Homeless person makeover
July 30, 2013 7:30 AM   Subscribe

'Bro-Care' instead of Bum-Fights? A homeless person is offered retail therapy, a haircut, a hotel room, a ride in a car with a white leather interior and a substantial meal (oh, and a blindfolding) in exchange for being videotaped to encourage YouTube subscriptions for a channel. Apparently it hits many users of reddit "right in the feels" (a euphemism for feeling emotional/empathetic about something that you're exposed to)
posted by panaceanot (41 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
The best part of that story is how they became friends for life.
posted by Catchfire at 7:37 AM on July 30, 2013


Forgot the reddit link.

I'm not for dismissing reddit as a cesspool... it's the internet writ large, but this is egregious if I'm permitted to editorialise my own submission.
posted by panaceanot at 7:41 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


From the YT link: "I wanted to make a random homeless guy's day and since I am usually a d-bag in my vids..I also wanted to show people that I have a heart and I am a really nice guy."

I'm glad the homeless guy got some clothes and food, and if people do step forward and donate to that he can get his teeth fixed, that's great, too. But I just cringed how much he was treated like a prop who was asked over and over again if he was hungry, if he was happy, how did he feel. And the infantalizing blindfolded dessert feeding was horrible.

One other thing that hit me was that he was never introduced by name. I played the video twice, straining to hear anything about this man's name, and finally heard Bro address him as "Martin" about 5 minutes in.

I wish you well, Martin. I hope you get a chance to use your skills and get a more comfortable and secure life in the long run.
posted by maudlin at 7:52 AM on July 30, 2013 [21 favorites]


But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
posted by theodolite at 7:53 AM on July 30, 2013 [35 favorites]


That did not make me feel good.
posted by kamikazegopher at 7:56 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Feels just slightly exploitative. I appreciate charity but charity done for personal benefit seems sketchy as hell.
posted by vuron at 7:58 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, using the homeless as props doesn't hit me in the feels, it seems exploititive and condescending at absolute best. Especially since the whole object of the exercise was to drum up subscriptions to a youtube channel and, explicitly, to make a person who describes himself as a "d-bag" seem more likable.
posted by sotonohito at 7:59 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I want to hate this for being exploitive, but these guys seem to be treating the homeless like real people. Which is honestly, more than I ever do. I've learned to not make eye contact, don't engage, and keep moving. Too many people are completely unself-aware, so this "bro" knowing he's an asshole and doing something about it should be admirable.

The homeless guy didn't, at any point, object to his treatment or ask it to stop. I respect him enough to not make his life choices for him. If what he needed to trade to have one of the best days of his life is a little video face time...fuck, I don't know. I am super conflicted by this video. Shining light on the plight of the homeless? Could it be done in a better manner? Got me. Come up with a way.

At the end of the day I think this is victimless. You can make a case that the guy was exploited, but that argument leaves him on the corner for those two days with a few dollars in his pockets to show for it.

Aside: I once bought a homeless guy a sandwich and the shop owner yelled at me for feeding him.

I find it funny that people care about the motives for the charity, or want are making a case that it should be done without personal gain. I'd make the case that this doesn't matter in the first, and everyone gets something out of their charity in the second.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:00 AM on July 30, 2013 [16 favorites]


Hating on reddit has basically become a recreational activity for me.

I can't decide where that ranks in unhealthiness. I think it's better than TV; at least I'm thinking critically, right?
posted by Team of Scientists at 8:05 AM on July 30, 2013


What got me was the clothes "shopping". Bro asked the guy's sizes and threw what he deemed to be appropriate into the basket so that the charity could be finished as expediently as possible. There was no chance to try on clothes to see if they fit or were comfortable. It was a chore to be finished without regard to how Martin felt. Look at how he just grabbed the first backpack he saw.

Charity would show concern for the person being helped. This video attempts to elicit sympathy for a guy who has a few hundred dollars to blow for pageviews.
posted by kamikazegopher at 8:08 AM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


Now THAT is "User Experience".
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:08 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not for dismissing reddit as a cesspool... it's the internet writ large, but this is egregious if I'm permitted to editorialise my own submission.

