Poverty porn. A situation we do not want to be in yet we want to look at other in that situation. Poverty porn is defined by Aid Thoughts as
“Poverty porn, also known as development porn or even famine porn, is 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. Poverty porn is typically associated with black, poverty-stricken Africans, but can be found elsewhere.”
It gives way to the a cultural belief that those from these African nations are not able to help themselves and it is up to us, from our first world nations, to help. It is clear that these countries are suffering through hard time but the notion of poverty porn sensationalises this intensely, creating an idea that only we can save those in need and creates a vulnerability between both ourselves and those in media campaigns
A campaign video by Compassion International really encapsulates this idea of poverty porn and this clear divide of western society and eastern society that creates a very clear dominance of the cultures. The video depicts a young girl who is waiting for a sponsor to sponsor her and demonstrates how this child is impacted by this important moment. It is a highly emotion driven video as most aid campaigns are.
However it is not the emotional aspect that makes this video particularly uncomfortable and demeaning. It invokes this idea of the White Saviour Complex which creates this idea by being a so called ‘white’ individual, this gives you the means to be able to fix the low socioeconomic in these developing in Africa. It reinforces the idea that those living in Africa are simply waiting for the day that a white person will come and save them creating this hierarchy between the western culture and eastern culture. The emotional response of the family heightens this idea further and creates this idea of ‘poverty porn’
While highly emotive stories are seemingly always used it is clear that these methods work and they are being used against those who do donate. The effectiveness of poverty porn can be seen through a campaign by Sunrise Cambodia. This charity portrayed a young girl who was a sex worker and encouraged people to donate in order to allow her to learn to sew. The campaign raised over $200 000. However, this young girl and other children are paid poster children who are not what they are made out to be through these campaigns. This can be seen as an exploitation of both the children and those who are donating.
The concept of poverty porn is also portrayed in countries outside of Africa such as India. The film Slumdog Millionare was considered by many to be poverty porn. In an article by Tulsi Bisht it says that “although the international recognition of Indian artists involved with the Oscar winning film Slumdog Millionaire was cause for celebration, the film itself was fiercely criticised for depicting India in a derogatory, uni-dimensional way. Some critics claimed it reflected a Western fascination with ‘poverty porn’”. By creating a negative view of a country it can create negative stereotypes and perception of the country.
Poverty porn has a negative effect on both those suffering and those viewing this form of media. Creating a stereotypical image of those in need and consistently emphasising it creates distance from the viewer from the real issues. It also simplifies the issues that are occuring in these countries as they focus on mainly children without consideration for the bigger picture.
Bisht, Tulsi. ‘Poverty Porn’ and the Politics of Representation [online]. Eureka Street, Vol. 19, No. 14, 31 July 2009: 16-17