By Ariel Schwartz
One of the best-known purveyors of poverty porn is Sally Struthers, who seemingly spent most of the 1990s parading across our TV screens while standing in front of malnourished children--mainly in Africa--and asking for money. It was an effective campaign on some level (we're still talking about it, right?). But this parody video (see above) calling on Africans to save frostbitten Norwegians by donating radiators should make anyone who still thinks poverty porn works think twice.
The video, which touts a fake charity called Radi-Aid, features a rapper named Breezy V talking about the dangers of frostbite ("Why should we ignore cold people?") while harried Norwegians trip on ice and Africans donate their radiators to keep them warm. There is also the obligatory jubilant charity song from a choir of African do-gooders: "In Norway kids are freezing / It's time for us to care / There's heat enough for Norway / If Africans would share."
It's making fun of all kinds of fundraising bids from the past (Band Aid, Live Aid, etc.) but the video is dead-on parody of this "Norway for Africa" video:
There is a point to the parody, created by The Norwegian Students' and Academics' International Assistance Fund, besides making fun of the exploitative stereotypes that are often found in fundraising campaigns. As the Africa for Norway website explains:
Imagine if every person in Africa saw the "Africa for Norway" video and this was the only information they ever got about Norway. What would they think about Norway?
... The truth is that there are many positive developments in African countries, and we want these to become known. We need to change the simplistic explanations of problems in Africa. We need to educate ourselves on the complex issues and get more focus on how western countries have a negative impact on Africa's development. If we want to address the problems the world is facing we need to do it based on knowledge and respect.
Guilt-tripping is still a commonly used tactic in trying to get people to donate money for the impoverished, though it is slowly being replaced by more hopeful messages from organizations like Mama Hope and Pencils of Promise. Nathaniel Whittemore explains in a Co.Exist post from earlier this year that this is strategic: "It supposes that after decades of being battered over the head by relief organizations flaunting horror images, there's not much left but table scraps in the guilt bucket," he writes.
We'll leave you with this video from Mama Hope that makes fun of common stereotypes of African men:
Copyright 2012 by Fast Company. Reprinted with permission.