The top comments on the Reddit submission seem to mostly be reasonable discussion about whether or not this is a positive thing or cynically exploitative. If you're judging reddit because the video appeared as a post, someone posted it to Metafilter, too.

I agree that it does feel exploitative, but I might be guilty of a similar offense. I few years ago I did something different everyday for a month and blogged about it. One of the things was pay a panhandler $100 to have lunch with me and tell me his life story. I didn't feel like I was exploiting him (nor did he). He got $100 and lunch, I got a life experience and story. I'm sure the creator of this video has a similar rationalization.
posted by justkevin at 8:09 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Martin is homeless, hungry, and in old, dirty clothes. A guy gave him a shower, a new set of clothes and shoes, and took him for a nice meal, asking only conversation in return. I'm thinking that to him, whether or not the guy doing this for him might be a bit too self-congratulatory or overly interested in self-promotion is a real, real low-level issue.

Yeah, these guys are a little douchey and gross. But that only matters to me because I'm at an entirely different place on the ol' Maslow's Hierarchy than Martin is, and it'd be ridiculous for me not to acknowledge that.

What's more, what's the worst thing that could happen here? Douchebags out to make viral videos might start trying to one-up each other being generous to the homeless instead of putting bacon on things or drinking entire gallons of milk?

I'm pretty okay with that.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:10 AM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


Sure, there's an urge to list all the ways that they are doing it wrong. But then I remember that I've never bought a homeless person a set of new clothes and haircut and a sit-down restaurant meal and a place to stay for the night. So maybe I should do some of those things before I get all huffy about how poorly they did it.
posted by Longtime Listener at 8:11 AM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


The homeless guy didn't, at any point, object to his treatment or ask it to stop.

Low-income people are extremely adept at adopting this or that image in order to get benefits usually denied them. This includes things like dinner and a bed for the night.

The reason this entire orchestrated and filmed event is despicable is because the relationship between Martin and the d-bag is at no point reciprocal. The idea that "consent" can enter into such an imbalanced relationship and mean the thing it usually means in a mainstream context is laughable. Who stands to benefit more from the video? Offering someone who has nothing a dinner while your internet startup profits or "strengthens its brand" is not an equal relationship.

And, of course, their relationship ends the minute the YouTube video stops. There's no more steak in the future for Martin, but M. D-bag can dine out on this "good feels" story for his whole, er, business career.
posted by Catchfire at 8:13 AM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


Whatever tiny bit of goodwill I may have been able to feel for this practice was eradicated after my having heard about the guy who does the same thing on a weekly basis for free.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:14 AM on July 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


Even with the background info, I was waiting for it to take a terribly dark turn. The blindfolded dessert scene, the weird sniggering guy with the spoon, with the cheap motel wood panelling and the harsh lights had me on the edge of my seat.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:14 AM on July 30, 2013


I few years ago I did something different everyday for a month and blogged about it. One of the things was pay a panhandler $100 to have lunch with me and tell me his life story. I didn't feel like I was exploiting him (nor did he). He got $100 and lunch, I got a life experience and story.

And do you still keep in touch with him?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 8:17 AM on July 30, 2013


And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

posted by dios at 8:20 AM on July 30, 2013


Actually, the more I read this post, the angrier I get. I absolutely agree the guys making the video are douchebags and doing this for the wrong reasons.

But are people seriously arguing that whether or not they feel icked out by douchebaggery on the internet is in any way at all more important than that guy getting to eat, shower, and have a new set of clean clothes and shoes?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:21 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


WHY NOT BOTH?
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 8:23 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cool fact: exploitation rules if the exploited party also gets something out of it
posted by theodolite at 8:25 AM on July 30, 2013


That is to say, I feel sympathetic joy for the dude who received the much-needed food, shower, human contact, etc, AND also squicked out at the redditor.

