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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Best Films of 2018

2018 has been a wild year for film, from wildly entertaining sequels (see Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again and Paddington 2) to Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest in dry, yet tragic, humor to a horror film featuring tongue clicking, a nut allergy, and dead pigeons. It has been year for powerful women, both in front of and behind the camera, from the women of Annihilation to Crystal Moselle and her look into the world of women skateboarders. It has been a year to interrogate representations of masculinity, from Joe in You Were Never Really Here to Reverend Toller in First Reformed. It has been a year of terror, love, laughter, and exhaustion, both literally and cinematically. The films of 2018 truly captured the strange and turbulent atmosphere that has thrown us all into a state of near-constant anxiety.

The Much Ado team has relished in this anxiety, seeing many of 2018’s best, and worst films with the help of film festivals such as Cannes, NYFF, and BFI, MoviePass (RIP), and AMC Stubs A-List. After much deliberation, Letterboxd rankings, and last-minute trips to the cinema, we present Much Ado’s top 25 films of the year.

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