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VIDEO EXPLOITATION OF HOMELESS PEOPLE

“Bum Videos”

The release of “Bum Fights” in 2001 has led to a proliferation of bum videos. Six different videos have been produced in the past five years: “Bum Fights,” “Bum Fights 2,” “Bum Hunts,” “Bum Show.com,” “Bag Lady Beatings,” and “Bum Fights III.”  In these videos, homeless people are coerced to perform degrading and dangerous stunts for money, alcohol, or food.  The video producers also use parodies of famous TV shows to demoralize homeless people.

Craig Walton, a professor of ethics and policy studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said, “even if the homeless aren’t forced to perform, it’s inaccurate to describe people without adequate shelter, food or clothing as having choices.”

Dehumanizing videos such as these solely add to the trends of violence and mistreatment of people who suffer from homelessness. According to the May 13, 2004 issue of the Las Vegas Sun, Jeanne Corcoran, production manager for the Nevada Film Office, called the producers of these videos “cockroaches (who) only come out at night.  None of us in the government sanction or support this type of exploitation.” 

Meanwhile, Sgt. Eric Fricker, Las Vegas supervisor of two Metro Police officers who work with homeless people, said he was trying to “educate the homeless and talking to advocates in order to stop future filmmakers.”

The first video released in 2001, “Bum Fights,” was banned in several other countries.  It has been condemned on the floor of the United States House of Representatives.  The filmmakers of the video, Ty Beeson and Ray Laticia, initially faced seven felony and four misdemeanor charges for the production of the video.  The final court verdict required them to serve sentences of 250 hours of community service and three years probation.  Yet “Bum Fights 2” was still released in 2003.

Since last year’s report, “Bum Fights III” has been released.

Bum Fights III: The Felony Footage

The release of Bum Fights III: The Felony Footage is the third installment of the Bum Fights DVD series and its release in 2004 portrays the most degrading, sickening, and offensive material to date about the country’s homeless.  Homeless men, women, and children are coerced into performing dangerous stunts for money and drugs, reinforcing negative stereotypes about homeless people and homelessness.  The footage portrays homeless people as drug addicts, alcoholics, bums, and worst of all worthless. The filmmakers continually mock and demoralize homeless people by filming some of the following scenes:

·      A homeless man named “Bling Bling” smokes crack in various crowded settings such as a casino and a public river.

·      “Bling Bling,” is later “rehabbed” by being chained to a light post, taunted, tortured, and teased with money and crack just out of his reach. As he goes through withdrawals from his drug addiction, the filmmakers inch a plate of goods closer and closer to him.  “Bling Bling” is finally rewarded with drugs when he bungee jumps off a tower into a swimming pool.

·      A homeless man (Donnie) gets spanked on his birthday by a prostitute and another homeless man named Rufus. These two individuals repeatedly and severely spank this homeless man with sex whips in the buttocks, genital region, and across the forehead.  Throughout this process he is gagged and in pain.

·      A homeless man runs in a marathon pushing his shopping cart while being antagonized and asking for donations from the crowd.

·      Several individuals continuously attack a homeless man in the face. The victim is screaming in pain.

·      Many homeless individuals are seen in the video doing illegal substances on the sidewalk or in public bathrooms.

·      Numerous fights caught on amateur film are shown throughout the movie. Many of these fights are the brutal beatings of a single individual by two or more people.

·      Many homeless individuals are shown vandalizing properties such as kicking garbage cans and defecating publicly.

·      A homeless man jumps off the roof of a house onto a piece of wood.

·      Rufus uses profanity against Bruce Helgland, the district attorney of San Diego, who is trying to shut down Bum Fights.

·      Rufus is later shown getting a Mohawk haircut with hair dye.  He shaves his eyebrow and reveals a painful tattoo written on his stomach that reads “Bum Life.”

·      A homeless man runs into a big piece of glass and is later shown bleeding. 

·      A homeless man punches another man in the face and repeatedly kicks him even when he is down.

·      A trap was set to lure homeless men by putting a $20 bill on top of a slippery painted pole. Homeless men step on each other’s heads and backs trying to climb up the pole to retrieve the money.

·      Homeless men and women are pretending to have sex on the sidewalk in a scene the filmmakers dub “Bum Luving.”

·      A homeless woman is being interviewed but is quickly called a “shitty interview” because she expresses her appreciation for homeless people.

·      Several individuals beat a single homeless person and the victim pleas for the attackers to stop.

Stop Selling Hate

Even more disconcerting are major corporate retailers who have found it acceptable to sell these videos and DVDs in their stores and on the internet that show homeless people participating in the acts of self mutilations, drinking urine or Windex for money or alcohol, and fighting. For a current list of these vendors and/or online stores selling these videos, please visit NCH’s website at www.nationalhomeless.org. 

Fortunately, a few corporations (Amazon.com, Borders, Ebay, and Best Buy) have stopped selling the disturbing videos as per NCH’s request. These are retailers that depend on their public image, yet find it acceptable to traffic violent and dehumanizing films and videos.  They are taking advantage of a vulnerable, minority population to make a profit.  The first video, “Bum Fights,” grossed over six million dollars in one month, and those recently produced continue to bring in profit at the “expense of the homeless people who are exploited and aren’t paid one cent,” said Michael Stoops, acting executive director for the National Coalition for the Homeless. Years ago, these films were relegated to the adult video world, less reputable stores, or some dark corner of the internet – not the brightly-lit shelves of retail stores.

NCH considers the sale of these films as approval of this illegal behavior, and possibly encouraging the further development of these exploitative films.  It perpetuates the rise of hate speech and hate crimes/violence directed against homeless people in the United States.  NCH will continue to monitor these videos. 

If you discover the distribution of such items in your community, take personal action by contacting your local retailer.  Demand the following:

a.            That they immediately stop selling these videotapes or DVDs and destroy the current inventory.

b.           That they turn over the profits from the sale of these violent videotapes to an agency of their choosing that serves homeless people.

Please also send a copy of your letter, email or fax to:

Michael Stoops

Acting Executive Director

National Coalition for the Homeless

Phone:  (202) 462-4822 ext 19

Fax:  (202) 462-4823

Email: mstoops@nationalhomeless.org

National Coalition for the Homeless
2201 P Street NW
Washington, DC 20037-1033
202-462-4822
info@nationalhomeless.org

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Page last modified: July 2, 2012

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