The Everyday Struggle

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

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6 thoughts on “The Everyday Struggle

  1. I really enjoyed reading your blog, especially the summary quote Madame Riccoboni, it summed up the issue with looking at suffering perfectly, in that we often do it to make ourselves feel better about our own lives, or to make us feel like good people because we feel bad for those in more difficult circumstances. Perhaps this is why Struggle Street was so controversial, it hit a little to close to home, and posed problems that we need to find real solutions for, in our own back yard, not of in some distant land.

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  2. I really enjoyed reading your blog, especially the summary quote by Madame Riccoboni, it summed up the issue of looking at suffering perfectly, in that we often do it to make ourselves feel better about our own lives, or to make us feel like good people because we feel bad for those in more difficult circumstances. Perhaps this is why Struggle Street was so controversial, it hit a little to close to home, and posed problems that we need to find real solutions for, in our own back yard, not of in some distant land.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The ethics regarding documentary film-making are very contentious. One one hand, your role is record ‘as it happens’, but at the same time their is a moral obligation to intervene when there is a potential for harm. Although Struggle Street has caused a lot of outrage, it’s controversial content is, of course, why it is so popular.

    The show has achieved in creating a public sphere of discussion regarding the social problems in disadvantaged areas. And although the people in the show are not representative of all those living in Mt Druitt or similar locations, and in fact stigmatises stereotypes, it does provide insight into a part of Australian culture that hasn’t been publicly viewed so raw-ly.

    I found this weeks Q&A discussion very interesting, considering everyone on the panel discussed their opinion of the distasteful ‘documentary’. The show’s controversy and as such popularity arose plenty of discussion, particularly since the federal budget was released just this week.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I really liked your post. The use of two examples that focus on suffering of different kinds is really good and looks at the subject from different perspectives.
    The way that Struggle Street has been labelled as ‘poverty porn’ and been slammed for shining a negative light on Mount Druitt I feel is simplistic and misses the point what the documentary should have been about, as these things do happen in society and we don’t have to look to far to find examples of this. However I think that they name dropped Mount Druitt too often, but that’s beside the point…
    I also feel that the normalisation of viewing suffering has numbed us to the true meaning and consequences of it which leads me to totally agree with the final quote you used which summed up the situation perfectly.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your post provided a great insight into two very different forms of suffering. I like the way you used different perspectives to ultimately describe a topic with the same underlying message. The fact that you used examples that moved away from the topics that generally spring to mind when asked about suffering such as famine, war, and illness to mention a few definitely strengthened your point.

    As controversial as Struggle Street is, I definitely think that the producers play on the general stigma of the disadvantaged, the ridiculousness of some of the footage is found amusing by the audience, its similar in nature to the comedy television series Housos, based as a satirical parody of the disadvantaged. Although Struggle Street is not a parody there are some scenes e.g. the woman smoking pot while pregnant that I feel the audience disengages with and sees as ‘funny’ because they are in disbelief. The controversial nature and fictional elements obscure the over arching intentions of the series. On a deeper level the audience forms preconceived opinions that this documentary is a reflection on all residents of Mount Druitt, thus these residents are actually suffering because of it.

    I feel that making controversial documentaries and movies that play upon human suffering in its many forms is desensitizing the audience from issues that should be taken seriously.

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Enjoyable blog post with excellent soundtrack selection. your arguments clearly represent how there is a stigma attached to how we view human suffering. In this particular case of Struggle Street, it seems to have done in poor taste and demoralised the people of a community. I agree that people are given a false representation of poverty and you’ve demonstrated that well.

    Liked by 1 person

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