Perceptions of Poverty in Geek Culture: A Weasley Case Study

weasley family egyptPop culture has a weird relationship with poverty. You’d think that geek culture would be pretty good at portraying poverty; we’re seeing more and more strides towards inclusivity and greater representation of all people from all backgrounds. Yet socio-economic issues are heavily charged with politics, and our political beliefs shape the way we perceive reality. They shape the kinds of pop culture media we create, and as David Wong’s recent Cracked article explains, popular culture doesn’t seem to believe that actual, real-world poverty really exists, just a sort of nebulous feeling of being poor while occupying the middle class, and actual financial consequences of a character’s actions aren’t ever really addressed. Most of the time, shows don’t even acknowledge any of the consequences of property damage, let alone address the financial ones. We’re happy when the superhero defeats the monster, but who’s going to pick up the tab now that the city looks like it’s been bombed?

This real lack of proper representation of what it means to live in poverty in our media is at least partially responsible for many political biases against the poor, especially among young people. To put it generally, the influence of pop culture makes younger people more likely to embrace the idea that the poor just need to work harder in order to be not poor, because being not poor is the ultimate goal.

Now, there are a lot of tangled, complex issues when it comes to poverty and its portrayal in geek culture. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot recently, all because of a specific example I came across and previously wrote about. So to show you what I’m talking about, I’m going to show you how that example both supports and fights negative perceptions of poverty in geek culture. Who am I talking about? The Weasley family from the Harry Potter series.

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Batman Fights Criminals, Not Crime

Quick: who are Batman’s enemies?

I’m certain that many of you reading this can rattle off a long number of names from his rogues gallery. I’m sure that this list includes the Joker, Two Face, Clayface, Bane, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn. I’m not the world’s biggest Batfan and so my Batcollection of Batcomics is fair to middling at best, but I can safely tell you who Batman is fighting: criminals.

Right? Of course Batman is fighting criminals, super and non-super, from Calendar Man (yes) to Darkseid. My goal here is not to state the obvious but rather what is ignored: Batman does not fight crime. He does things like fight a whole cities’ worth of gangs, but he doesn’t fight the root causes of crime. Batman is obviously not a sworn enemy of income inequality; he does not put on a cape and go toe-to-toe with the misallocation of resources, the troubling legacy of international colonialism, or the profit-driven culture which encourages the building of sweatshops or the abuse of labor rights.

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