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How Does the Media Really Portray the Poor? sample essay

For as long as there have been media, there have been incorrect portrayals of different subjects, for instance, what the perfect body image may look like, what beauty truly is, what happiness consists of, etc. But there is one not so popular subject that is constantly portrayed incorrectly by the media, and that subject is the lower or “working” class, more commonly known as “the poor.” The different medias that society is exposed to usually show poor people being lazy, dirty and homeless, having no morals or goals for themselves, are often uneducated, and are deadbeat drug addicts or alcoholics. The truth is, according to author, Bell Hooks, who wrote the article, Seeing and Making Culture: Representing the Poor, “Value was connected to integrity, to being honest and hardworking. One could be hardworking and still be poor” (Hooks pg 433).

People who are of the lower class are probably more hard working and dedicated to their families than people who are apart of the middle and upper classes because they have to constantly battle to provide for their families and for themselves, whereas people of higher classes do not have to struggle as hard because they are not constantly worrying about whether or not they can afford to pay the monthly electric bill or to go grocery shopping the following week. But no matter how hard a person of the lower class works, they never seem to find the light at the end of the tunnel, where money and finances will come easier and more abundantly for them. A poor person is not typically a drug addict or an alcoholic, but is rather the provider of one’s family who has lost his or her job and now must make the sacrifice of downgrading to a lifestyle that their family is not used to living. People that are poor did not choose to be labeled as such.

Yes, there are situations where a poor person may wind up homeless, but “poor” does not usually mean one goes without having a place to live. “Poor” is generally defined as lacking money to live comfortably in society, but the media never truthfully shows this righteous definition of “poor.” Instead, society is exposed to all of those common negative depictions, which in turn lead people to think that there is nothing wrong with looking down upon the lower class because they are all “dirty” and “lazy” and “drug addicts.” It is immoral and dishonest for the media to portray these people in such an unfavorable manner, but the truth is that this can be seen in all types of media, especially on the Web. People of the “working” class must remember that they may lack stable financial situations, and sure, their car, home, etc. can be taken away from them because of that factor, but the one thing society can never take from them, or from anyone, is their dignity.

People in the physical world tend to connect better with individuals who are similar to them, especially in terms of race, ethnicity, interests, religious views, or social status. The same can be said with people trying to connect with others in the online world. There are websites, for example or eHarmony, where users are asked an abundance of questions about their personal interests, views, beliefs, etc. in order to create a profile that can be checked out by individuals with similar qualities and who are looking to pursue possible relationships with the owners of the profile. However, it has been noticed that in the online world, there is specific biases towards websites.

Author of the book The Young and the Digital: What the Migration to Social Network Sites, Games, and Anytime, Anywhere Media Means for Our Future, S. Craig Watkins presents readers with a challenge to contemplate the different distinctions between race and class in the online world, especially on the websites Facebook and MySpace. According to Watkins, “Life online has always been intricately though never predictably connected to life offline. Social inequalities still matter in the physical world. And as we are learning, they also matter in the virtual world” (Watkins pg 506). By writing this, he is suggesting that preferences in race and social class are reflected in the different preferences people have in social networking sites. Watkins also notes that, Users of Facebook tend to be white and come from a world of middle-class comfort…drawing from familiar social cliques such as the ‘preps’ and the ‘jocks…In contrast, users of MySpace come from the other side of the cultural divide…they are the “kids whose parents didn’t go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school.

Latino, black, and youth from workingclass and immigrant households are more likely the users of MySpace (pg 506). Users of Facebook tend to describe the website using words such as “clean,” “trustworthy,” “educated,” and “authentic” while MySpace has been described by its users as “trashy,” “uneducated,” “creepy,” and “predator-prone.” A similarity can be seen between the adjectives used to describe these websites and the adjectives used to describe the different social classes. The media makes society believe that people of the “working” class are connected to the words used to describe MySpace while people of the upper class are connected to the terms used to illustrate Facebook. Watkins notes that, “Facebook is the superior platform” (pg 510). Think about it: which class is superior? Not the “working” class that is for sure. Also, are the descriptions accurate? For example, not all rich people are educated or hardworking: the relative of a wealthy family member who receives a large enough chunk of inheritance money.

That said person is set for the rest of his/her life – he/she would never have to worry about getting a job / losing a job or paying a mortgage ever again because their finances were instantly taken care of. On the other hand, not all poor people are lazy and lack ambition. As previously noted, good portions of the poor are individuals who have lost their jobs and cannot manage to provide for themselves or for their families. Most of the time, these individuals spend their days looking for odd jobs to make some kind of money to feed their families. That does not make them lazy or unmotivated in the least; it makes them the exact opposite.

Individuals that make up society must realize that even though the poor may not be able to afford to keep a roof over their heads or to put a good, hearty meal on their tables each night, that these people still have one thing that costs absolutely nothing for them to own and that is their dignity, which society must acknowledge and respect. Hooks states that, “It is better to be poor than to compromise one’s dignity” (pg 433). What Hooks means by this is that indeed, it may be embarrassing not being able to fully provide for one’s family or even for one’s self, but that does not mean that that individual must give up their human dignity to people of a higher class or to those who look down upon them. Instead, the individual must embrace and revere what he/she knows is rightfully his/hers and must know that their dignity cannot be taken away because of any deficiency in money.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no end to this negative portrayal of the poor in the media and there seems to be no interest in finding an end to it. People must realize that not everything that the media says or shows is the truth, especially the topic discussed in this paper. The lower class is just as hardworking, if not more, than the rest of society and they should be treated with more respect than they are given. They are constantly looked down upon because of the incorrect representation the media gives to them and it truly is embarrassing for those people to have to be viewed the way they are being viewed.

Society does not respect the “working” class or their dignity and the blame for this ignorance should be placed on the media. The Web does a great job in making the poor and the different minorities feel gated, or closed off, from what is supposedly “superior” and that is also completely unfair because the Web is presumed to be open for all people, no matter what color an individual’s skin is or what their social status may be. Media should be used to inform society about what is true. There should be no alterations, no adjustments, no little tweaks – just the real, genuine truth at all times because what is happening to the poor is unjust and morally wrong, which raises an interesting question: what ever happened to equality?

Works Cited
Hooks, Bell. “Seeing and Making Culture: Representing the Poor.” from Inquiry to Academic Writing: A Text and Reader. Ed. Stuart Greene and April Lidinsky. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2008, 2nd ed. 431-437.

Watkins, Craig S. “From Young and the Digital” from Inquiry to Academic Writing: A Text and Reader. Ed. Stuart Greene and April Lidinsky. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2008, 2nd ed. 505-515.

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