Housos film has lost the plot
UWS researcher Dallas Rogers has criticised the new Housos movie, saying it matters little that the film is a satirical parody because the exaggerated characters and plot reinforce negative public attitudes about tenants and affect real people’s lives.
As part of the UWS Residents’ Voices project, Dr Rogers organised public screenings of the previous television series of Housos, set in the fictional public housing estate of Sunnyvale. A further study gauged the reactions of tenant and non-tenant viewers.
“The research was sparked by the strong opposition to the TV series from public housing tenants in Western Sydney, who approached their local Member of Parliament seeking to ban the show while it was still in production,” says Dr Rogers.
“Certainly tenants feel that satire plays an important role in public debate, but many would prefer the parodies to not be directed at people in society who are already vulnerable.”
Dr Rogers, who is based in the UWS School of Social Sciences and Psychology, says film and television are the key places where people are stigmatised, and the screening of the feature film version of Housos is likely to entrench existing prejudices.
“In my research, most of tenants challenged the view among non-tenants that Housos is a true reflection of life in a public housing estate,” he says.
“The reality is public housing provides an important affordable housing option for low-income working families, pensioners and others that have difficulty entering the home ownership or private rental market in an increasingly unaffordable housing sector.”
Dr Rogers says public housing provides real benefits to the community, but pejorative stereotypes and negative neighbourhood perceptions can have very real social and health implications.
“Stigmatised neighbourhoods face difficult challenges even without shows like Housos, such as discrimination by employers on the basis of postcode, businesses being reluctant to operate in or near estates, and the selling off of social housing to the private market to promote mixed communities,” says Dr Rogers.
“It’s time for us as to look past housing estates and their tenants as an object of derision and carefully consider public housing options for low-income citizens within our cities.”
1 November 2012