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If it’s not poverty porn, it’s gratuitous violence

December 6, 2010

Yes, I’m predisposed to be critical of Invisible Children’s media. And yes, my tolerance for gratuitous violence is especially low, and my sensitivity to media violence especially high. But the image Invisible Children uses for their Christmas campaign seems especially tasteless, even to me:

 

Getting hit in the face with a crowbar is not a joke; it’s one manifestation of domestic violence that is a reality for people around the world, including IC’s target audience in the US, and especially in Northern Uganda:

 

According to figures from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics in 2007, 68% of married women aged 15 to 49 had experienced some form of violence inflicted by their spouse or intimate partner.

According to the 2006 Uganda Law Reform Commission study, domestic violence is most common in northern Uganda, where it was reported to have occurred in 78% of homes. Most women do not report cases of domestic violence to authorities and police rarely intervene or investigate.

 

Earlier this week, Saundra at Good Intentions Aren’t Enough took the NGO and aid community to task for media campaigns that say “all of the developing world is a senselessly violent place and that the best way to help is to give them stuff.” The way we talk about our work matters, but equally important is the way we talk about the world beyond our work. IC’s new campaign makes light of a very real, very unjust circumstance that people in Northern Uganda and among their email recipients deal with on a daily basis. Using violence as a punchline undermines the hardship and trauma that often accompanies such acts and turns it into a joke, rather than respecting it as a sad reality. It’s especially disappointing since the message behind the campaign: “IC vs. the elves, because IC is making much better Christmas gifts than the north pole!” could be easily communicated without the violent images.

 

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Marshall permalink
    December 7, 2010 3:08 pm

    I’m sorry, but I don’t see the connection between a cartoonish image of an elf getting hit with a crowbar and domestic violence in Northern Uganda. Using that logic you could connect Wile E. Coyote’s abuse at the hands of the Roadrunner to the conclusion that Looney Tunes supports animal abuse.

    • December 7, 2010 8:07 pm

      There are a few reasons in particular that this imagery bothers me:
      1) It could be triggering for survivors of violence among IC’s target audience. For people (mostly women) who live with violence, images like this one are upsetting reminders of abuse that they suffer.
      2) It normalizes violence. When we can laugh at someone getting hit in the face with a crowbar, the fact that such acts actually take place every day is easily pushed aside in favor of entertainment. You’re right – this image is nothing compared to what we see on television or in the movies all the time. But I think an organization like IC that is ostensibly working for peace and justice should be held to a higher standard. Violence isn’t a punchline, and when we treat it as such, we undermine the severity and injustice of all acts of violence, whether in silly media campaigns, people’s homes, or IDP camps.

  2. Michael Arch-Duke Baber permalink
    December 9, 2010 9:18 am

    Happy Birthday! Hope you are well……

    • December 10, 2010 11:13 pm

      Thank you! It was a wonderful Cambodian birthday, complete with karaoke and lots of roses. Love to all of you!

  3. December 10, 2010 2:43 pm

    Invisible Children is more concerned with being American pop-culture icons than helping the voiceless and vulnerable in Africa.

    They have lost their initial focus.

    • December 10, 2010 11:12 pm

      I’m guessing that for IC, being pop-culture icons seems like the best way to raise money and support. Loss of focus yes, but tremendous amounts of talent and passion – if only it was channeled in a more appropriate and thoughtful way…

Trackbacks

  1. Nonprofit advertisements: What message are we sending? | Good Intentions Are Not Enough Nonprofit advertisements: What message are we sending? | An honest conversation about the impact of aid
  2. Tweets that mention If it’s not poverty porn, it’s gratuitous violence « Planning the Day -- Topsy.com
  3. In the process « Planning the Day
  4. Interesting articles and Posts – early December 2010 | Good Intentions Are Not Enough Interesting articles and Posts – early December 2010 | An honest conversation about the impact of aid

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