SBS’s controversial documentary series Struggle Street has “become the highest-rating locally produced program in SBS’s history and the biggest audience for the multicultural broadcaster since the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.(Source)” The program was filmed over six months and explored issues such as drug addiction, illness, unemployment and generational disadvantage. The families featured live in government supported housing commission and the show detail how they got there and the circumstances associated with living in those conditions.
The show has been labeled by some as ‘Poverty porn’ and has been heavily criticised by residents of Western Sydney and government officials. Labor Londonderry MP Prue Car said “There are issues we need to work on in the community but the SBS program was not a true representation of the whole area and the hardworking communities around Mount Druitt.” (Source)
The responsibilities of the production crew were questioned when a woman in the 3rd trimester of her pregnancy is seen smoking pot and cigarettes (as seen above) and there has been allegations that scenes on the show were staged. This seems to be a recurring problem when covering something of this nature. Time and time again suffering is shown in the media and it garners a large polarizing reaction but it is successful.
For example Passion of the Christ the 2004 film that depicted the suffering of Jesus Christ mainly focusing on the final 12 hours of his life. It was criticised for extremely violent to the point at which viewers have claimed it obscures the film’s message. The film was banned for a time in Malaysia and no Israeli distributor wanted to associate themselves with the film. The Film was also criticised for straying from the source material and for having anti-semitic undertones. Despite all these factors the film is the highest grossing R rated film in the United States and because only the biblical languages of Aramaic, Hebrew and Latin were used, it also became the highest grossing non-English language film of all time.
As seen in the success of both of the texts people seem obligated to watch depictions of suffering. Whether it be the suffering of Jesus or some housing commission residents having a tough time consumers eat this stuff up. I believe this is beautifully summed up by Madame Riccoboni who wrote this in 1769, “One would readily create unfortunates in order to taste the sweetness of feeling sorry for them”