To Fight Poverty, Does It Have to Have a Cheery Face?

Senior woman eats lunch at retirement homeWhen Congress recently slashed SNAP funding, more commonly known as money for the federal food stamp program, one thing became clear  — we are a country that’s in denial about the true state of poverty in America.

Books like Nickel and Dimed have laid out stark details about how virtually impossible it is to get ahead when you’re someone working a low paying job even without a family to support. So when a documentary comes along like the one Maria Shriver has produced, called Paycheck to Paycheck, that shines a light on the issue, there’s a glimmer of hope that it will grab the attention of those on Capitol Hill who’ve never had to choose between health care for their kids and putting food on the table.  Or deciding whether to pay for the meds needed for a chronic condition or the rent.

But one writer has raised an interesting question about Shriver’s film — does the face of poverty have to be attractive and continually cheery to get anyone’s attention?

Katrina Gilbert, a young mother of three who is at the center of Paycheck to Paycheck, struggles working at a demanding job for less than $10 an hour, tries to keep three small children in day care so she can work and, slowly, moves forward with getting a college degree so she doesn’t have to work in her dead end job the rest of her life.

But did Shriver and the others involved in the film make a conscious decision to highlight the most synpathetic parent possible to make their point?  And, if so, does that undercut our debate about how to end poverty at home?

Image via iStockphoto

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