A Stigmatized Community
Throughout the film, Stranger with a Camera directed by Elizabeth Barret, numerous concepts of location were analyzed in order to successfully examine the events that took place. The beginning of the film was intentionally formatted to describe the specific dynamic, in complete context, of eastern Kentucky in 1967. This initial management of social location was effectively inserted for the use of depicting the social climate throughout this time period.“What is the difference between how people see their own place, and how others represent it.”( Barret 5:56) It’s explicit that Barret uses this form of social location in order to describe governmental issues as well as monetary hardships. However, rather than geographically, she used this element to thoroughly explain how the citizens of eastern Kentucky were affected. This section of the film accurately depicted the extreme exploitation of the entire town as well as the people living there.
It is necessary to acknowledge the difference between the broadcasted segments that were aired in the late 1960’s and the factors that Barret is examining throughout the film. In relation to the class texts, Robert Coles explains this necessity and where this mindset stems from.” how a particular writer/researcher decides to commit himself/herself with respect to those others being studied, watched, heard, and made the subject.”(Coles 32) Within his book, Coles emphasizes the importance of maintaining an authentic portrayal of each subject. Furthermore, Barret took several proactive steps in accomplishing this objective. One of the first sections within the documentary where it shows Kentucky citizens were being exploited occurred within the first fifteen minutes of the film. Within a CBS News special report with Charles Kuralt, the dynamics of poverty and hardship were examined. They recorded many people, throughout the news segment, but specifically delved into school children and their overall morale on Christmas. It was explicitly inferred that these children were not going to receive any presents due to their financial state while refraining from protecting their identity and essentially the public image of the town. This concept was made clear by Barret, in that she understood the effects that this level of exploitation had on the children as well as the entire community. These broadcasts were being aired worldwide, and left very little opportunity for positive stereotypes and stigmas to be placed on this community. As a resident of Kentucky, Barret sympathized with these citizens due to her local connection as well as her awareness of the specific situation. For example, she explained her direct involvement with the church and community during her time in high school. By participating in reading to children and repairing buildings Barret was able to directly see the level of hardship that had to be managed throughout the community. This direct involvement within the community allowed Barret accurately depict her subjects without exploiting or straying away from a transparent perspective. As a filmmaker, Barret used many symbolic forms of physical location in order to effectively describe the social location within the community. For example she included The Crusader, a documentary produced by BBC in 1967, which focused on Harry Caudill who was an attorney and citizen of eastern Kentucky. Barret used a specific segment of the documentary that analyzed the literal sequence of how poverty struck the community. Within this segment, Caudill symbolized a train in passing as the dynamic of the town. He described how coal mining companies entered the town and essentially bought every business. After all the coal was mined, these companies sold the businesses and vacated the town. The tons of coal served as the money and resources that were extracted from the town at another company’s leisure. While the train, and its tracts, served as the machines and tools that essentially took the job of a coal miner. It is extremely necessary to understand this use of social location in order to acknowledge the complexity of the social climate in Kentucky during the late 60’s.