NEXT

Watch me entertain THREE (THREE ah ah ah) thoughts or sentiments SIMULTANEOUS LIKE
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 8:26 AM on July 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


But doesn't exploitation suck less if the exploited party gets something out of it?
posted by josher71 at 8:26 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


one of the best days of his life

That guy looks at least 40 and he didn't spring from the earth like that. We have NO IDEA what kind of excellent things this guy may have seen and done. Having to bow and scrape for some clothes and a meal does not sound to me like really all that great of a day.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:26 AM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


Cool fact: exploitation rules if the exploited party also gets something out of it

Cool fact: power dynamics are complex and have a lot of variables and there are many situations that can be both good and bad at the same time.
posted by jessamyn at 8:27 AM on July 30, 2013 [24 favorites]


Motivation counts for something. Yeah, at some basic level it is good the fellow got a decent set of clothes and a meal etc out of it. but it certainly wasn't because of altruism or an abundance of goodwill. It was finding someone to use as a prop as a means to a selfish end. I'm sure the fellow who was homeless had no problem with it. But, charity such as this is as easily turned off as on, it comes not from a place of compassion, but from lets fork over as little money as we can to look good.

If you want to do good, do good. Please spare me the side dish of "hey look at me! I'm a great guy aren't I?!! HUH? HUH? NOW COME WATCH MY OTHER PRODUCT THAT BENEFITS ME!"

And you know there is also a difference between doing good and casually mentioning it, and trying to leveraging it for your own personal benefit.

Right intention
Right speech
Right action
posted by edgeways at 8:31 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


And do you still keep in touch with him?

No, I wrote everyone who participated in the month a thank you letter, and gave him his the next time I saw him, but have not seen him in over a year.
posted by justkevin at 8:31 AM on July 30, 2013


Point taken that this can be good and bad at the same time.

Me, though, I'll save my fretting about how the homeless are getting fed and clothed for after they're all fed and clothed.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:32 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the end result of this, that the guy is going to get needed oral surgery due to the help of donors anonymous and otherwise, makes the whole exercise a net positive, independent of whatever one thinks of the initial actions.
posted by sutt at 8:36 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was a homeless guy who hung out on my college campus. If John's life had gone differently, he could have been an outstanding politician, for he effortless remembered the names and personal details of thousands of students; he greeted me by name and asked a pertinent question when I ran into him at my tenth reunion, for example. John was a funny person who regaled people with stories and jokes... when he was on a roll, he would be surrounded by people enjoying his delivery. About every ten encounters, John would ask for a dollar, which we all cheerfully provided and which might have added up to a pretty decent income. I don't know where John spent nights, stored his belongings or showered, but he often ate at the various campus dining halls, courtesy of students.

When John died, the alumni magazine printed an obituary, recognizing that he was a campus institution. However much I gave him over the years, I received a lot back in a friendship largely defined on his terms.
posted by carmicha at 8:38 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


What they really did was give this guy an acting job for the day. He gave the performance that the director wanted, and got paid in goods and services rather than cash. Yes, there also was a big dollop of "Let's fork over as little money as we can to look good." That could also describe more than one employer I've had over the years.
posted by Longtime Listener at 8:41 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Several years ago I spent part of an afternoon across from Tompkins Square Park in New York's East Village with a guy called Jake, or you can call him "J," he smelled like the sidewalk over by the Con Ed substation on 5 St: late summer flop and other sleeping adventurers. I bought us both a beer in a paper bag (his was bigger and cheaper than mine, because I'm fuckin' sophisticated, natch). He said he used to run lights for movies but you know, he gestured with his bottle, "I like drugs."

When it got cold he planned to take a bus to Florida. "How you gonna do that?" He laughed, said, "Watch this," pulled a blue racquetball out of his coat pocket, threw it into traffic, and ran out into the street through a shower of abuse from all sides to fetch his bouncing ball. When he returned he was beaming. "See, I got it!"

At the time I didn't have a job and I skipped a meal to buy Jake a beer. His hand when I shook it felt like salty canvas. I saw him a few more times but my face obviously didn't stick, not that it mattered. Then I didn't see him anymore. Maybe he went to Florida.

Later when I was congratulating myself for my charity, on what a big difference I made in J's afternoon, I thought Yeah, it was that human touch, these guys just want someone to look them in the eye, treat them better than stray dogs but I know that's the kind of self-serving lie that abets the kind of condescension I hoped to avoid.

