Poverty Porn

On hearing the next series of ‘Skint’ is being filmed in my home town of Grimsby, I thought it was about time I threw my beggars hat into the ring of discussion around what programmes, like Skint, achieve.  Something I find perplexing is that poverty porn, as a genre, has flourished in light of economic decline. It has become an accepted source of entertainment, when undoubtedly there is nothing entertaining about making a choice between your own meals, or a meal for your child, which is the reality for too many people- on or off the show.

It is apparently very ‘trendy’ at the moment to claim that you live on the breadline. Those who are more fortunate feel they have to apologise for their parent’s achievements, when in fact we should be embracing our backgrounds. Anyway, I digress and must return to my salient point: programmes such a ‘Skint’, ‘How to get a council house’ and the like only marginalise and misrepresent…

When so many people have struggled holding down a job, finding new work, and maintaining a standard of living worth having, it seems cruel that a broadcaster would prey on the areas, to create their own fortune. Towns like Grimsby, and Scunthorpe working hard to bring jobs to the area are hindered, and surely (inaccurate) portrayals such as these will only deter investors. One of the locations for filming in Grimsby, East Marsh was voted second in ‘The most deprived area’ in England and Wales 2011, and subsequently in 2013 was vied sixth in a league of ‘Welfare Ghettoes’.

These are exactly the kind of locations that they choose to film the programme. Particularly troubled area, however the very same programmes are unwilling to show other stories that aren’t as ‘entertaining’ but are certainly more accurate. Members of my family claim benefits, and I know that is because though they tried damn hard, they just could not support themselves. Skint don’t film people taking weekly trip to the job centre, and applying for jobs daily. It is patronising and downright offensive to people who are tarred with a brush and assumed to share the same caricatured lifestyle that channel four insist on filming. They will only highlight issues like youth employment, crime and addiction and never fully explore the effects or the solutions.

It makes people ask the wrong questions, and cuss the chaos that the benefit system is in, however, it seems that many people aren’t asking the right questions like, why can’t families afford to cover their basic needs and buy the essentials? It seems the wrong class of people are reprimanded. After all, it is unlikely that they are the individuals responsible for the obliteration of social security to meet long term political goals now, is it?

One of my super intelligent friends recently posted something on Facebook which rings true of these programmes ‘A banker, a tabloid reader and a benefit claimant, are sat at a table, and there are ten slices of cake on the table. The banker takes nine slices, and tells the tabloid reader ‘watch out for him, he’s after your cake’. Channel Four are doing exactly what my friend claimed tabloids do. They are demonising a whole section of society after exploiting a minority of it. Programmes like this function by making viewers both anxious and angry, and it is quite frankly a calamity. If we’re looking to criticise any street, it isn’t Benefit Street, it’s Downing Street.

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