Struggle Street, an SBS 3-part documentary on the lower class ‘bogans’ of Mt Druitt, has been under scrutiny since it aired last year. With 1.5 million people watching the first episode, there is no doubt that Australia has heavily mixed views ranging from accusations of “poverty porn” whilst others wondered why it even aired in the first place claiming it to be uninteresting.
I have noticed a trend in social media over the past year with people using the term “porn” and associating it with non-sexual things i.e. food porn, make-up porn, earth porn. “Poverty porn” is a term I only came across when Struggle Street first appeared on our screens. The definition is basically Westerners definition of global inequality, disease and hunger. An article in “the conversation” also describes “poverty porn” as a distorted presentation of disadvantage by the advantaged. I do not believe this is the case. Yes, some people would feel a sense of superiority when watching, but through living in Wollongong I have seen how those who live on government benefits act. I’m not saying that everyone who lives on the doll cheat the system and do not appreciate the help they get, as I know that isn’t the case. However, in certain parts of Wollongong, and especially on the free buses, everyday I witness people who it is quite obvious do not work, don’t look after themselves and spend money on illicit substances and alcohol. It is my belief that how the families/individuals on Struggle Street are represented are not deluded or misrepresented, but actually a somewhat accurate depiction.
The other day I was waiting for the bus in Fairy Meadow (across from Coles) when a young girl who couldn’t have been older than 14 began waiting also. It was a hot morning and I had my sunglasses on and was scanning up and down and road, as you do when you are waiting. This girl, who had a can of Bundaberg Rum in one hand and a cigarette in the other, caught my gaze and said “you lookin’ at me? You wanna stop that aye”. Not only was she skipping school (she had her uniform on) but she was causing a scene in public, one that got the attention from everyone waiting at the bus stop. This got me thinking, I wonder what sort family she comes from. What sort of family would raise a child to think that every single aspect of her behaviour was acceptable.
In saying that I think that those who live with government benefits in government housing and refuse to improve the well-being of themselves and their families, it is also my opinion that “breaking the cycle” as my Mum always says is never an easy option. When you are raised on very little, live in a home with alcoholic/drug affected parents and haven’t been raised with the education that is needed to properly succeed in life, it is rare to come across someone who has overcome all these barriers in their adult years.
“Struggle Street” is a series that has done all it can in its quest for ratings, and in doing so has represented Mt Druitt in a very narrow way. There is no denying that it is wrong to merely show the negative side of the area without showing the people in the area that have stable jobs with their lives together. However, it is in my belief that their depiction of the underprivileged members of Mt Druitt are completely true, and it is in not just that area that these people exist, but all over NSW as I have personally witnessed. This deems my analysis of “Poverty Porn” as a term that exists to cause moral panic. However, bringing awareness to this issue is not a bad thing, as more “privileged” people need to be educated in this social issue.
https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/p luginfile.php/598885/mod_resource/content/1/Struggle%20Street%20is%20poverty%20porn%20with%20an%20extra%20dose%20of%20class%20racism.pdf (week 3 reading: Struggle Street is Poverty Porn with an extra dose of racism)