Voiceless Victims and Charity Saviors: How U.S. Entertainment TV Portrays Homelessness and Housing Insecurity in a Time of Crisis
Despite the social justice urgency and escalation of homelessness and housing insecurity in the United States, insufficient attention has been given to understanding how the country’s most popular scripted television programming depicts these issues and thus helps to shape public perceptions about them. In response, this study employs content analysis to explore how the 40 “most watched” scripted entertainment television programs in the United States represented these urgent social issues over one full season of programming. Results reveal several harmful paradigms of homelessness and housing insecurity being reinforced by popular culture programing, signaling a need for industry-wide scrutiny and narrative change. Among its central findings, this study highlights how charity-first solutions—rather than structural responses from government or private-sector actors—are overwhelmingly advanced on the basis of stigmatized portrayals of people experiencing homelessness. This underscores the need for more attention to the consequences of neoliberal narratives and hegemony within entertainment media.