In the Gantz brothers’ documentary, “American Winter,” the filmmakers offer a culturally representative view of poverty in America, which shows how the film’s families’ living situations completely debunk the trickle down economic system. In most cases, the media underrepresents and undermines the lives of those affected by poverty through unfair stereotypes and assumptions, exaggerated statistics and misleading media examples, but “American Winter” accurately displays our country’s biggest crisis.
It is a weekday afternoon in Portland, Oregon. Inside the office of fair housing and equity, Nick Fish, Housing Commissioner of Portland, greets walkins who are fearful of losing their homes due to poverty. The four different couples start their stories out describing how they never believed they would be in their current impoverished situation, but the way the economic system is built, it is clear that being well off is dependent more on external factors rather than internal factors.
Nick Fish: Our economy has become a one strike and you’re out economy. Most people are astonished how quickly they can fall into it. Unfortunately, the way our economy is built, the number one factor that predicts whether someone will be wealthy is if his or her parents are wealthy.
The tape cuts to each family talking about the way the media portrays poverty and those afflicted with it. One couple, Pam and Brandon, note that the media portrays poor people as being uneducated, lazy, greedy and dependent on the government for financial assistance.
Brandon: I am college educated and have always had a job that I worked hard at in order to move my way up in each company and provide for my family. I want nothing more than to be financially independent and to have a job that pays beyond minimum wage.
Kate Core of Portland Homeless Solutions: No matter how well-educated they are, the fact that they’re above 50 handicaps them. Moreover, children that grow up in poor households struggle to learn in the middle of a crisis. When children grow up poor and have a hard time focusing in school as a result of their circumstances, it perpetuates the cycle of poverty and they are more likely to feel hopeless and not learn enough to push themselves out of poverty.
Ultimately, the documentary advises Americans on how to change their mindset on the impoverished and it also educates the audience on the way the media portrays poverty.
Nick Fish, Housing Commissioner of Portland: Once you break down the barriers and stereotypes, and see them as your brothers and sisters, it changes your view on homelessness, which can happen to anybody.
Bishop C.T. Wells, community services leader: The response ‘fend for yourself’ is not routed in the fabric of America.
Nick Hanauer, venture capitalist: We’re all better off when we’re all better off, and when people realize that, everyone is able to thrive and survive. If you believe wealth trickles down from the top, then the only reason you would give to the poor is for charity.
According to this documentary, the negative stereotypes about poverty that the media portrays contribute to the growing poverty line in this country, which is entirely aggravated by the media’s misrepresentation of the impoverished. In order to stop perpetuating the vicious cycle of poverty, people need to get involved in social services and advocacy. The laws were not written for what to do before people are destitute, only after they become destitute, so people need to work on prevention, as it is much cheaper to make investments upstream to keep people out of homelessness than it is to provide for them after they are already homeless and destitute.