POVERTY PORN

POVERTY PORN

The blog ‘Hunger Hurts’ identifies the truest struggles of a modern-day broke life. I am no mother, but I felt the connection by the third sentence. In comparison to Jack Black meeting a young homeless boy living in Uganda, there was distinct sympathetic emotions and then it clicks off. I believe audiences will look at the Black’s campaign as obvious poverty porn, we feel sad, depressed and helpless – but what do you think is going on in Black’s head? Could he be feeling the same, or is he just being directed to feel and look that way? A classic poverty porn stunt well played by a Hollywood star.

Hunger Hurts brings about a point of view single mothers don’t get to voice. It gives the perception to the actual happenstance that happens in first-world countries today. Jack Monroe writes “my small boy will be introduced to the world of pawnbroking, watching as his mother hands over the TV and the guitar for an insulting price”, she demonstrates the most heart wrenching feeling a mother could experience. Her embarrassment connects her audience into experiencing an understanding of what poverty is like in her shoes. She strongly describes poverty as a state of having nothing to feed your own son when he requests for more. And in contrast to both ‘poverty porn’ perceptions, I have to disagree with the fact that Jack Monroe’s Hunger Hurts post is poverty porn. Instead, if I were to compare it with the approach Jack Black took, it is much more stereotypical, disappointing and heart-wrenching in a way that makes me hate Jack Black even more.

 Using a child’s vulnerable state, where he sleeps on a hill of garbage just for monetary value is sickening. And while this is true, Africa is known as a third-world country, media and charities will continue to use this stereotype to raise more alarming awareness. Tyler Fyfe of The Plaid Zebra explains the method used by these organisations make the continent stamped with pity”, meaning no African can learn to read or write, they only listen to tribal music or they are all thin because they walk so far for water. Audiences are blinded by these stereotypes and think nothing of Africa but a wasteful country when in fact the continent brings the world much more beauty than the media speaks of. The hashtag #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou created a powerful movement to claim Africa as a continent with a pink lake, female heads of state, world famous beaches, Air Force Engineering Officers designing drones, university campuses, schools, fashion and models, and much more among others. The hashtag changed the perceptions of many individuals throughout the Internet and I believe it definitely gave voice to the Africans who were hiding behind the stereotype.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is featured in Ted Talks and expresses how important it is to not just believe in the single story and individual tells you. This will only lead you to misunderstand multiple concepts. Chimamanda is a living testimony of the effects of poverty-porn, she experienced shock from her roommate, when she found Chimamanda capable of speaking and listening in English. All she ever felt was being pitied, patronized and disconnected to her classmates.

The effects of poverty-porn are endless, mass media and charities utilize this emotional tactic to deepen our understanding but only leaves us blinded to other amazing stories. Before this tutorial I admit, I was so blind from all the heart-breaking campaigns, I did not know any better and like the roommate, I was oblivious the stereotypical poverty porn happening before my eyes. I mean sure, I was raised by my loving parents who continuously received mail from their sponsor children from the Philippines and India, and I would always think wow it’s such an amazing cause. But up until now, I could see the massive impact these organisations have towards their audiences, they definitely are doing it for great causes but to what extent must they go to? Flashing cameras at malnourished kids sleeping on their garbage pillow, please no.

References:
Adichie, C.A., 2017, ‘The danger of a Single Story’
<https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?language=en&gt;

Fyfe, T., 2015, ‘Africans are fighting media poverty-porn by tweeting beautiful images of their real lives’
<http://www.theplaidzebra.com/africans-are-fighting-media-poverty-porn-by-tweeting-beautiful-images-of-their-real-lives/&gt;

Jack Black, 2015, ‘Jack Black Meets a Homeless Boy’, Youtube
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8_ZZ9wI2xw&gt;

Monroe, J., 2012, ‘Hunger Hurts’,
<https://cookingonabootstrap.com/2012/07/30/hunger-hurts/&gt;

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