When I was a boy and would walk through the streets of the city with my family, occasionally walking past one or several men and women, some of which were young and some old but always wearing strange clothes different to mine. They wouldn’t be so alien from my style of clothing I would wear but different in the fact that they were tattered, dirty, often with holes in them and altogether “funny” looking. Not only that but they often bore a stench of toxins and bad breath with scary teeth. Despite all these uncommon characteristics there was a sense of likeness to myself, like me but far worse off, were they lesser. Sometimes I would turn my head try to ignore them and other times I would laugh at the strange things they would say (or yell). Almost every time my parents would look at me in disgust, telling me how wrong it was to do such except for the times dad laughed along too.
Regardless of whether this story is true or not it doesn’t matter (it’s not), the point i’m trying to make is that fact or fiction is equally harmful in the media when it comes to a sensitive subject such as this.
Take for example “Struggle Street”, the SBS documentary that followed the real lives of disadvantaged people living in Mt Druitt in Sydney’s west. The show did a poor job of representing these people and it caused quite the stir in opinion. Memorable scenes included showing a pregnant ice addict and her mother carrying on immaturely and smoking bongs on the toilet and in my opinion this doesn’t add a positive awareness to the viewer, especially those young and immature themselves. It wasn’t right to be showing these people in a light that may tarnish the severity of their struggle and the people in control of what we are seeing should have a responsibility to paint this picture sensitively or at least tell us why it isn’t a something to be laughed at.
Is it ever ok to laugh? And laugh along with the rest of us?
In fictional movies, television and mockumentaries this can sometimes happen. To be fair this is not always the case but it is definitely something worth considering and up for debate. The show “Trailer Park Boys” follows the lives of two grown men living in a trailer park and the tales follow their life of drug dealing and drug abuse, theft, gun crimes and going in and out of prison, it definitely sounds like a comedy right? Well it is very funny and deserves some credit but it’s hard to whether it’s the right thing to be satirising and if it desensitises our opinion of poverty.
The main characters from Trailer Park Boys
The topic isn’t something I’ve thought of a lot about myself if I’m to be honest but perhaps that’s the entire reason that thinking of it is so important in making us aware of the realities, something i’m not sure we do often enough. Stop to think. If the media and society believe it is right to depict poverty at all it is crucial to do so as long as it is done so in a way that makes people positively aware. It is not something that can be viewed in innocence or ignorance.