 23rd 2016, <http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/star-wars-the-force-awakens-why-the-m-rating-is-confusing-for-parents-20151215-glolje.html&gt;.

Guy, G 2012, Classification board: deciding for those they (don’t) represent, ABC News, viewed September 23rd 2016, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-01-03/guy-classification-board-making-decisions/3755220&gt;.

Reilly, C 2015, Classification board bans 219 games in 4 months, but clears 150,000, CNet, viewed September 2016, <http://www.cnet.com/au/news/australian-classification-bans-219-games-clears-150000/&gt;.



Cyberspace: ‘The Purge’ in the making


Above is the trailer of the movie ‘The Purge: Anarchy’. It depicts the imagined future America when in one particular day in a year, every actions  will be considered legal (even murder). Its purpose is to exclude the elements that are considered ‘harmful’ to the state development.

The reason why I reference this movie is because I find some similarities between it and what we call the ‘cyberspace’. According to John Barlow, this is a new world where unsuitable people are not welcomed. In the movie, unmatched elements are excluded from the society for a brighter America: ‘a nation reborn’.


Personally, I consider the process of establishing the cyberspace is actually a purge. It is where people that do not meet the conditions will be purged. It is where data is transferred freely and users communicate uncontrollably, where no payment is made for licensed software, as stated by Richard Stallman. Therefore, if you are not willing to engage, you are out. It is actually an anarchy in which all nodes in the communication system are equal and connected directly to each other.

From the case of Pacific Rim: Does Hollywood actually produce transnational films ?

Credit: Youtube

Above is the trailer of the movie ‘Pacific Rim’, directed by Guillermo del Toro, the biggest blockbuster of summer 2012 which grossed $411 million dollars worldwide. The film presented the same motive with many others Hollywood films as it depicted the world trying to overcome its end. The story was about human fighting against monsters to protect their own planet with weapons are giant robots controlled by pilots. Beside excellent movie graphical techniques, the makers have imported into the movie several elements which distinguish it with others of the same genre in order to mark it a ‘transnational film’. Transnational film can be defined as a film which ‘draw upon structures of hybridity to meet increasing demand for glocalized content within globalized distribution networks’ (Schaefer and Karan, 2010).

Hollywood fans have a joke that each summer comes, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles are destroyed again. It sounds weird but if we look at the recent sci-fi action blockbusters, the background of the fights are normally in the US, in particular are the cities mentioned above (The Dark Knight series, Transformers series, etc). Therefore in Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro decided to bring the war to a totally different but familiar region, Hongkong. The fact that this beautiful Asian paradise is the last place standing and it is the only hope of human race rather than America has created great appeal to Chinese and bigger, Asian audiences. Moreover, the crew represents the diversity as the main director is Mexican and “the stars are a melange of British, Asian, Russian and Australian, some speaking with American accents, some not”. (Timmons, 2013).

However, those are not enough to make it a transnational film. The main element is the characters. First of all, the Jaegers (name of the robots) are stereotypes of the countries they represented. Crimson Typhoon, belongs to China, can be recognized at first sight as a made-in-China products from its flashy appearance and name which resemble the color of the national flag. Its signature attack, Thundercloud Formation,  is also inspired by Kungfu. The Russian robots named Cherno Alpha features exactly what is always thought about Russian products. Ancient, blocky design but optimal efficiency, ‘old but gold’. It is also painted with patterns of the T-series Russian tank.

‘It is about the world saving the world’, said Guillermo del Toro.

But is it actually is ?

Credit: Internet

The Chinese Jaeger Crimson Typhoon was equipped with state-of-the-art technology but was defeated easily in the beginning. This detail led to the complaint of the South China Morning Post: “Why are the Chinese characters in the film the first to die?” (Timmons, 2013).  Cherno Alpha, the Russian one, which had gained huge reputation from its fight history, ended up eliminated right after its Chinese teammate. Two deaths in only 5 minutes of display. Striker Eureka, the latest and strongest Jaeger which is from Australia, was luckier as it was only neutralized. Finally, the rescue came from Gypsy Danger, the main robot character, and of course, is an US made. And that was only the first fight.

When the fight was getting to an end, both the Australian and the American Jaeger collaborated. However, it was the Australian which had to sacrifice for its teammate to make the last hit. Furthermore, among the two pilots controlling Gypsy Danger, the Japanese girl was unable to stand until the last minute and we have “a standard white hero that ends up saving the day” (Timmons, 2013), which is American.

To wrap up, Pacific Rim deserves an Oscar awarded by the UNO for being a transnational but still high-grossing film. However, it could not make it, because it is only ‘an international movie created through a Hollywood lens’ (Timmons, 2013).

Lucky for the fans that this movie will have its sequel, and ‘maybe next time, they’ll let the Chinese guys save the day’ (Timmons, 2013).