‘Poverty porn is a term I hadn’t heard before this week, but after understanding what it is, and seeing all the examples in class, it is quite common and noticeable in everyday life.
It is defined as any type of media, whether written, filmed, or photographed which exploits the poor in order to gain sympathy for a particular gain, including selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations for a cause. Poverty porn is typically associated with poverty in Africa, but I think the term is relative to any instance where the poor are taken advantage of for any gain.
An example shown in class was a video part of the Red Nose Day campaign, with the aim of the video to raise awareness and money for children in poverty in Africa. In the video, Jack Black travels to Uganda to meet a homeless boy, spends the day with him, learns his story, and then rejects the boy’s plea to take him home with him. The young boy had hope and belief that Jack Black would save him, but it appears they were only there to generate sympathy and donations from the audience.
(Jack Black visits a homeless boy in Africa as part of the Red Nose Day Campaign)
That is a typical example of poverty porn, but I think it is just as relevant when looking at the western world too. Dozens of videos have been uploaded to YouTube where the content creators will donate food, time, and shelter to homeless people in the US. These include “Giving Homeless People Some Pizza or Food”, “Taking a homeless man out to dinner in a fancy car”, “Giving food and water to homeless – Making people smile”, and “Making Homeless Guys Day”. All are very similar as they introduce themselves, walk up to unsuspecting homeless people and offer food. The thing is, these videos are uploaded by ‘prank’ YouTube channels, where the creator’s typical content involves prank or ‘social experiment’ videos. With so much monetary gain to be had on YouTube, I’ll admit I don’t think these pranksters are giving food to the homeless out of the good of their heart. Instead they have dollar signs in their eyes from views generated by their now viral videos.
I believe this is a case of poverty porn, as there is a definite gain generated by sympathy. Although not for charity, but for the content creator’s back pocket. A $10 pizza is nothing compared to the thousands in advertisement revenue their video will generate. The examples of poverty porn if have talked about have different goals but I think are relevant to the issue. Jack Black and the people in the YouTube videos would not be interacting with those surrounded by poverty if they aren’t getting something out of it. And I think that is the issue with this type of charity.
Here are just a few of many examples found on YouTube
Roman Atwood – Homeless Pizza Party Prank!!
letzUploadit – Giving food and water to homeless – Making people smile
Prank Army – Giving Homeless People Some Pizza or Food
Drifto – Taking a homeless man out to dinner in a fancy car
The Lifestyle – Making Homeless Guys Day
‘Poverty Porn’ definition:
Jack Black Meets a Homeless Boy: