In the documentary film Poor Kids how is the family portrayed in the media?  What does this portrayal suggest about our society and American culture?  Provide an example of how gender roles are...

In the documentary film Poor Kids how is the family portrayed in the media?  What does this portrayal suggest about our society and American culture?  Provide an example of how gender roles are reinforced or challenged.

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gsenviro | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Jezza Neumann's documentary Poor Kids explores the lives of poor children in the US by following the lives of some children (Kaylie, Tyler, Brittany, Roger, Sera and Johnny). The families of these kids are also shown in the film and share some/all of the following characteristics:

  • poverty
  • headed by single mother
  • unstable job or no job
  • non-white family
  • instability
  • low or no credit
  • transient housing, etc.

Some of these characteristics highlight some key features of American society and culture. Families headed by single mothers are more likely to be poor (47.6% of cases, more than four times higher than married couple families), as is the case with families of Kaylie/Tyler and Sera. Kylie and Tyler's mother, Barbara, has a very low income and collects cans in her free time. Sera's mother Denise is fighting for custody. Another case is those of non-white families. Johnny is from an African-American family, which has a still higher likelyhood of poverty (38.2%; similar for Hispanic children at 32.3%) as compared to white families. The single mother-based family is something that is common to American culture and society, however is not so common in many other parts of the world. The film highlights the segregation between married couple-based white families versus single mother headed families or black families; that is to say, white families are still statistically better off financially. Another aspect was the importance of credit in American society. Brittany's family has no credit and are unable to get a house because of that. Cars/vehicles are another part of culture and are not so common in many other parts of the world. Unstable families (Sera's custody battle) or transient housing (too many moves for Kaylie and Tyler) and living in trailers (Kaylie and Tyler) are also some aspects of American families that are shown in the film. 

Gender's role in society is depicted by the difficulty of single mothers (Barbara and Denise) in raising their families or the preferred role of males (husband/father) as the primary bread-winner (Brittany's father's job). The depiction reinforces the traditional roles of the genders. It is to be noted that all the families are doing better now (with the support of donations from viewers) and Barbara has found a job and is a certified nursing assistant. 

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