The Use of Poverty Porn in Slumdog Millionaire and Its Effect of the Western View of India

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Slumdog Millionaire: The Feel-Good Movie

When Danny Boyle’s film Slumdog Millionaire came out at the end of 2008, people instantly fell in love with it. In 2009 it was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won eight, which was the most won by any film that year. Everyone seemed to be very drawn to the “feel good” aspect of the movie where a poor kid like Jamal, the main character of Boyle’s film, can overcome the massive obstacles thrown in front of his path to success and eventually come out with the girl, 100 million Rupees and the love of the nation where he just become an overnight sensation. “Slumdog Millionaire”, a movie review written by Robert Koehler, and Alice Miles’, “Shocked by Slumdog’s Poverty Porn”, both criticize Danny Boyle’s movie, but greatly differ in their composition of the arguments as to why they were displeased with the movie. Koehler writes a very professional review of Slumdog Millionaire that criticizes it for problems such as an underdeveloped and predictable plot line and its skewed depiction of Indian social reality to help to appeal to a westernized audience, whereas Miles writes a much more opinionated essay that dwells more on what seem like her personal problems with the movie, and her very aggressive tone against the movie in the whole paper makes her seem too closed minded on the topic.

Robert Koehler’s review on Slumdog Millionaire talks about how the film failed to touch upon the problems or culture that are truly present in India today. Rather it is, “Boyle’s feverish, woozy, drunken, and thoroughly contrived picaresque also conveniently packages misperceptions about India (and the East) that continue to support the dominant Western view of the subcontinent,” as Koehler states in his thesis statement. He continues in his paper to talk about how Boyle has created a skewed view on India that takes advantage of the westernization happening in India, but over exaggerates and glamorizes many aspects of the movie to make them more appealing to westerners. Koehler also talks a lot about how the plot line to the story was a cheap imitation of a Charles Dickens novel in which the main character escapes his poverty against all the odds, but one in which the ending is reminded to you through most of the movie. Ultimately Koehler believes that Slumdog Millionaire is a perfect example of people blindly accepting the movie as the reality of life in India, rather than having any interest or knowledge as to what is actually happening in the world.

Alice Miles’s article, “Shocked by Slumdog’s Poverty Porn”, is critiquing Slumdog Millionaire on its use of people’s real poverty and hardships, as entertainment for millions of people. Danny Boyle does a great job a making the movie very seductive in the sense that it keeps you interested and excited to see Jamal finally get his seemingly inevitable success, which lets you mind forget about the atrocities that the movie shows happening to Indian children. Miles then brings up that the British Board of Film Classification put Slumdog Millionaire in the comedy genre. This is a testimonial to Miles that westernized audiences didn’t understand, or care enough for it to affect their view on the movie. She finishes by saying that when we can be tricked into enjoying scenes of horrible acts being done to children, “we ought to question where our moral compass is pointing.” Many westerners don’t have a very good idea as to what is happening in India as far as its cultural trends and many of the problems and social injustices that the people there face on a regular basis. This unfortunately makes many of the problems that Jamal faces in the movie, especially as a kid growing up in the slums, not resonate with the Western viewing audience; they tend to gravitate instead to the feel-good aspects of the movie such as Jamal’s eventual escape from his life of poverty and hardship. In Koehler’s thesis statement he talks about...
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