The truth is, I was lonely. I wanted a friend, and I bought a homeless guy a beer instead. I hope he's still alive somewhere.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:48 AM on July 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


I can't remember. Were there MeFites defending the human hotspots at SXSW a while back? I mean, shoot, they got paid and, heck, I bet it was the best day of their lives to boot!
posted by entropicamericana at 9:46 AM on July 30, 2013


You can read the thread yourself here.
posted by jessamyn at 9:48 AM on July 30, 2013


Me, though, I'll save my fretting about how the homeless are getting fed and clothed for after they're all fed and clothed.

I think the end result of this, that the guy is going to get needed oral surgery due to the help of donors anonymous and otherwise, makes the whole exercise a net positive, independent of whatever one thinks of the initial actions.

Hear, hear.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:59 AM on July 30, 2013


I didn't mean to sound like I was asking folks with objections to shut up. I was just making a "The perfect is the enemy of the good" kinda argument.

Also, I tend to judge myself pretty harshly and it doesn't make me feel great that there are total assholes doing better things for the homeless than I have ever done myself, even if they are doing it for asshole reasons.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:12 AM on July 30, 2013


theodolite: "But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

"Charity is when you do something for people while other people are watching!"
posted by symbioid at 10:14 AM on July 30, 2013


My first thought was how despicable these patronizing and self-aggrandizing douches are. My second thought reminded me of the recent thread about the stolen iPad and how many people in all seriousness thought that not the theft but the tone of the victim was the real problem. And I felt that my first thought may have been of the same sort. Therefore: fuck the assholes, good for Martin, and I hope he's doing fine.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 11:25 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the things was pay a panhandler $100 to have lunch with me and tell me his life story.

I did something similar when I was writing for AOL. I couldn't pay the guy (I was making $7 at my day job for Border's), but I could cover his meals, etc. He wanted McDonald's and a meal to take to his daughter. I'd planned to do a series of three of these, but they were my lowest rated articles and the plug was pulled on the third.

Having to bow and scrape for some clothes and a meal does not sound to me like really all that great of a day.

This just proves you don't have to stand in the hot some begging for 5 hours for $8.

I all the time think about things that don't sound like "a great day" to me. I thank everything that got me where I am that I am not the guy mopping the hall. He could have said no. He did also seem grateful and did seem happy about the whole thing.

Low-income people are extremely adept at adopting this or that image in order to get benefits usually denied them. This includes things like dinner and a bed for the night.

So what's your answer? I understand power imbalances, but I think it's a greater sin to treat the individual like you know how they need to live their lives. I'll take a persona at what they say, even when I know I am being manipulated, when it comes to making choices for themselves. i've been around enough chemically dependent people to know they are great at camouflage, but I still don't see a problem with the bargain offered here.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:37 AM on July 30, 2013


cjorgensen: So what's your answer? I understand power imbalances, but I think it's a greater sin to treat the individual like you know how they need to live their lives. I'll take a persona at what they say, even when I know I am being manipulated, when it comes to making choices for themselves.

Sure. I have no doubt Martin enjoyed his dinner and motel room. He might have even enjoyed the attention. Would he enjoy it if he knew his face would be up on a would-be viral YouTube video? Would he enjoy it if he knew that his benefactor stood to make a lot more money than a steak dinner off his story? Would he have held out for more than a motel room if he knew this was, in fact, a business deal? Is he completely happy about trading off some dignity and autonomy for a new shirt?

"The answer" is actually simple, and it's not charity -- which should be self evident considering charity has been with us for a long time and hasn't done a whit in getting rid of poverty. In fact, I don't even think this counts as charity: it's a business transaction conducted under false pretences. "The answer" is treating low-income and homeless people as equals, believing that they might know a thing or two about their predicament and working with them in earnest to come up with solutions that don't involve trading off large bits of pride, self-worth and autonomy for one night's happiness (can what we see in Martin even be called happiness? It's too mediated for me even to tell).

Incidentally, a lot of people I know don't think I'm a d-bag. And I didn't even have to make a video about it!
posted by Catchfire at 1:56 PM on July 30, 2013


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