Portraying Poverty Essay

Portraying Poverty

            The portrayal of poverty using various media is vulnerable to become negative as depiction of the underprivileged turns exploitative. Most often, the issue raised regarding the portrayal of poverty in media is that there is always the possibility of using the subjects in such a way that their privacy and liberties are violated. The question posed is whether it is possible to portray people in need without exploiting them. I believe that with the appropriate approach, any subject, even the most sensitive and controversial, can be portrayed in media fairly. Poverty must be portrayed by taking the perspective of the people in need. Context is very important in portraying poverty because by capturing context, stereotypes are broken and exploitation is avoided. By understanding the issue from within—that is from the perspective of those who experience poverty on a daily basis—a reporter will be able to break his bias and convey a message that captures the position where his subjects are coming from. Exposing the reality of poverty in media despite its vulnerabilities educates the people of the kind of life that they might be oblivious of. It widens perspective and fosters compassion for those in need.

            Through Agee and Evans’ excerpt in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, the value of work of the cotton harvesters is given emphasis. Instead of highlighting the lack of proper living amenities or the disparaging gap between the wealthy and the tedious life in the fields, the journalists treated their subject without the burden of sensationalizing their situation. Their detailed description of the gatherers work is both enlightening and illustrative of the real working conditions of the needy. Agee and Evans’ objective presentation of their subjects’ lives incite sympathy from the readers because their subjects are described not as people who in state of desperation but are in toiling to live and survive. Despite the dire living conditions, the Alabama farmers struggle to live and refuse to be victims of their situation.

Response to Photograph

(Photograph on page 10)

            The child on the porch of this Alabama family is a regular sight in a farming estate. Children like her are often left at the cares of the elder members of the family because both parents work either on the farm, the nearby meat factory, or the local grocer in town. Most parents have double jobs and have to leave their children behind in order to provide food in the table every day. Children in the farming estate usually suffer from malnutrition because of the poor health care service in the area.

Further, most families are incapable of paying for regular medical check-up which eventually leads to negligence of simple health problems that could have been avoided if proper medical attention was given. These children are also exposed to various toxins as they become exposed to hazardous farming chemicals. Underweight and sickly, some of the children in the farming estate are in dire need of pediatric care in order to salvage their frail bodies from acquiring diseases and infection that have long term repercussions.

            Lily, the child depicted in the picture, is one of the many children who suffer not only from poor health conditions but also from insufficient mental and psychological stimulation. As her parents become tied to the work in the farms, Lily craves for the attention and care of her parents. Most of the children in farming estates are also either home-schooled or are deprived of formal education in public schools. They are mostly educated by their relatives and do not have the opportunity to have access to state-sponsored curriculum or educational facilities that enhance the learning experience. Most of the children in farming estate are also isolated from the community of children their age. Their socialization is usually confined within the family environment wherein they are able to mingle with their siblings. Most of the families in the farming estates are composed of large numbers of siblings ranging from four to five. The siblings become the immediate community of children in these areas and in some way, this help foster their bond.

References:

Agee, J. and W. Evans. (1936). Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Massachusetts: Houghton

Mifflin.

Poverty in Media

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Poverty in Media

            Poverty is a world problem that may be impossible to eradicate. It becomes the staple subject of media and as such, becomes vulnerable to sensationalism, exaggeration and stereotyping. The images of poverty conveyed in media can be a form of exploitation when stereotypes are used as the basis of approaching the subject. Bias can be a trap to the journalist because it screens off the context of poverty. The position from which a journalist is coming from when trying to tackle the issue of poverty can meddle with the message and result to an unbalance and unrealistic portrayal of people in need. Opening the eyes of the readers and viewers is one of the good purposes of portraying poverty despite the fact that such endeavor can be susceptible to unhealthy and incorrect representation. Despite the risk, media portrayal of poverty serves as a form of public education which will lead to enlightening those who are in the position to provide aid to those who are in need of it.

            The excerpt of James Agee and Walker Evans in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men shows a realistic portrayal of the poor working conditions of the people in 1930s Alabama. The excerpt detailed how the cotton gatherers toil in unfavorable conditions in order to survive the life in the farming estate. The fragility and at the same time tediousness of gathering cotton show the difficulty these people face, difficulties that have repercussions to their physical and mental well-being. Agee and Evans effectively portrayed the lives of the people in need with a careful consideration to objectivity and truthfulness. They approached the subjects without the exploiting the subjects through sensationalism. The folks in their book are depicted as hard workers, toiling in order to survive the poor living conditions in 1930s Alabama. Their book definitely takes a sympathetic view of the farmers because the authors refrain from a one-sided presentation in which the context of poverty is neglected.

Response to Photograph

(Photograph on page 9)

            There is a farmer who toils all day and night for the family. He works hard to provide for the family’s needs especially for his little son who would wait for him to come home from work and run into his arms. Whenever he is alone, he would think of every good thing that he would like his family to have including the luxurious living that a father would like his family to enjoy. Nevertheless, everyday has been the same for this family. His wife would prepare food for him and their baby every breakfast, lunch and dinner and she would bring the food under a tall oak tree near the field that caters the family’s sheltering needs whenever they would eat together.

            The hardworking farmer looked across the vast empty land where he has continued to work for the past few days. He smiles. He turns his head towards the sky and whispers to himself the hope of having a better tomorrow.

Every moment passed by and the field has turned green and becomes greener in every passing day but the farmer is still thinking when would his dreams be a reality or would it become real or just stay a dream that he and his family would be able to achieve only while in their deep slumber.

            The day came when the fields started to show the first signs of grains sprouting from the midst of the green field. It gave another hope for the farmer and this time his wife who is with him gave him a smile assuring him that everything would be alright.

            The fields turned to yellow and then to gold, a golden sight to behold as the farmer, his wife and his child walked across the field towards their house. Everything would be alright. The farmer’s little boy pointing to their house said, “Go home.” Yes! They would be home.  In a few days time, the farmer’s house, land and family will be together.

References:

Agee, J. and W. Evans. (1936). Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Massachusetts: Houghton

Mifflin.

 

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