One blogger’s personal bridge to nowhere

More anti-Slumdog analysis

In a worthwhile (if annoyingly firewalled) New Yorker article from last week, the fantastically-named Katherine Boo provides a great intellectual twist on the underlying hollowness of “Slumdog Millionaire.”

slumdog-sceneSunil [the subject of Boo’s piece] knew nothing of the movie that ends with an airport-slum boy finding money, love, and fame. However, he might have recognized one of that movie’s conceits: that deprivation may give a child a certain intelligence. The other conceit–that a child’s specific miserable experiences might be the things to spring him from his deprivation–was the lie. It was the movie version of the electrified fence. [Wealthy Indian theater-goers] would linger at the premiere past 1 am, then head to the after party at the JW Marriott. They could relax, not just because the film about the slum boy had a happy ending but because the boy’s suffering had been part of the solution. [emphasis mine]

It’s not just that his convenient poverty (the “rags” only serve to line the road to “riches”) has been exoticized, fetishized, and popularized (and indeed, Boo’s dispatch from Mumbai reports a marked increase in “slum tourism”); it has been commodified. The main character’s very poverty serves as a guilt-reducing amnesiac, as viewers come away with what is really conservative propaganda: the pulling up by the bootstraps, the notion that anyone can make it with the right tools, the all-conquering fidelity.

I’ve ranted enough about this movie, but Boo’s point is important, and if you must watch this travesty, please at least keep it in mind.

(image from flickr user Lord_Henry under a Creative Commons license)


February 24, 2009 - Posted by | Movies | , , ,

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