Parenting in Poverty: Coping with Shame and Denial in ‘The Florida Project’ and ‘Shoplifters’

Shame is a perpetual feeling often associated with poverty. In a world where independent capitalist endeavours are so highly praised and defining of one’s worth, those lacking in such ventures are often left feeling worthless. Those who ask for financial help are called ‘freeloaders’ or ‘lazy.’ Even though it’s a system built to keep those at the bottom remaining at the bottom, it leaves those in need feeling humiliated and ashamed when they cannot securely provide for themselves. This feeling of remorse is worsened even more when you consider the responsibility of taking care of a child. Not only is your already-stretched budget now splitting at the seams to cover your beloved offspring, but you’re responsible for explaining to a child as to why exactly they’ve inherited such a bad lot in life. There’s a crushing and frustrating guilt that comes with knowing your child is not being provided with the best possible start in life—regardless of how hard you try.

Both Sean Baker’s The Florida Project (2017) and Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters (2018) offer up insight into the struggle of trying to raise a child in poverty. How wanting to promise your child the world conflicts with the unlikelihood of being able to follow through on such promises. Having to face the reality of doing things for money that one would never want their child to do, just to keep your head above water. All while trying to disguise your child from the harsh realities of life. It’s a dizzying and exasperating tight-walk of morality and being realistic about the world—one that sometimes requires delusional wishful thinking just to keep you and your child sane.

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