Sunday, December 12, 2010

Slumdog Millionaire

            The world was aflutter with talk of a new movie, Slumdog Millionaire, directed by Danny Boyle. This movie, which was released in 2008 in the United States, was instantly a hit. It focuses on the protagonist, Jamal Malik, and how he came to be on the show, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and his amazing life story in the slums of Mumbai. While the story is generally acknowledged to be a story of an underdog’s rise to fame and fortune, and a love lost and found again, another perspective could be applied to this story.
            Globalization is a readily apparent theme in Slumdog Millionaire, with its focus on the American television show, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” Globalization is, simply, a “geographical concept, and it means global integration” (CITATION:645).  Yet the foundation of globalization, the thing that pushes and drives globalization is capital. “Globalization, above all, is the global and unitary operation of capital” (CITE:645).  To understand globalization, we must understand capital. At this point in time, capitalism rules the world and has gone global. Karl Marx was one of the few people who theorized the idea of globalization well ahead of his time, as well as the inherent contradiction of capitalism. “He [Marx] understood that "the need for a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe, ‘foreseeing that the development of capitalism would inevitably be "paving the way for more extensive and exhaustive crises.’ Marx identified how disastrous speculation could trigger and exacerbate crises in the whole economy” (Panitch). Marx predicted with some accuracy, the extent of the global economic crisis we are finding ourselves in now. The article by Leo Panitch outlines the current economic crisis in terms of the newfound interest in Marx’s philosophies.
Slumdog Millionaire is a prime example of the economic crisis the world is currently in, on a national level, and of the unequal distribution of wealth between the upper class gangsters and the slumdogs.
            The disparity of the slums is made apparent from the introducing scene of the movie, where Jamal and his brother Samir run through the slums to escape a police officer chasing them. The vast system that makes up the slums is juxtaposed later with the houses and cars of the gangsters, especially Javed. This primary gangster lives in a western-style house with many working for him. The characters in Slumdog almost perfectly shows a comparison between the many versus the few; the two wealthy gangsters versus all the people living in the slums.
            The way Samir goes to work for Javed is an example of a product of cultural globalization. People can see the standard of life that is being presented to them, and want to raise themselves to a higher standard of living. Samir has nothing to lose by going to work for Javed and everything to gain, monetarily speaking. By the end of the movie, he is one of Javed’s most trusted men—he is rewarded accordingly and dies in a bathtub full of money, with a gold chain around his neck. Even when he was younger, Samir took advantage of any opportunity to make money. He charges men to use the bathroom, sells his brother’s autographed picture, and helps Maman, another gangster, force children to beg in the streets for money.
This idea of raising one’s standard of living is also the reason I think everyone, Americans included, are so enthralled by the American television show, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” Jamal asks Latika at one point why people watch the show, and Latika says it gives people a way out their lives for a short while. It gives them hope for a better life, if they could answer the questions correctly and earn all that money (capital again). Of course, capitalism requires a large base of workers who are exploited for the monetary gain of the few, so the way Samir becomes wealthy seems about right; doing the dirty work of a CEO and becoming the trusted underling. There is no other way of lifting yourself up other than those two means: lift yourself up by any means necessary under a powerful CEO-type, or win twenty million rupees on a television show.
The movie focuses more on the love story between the two main characters, rather than a commentary on capitalism and globalization, however I believe it is a good representation of capitalism’s inherent contradictions. The workers must be paid in order to buy the products they are producing, and when that doesn’t happen, new markets and new consumers must be found for those products. Thus we get the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and a vast chasm between those who constitute the few ‘extremely wealthy’ of the world, and the millions upon millions of ‘slumdogs.’ 

Works Cited
Ouyang, Kang, and Yumei Liu, Lingling Zhu. “Globalization and the Contemporary Development of Marxist Philosophy: Precondition, Problem Domain and Research Outline. Frontiers of Philosophy in China
Vol. 1, No. 4 (Dec., 2006), pp. 643-657.

Panitch, Leo. "Thoroughly Modern Marx." Foreign Policy No. 172 (May/June 2009) P. 140-5, 172 (2009): 140-145.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


I have lately been railing against the idea of settling down in a suburban community with a white picket fence and a mortgage, because I hate the idea of being trapped into that kind of life. It's interesting that our discussions of globalization leads us to capitalism and ultimately to how the machine functions. My favorite quote from this discussion was, of course, about the suburbs.
" After the World War, we needed a place for all the GI's to live, so the suburbs became popular, which was great, now the GI's have somewhere to live, yay. More importantly, the suburbs created a new market for capitalism to exploit."
We were also talking about the way the United States compensated for the low wages of the workers. Once the workers wages were being limited, they couldn't afford to buy the products they were producing, so the US became a debt society. Thus the enslavement of people to their credit cards and their debt, and now we get to things like this debt crisis we're in now and David Harvey's insight.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Collaborative Media Literacy Group Workshop

What we ultimately decided to do for our project was to analyze things like tone in all different types of media. We want to use topological analysis to help students analyze the stimuli they see everyday. From texts read in class, to videos seen on youtube, advertisements, pieces of art, etc. They all want to convey different emotions or illicit different emotions in you as you view them. We want to show students how these things work, and point out differences and similarities in the forms of media and how they affect you, are more effective and/or less effective.

Friday, October 29, 2010

New Media in the Classroom

Do's and Don'ts for Media in the Classroom

In our Collaborative Media Literacy group we're discussing how to use media to teach a subject, like English or Physics. This, of course, is the hot topic amongst teachers; how do we incorporate new media into the classroom, as so many of our students are so well versed in how to use media. It keeps them engaged and interested in the learning process as it evolves with them. My interest in education is to keep it as real as possible; use it to shed light on the world around students, as it is ever changing and evolving. We have to keep using technology and including it in the classroom, but at the same time we shouldn't just be filling their heads with facts, we should be teaching them how to process the stimuli they're receiving everyday.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Myth Today

I wonder how myth is faring today. We've been discussing myth in class for awhile and all of them just seem like fairytales nowadays. Most I've never even heard of. What about myths people still believe today? Most of us believe that myths are inherently false, but some of us still believe myths today. Catholics, for example, theoretically believe the Holy Bible in its entirety is a completely true account of what has happened in the world. Of course, most probably have doubts as to the validity of the text.
What role do myths play in our world today?
Mythbusters and Video Games seem to be the only places we see myth in contemporary society.

Myth Today

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Reading Myths

We've been reading more myths, and they are fascinating. One of the things that I was considering while reading these myths is how they sometimes share characteristics. For example, I posted the video of the opening of the Hogfather, which has a world that lies on the back of a turtle. This reminded me very much of the Iroquis creation myth, where the world is created on the back of a turtle floating in a sea. They are not the same myth, but share the idea of the world on the back of an animal, in this case a turtle. 

We were also assigned to read a myth about Pele and her sisters and I was really excited about that because, of course I'm Hawaiian, and also because Pele is such a popular figure in Hawaiian mythology. She was able to withstand the onslaught of Christian missionaries to the Hawaiian islands, even after the ancestral religion was abolished. Female Divine, indeed.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


We're beginning our descent into World Myths, and I was lucky enough to get my first choice of the Creation Myths. Of course media plays a huge part in all of our lives, so my first thought when I got Creation Myths was: The Hogfather (a TV movie).