In 2012, according to the National Statistical Coordination Board Secretary General Jose Ramon G. Albert, an estimated one out of every five Filipino families (19.7%) lived below the poverty line. It is no surprise, therefore, that when it comes to the pressing global issue of poverty, ISM has been doing what it can to alleviate its disastrous effects on the local community.

Having said that, the media is known for over-exaggerating factual information in order to make headlines and garner publicity. There is a fine line when it comes to serious topics such as poverty. Consequently, the term “poverty porn” was coined, referring to the excessive use of visuals in the media depicting poverty. Common images include emaciated children with flies swarming around their gaunt little bodies, families digging out of trashcans, houses with barely enough foundation that it seems even a small gust of wind would send the structure tumbling down into heaps of rubble. Though this may be the harsh reality, the media’s depiction has started to raise some controversy.

A recent example includes a “fly-on the wall” British commentary titled Benefits Street. This documentary focuses on a certain street in Britain where residents live on welfare payments. Criticism aimed at the documentary revolves around the fact that the documentary writers have depicted these state-supported families as being scroungers.  The show’s defenders argue that it has “put a human face on people often shunned by society and battling long-term unemployment and addiction, who nevertheless manage to help each other and retain a sense of humor.” This may be a less grim example, but it shows that the overall exploitation of images depicting poverty can be seen everywhere.

Despite this, there are mixed views on this so called “poverty porn”. As IB HL film student Enzo Mapua remarks, “the media over-does poverty, but this at times can be a good thing. When the media exaggerates poverty, it creates more of an impact for people to listen and desire to help others.”

At the end of the day, all that really matters is that people can come together and give what they can to the community. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

 Article By: Isabel Quah

Photograph By: Mama Hope

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