Stephen Pimpare

Ghettos, Tramps, and Welfare Queens

Down and Out on the Silver Screen

Oxford University Press 2017

New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in CommunicationsNew Books in FilmNew Books in Political ScienceNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Popular CultureNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network September 25, 2017 Sarah E. Patterson

In Stephen Pimpare‘s new book, Ghettos, Tramps, and Welfare Queens: Down and Out on the Silver Screen (Oxford University Press, 2017), the reader is...

In Stephen Pimpare‘s new book, Ghettos, Tramps, and Welfare Queens: Down and Out on the Silver Screen (Oxford University Press, 2017), the reader is encouraged to think about how we portray poverty and people in poverty in movies. Overall, Pimpare argues that we use the “propertied gaze” (in connection with the sociological concept of the “male gaze”) to view people who are poor or homeless via film. That is, we see them as objects, as sources of redemption, or we do not even see them at all. Pimpare’s analysis is thoughtful and deep, taking the reader through almost 300 films. He ties the portrayals of people in poverty to well-known caricatures, including the welfare queen and the villain social worker, but he also make other connections seen elsewhere in the media, including the connection between poverty and crime, and the social and physical landscape of cities and their ties to poverty. Pimpare also pays special attention to what we do not see portrayed in films, including women and children, deep back stories for poor or homeless characters, or any full discussion of the structural and institutional forces at work.

This book will be enjoyed by a broad range of social scientists, including sociologists, political scientists, or those in Film Studies. This book would be useful in a class that revolves around analysis of poverty, tying the portrayals to everyday facts about poverty and homelessness (which are often missing from films!). Given his background in social welfare and political science, Pimpare provides the reader with a thoughtful analysis of how we see and do not see people in poverty in our everyday films.

Stephen Pimpare is the Host of New Books in Public Policy.


Sarah E. Patterson is a Sociology postdoc at the University of Western Ontario. You can tweet her at @spattersearch

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