Sunday, December 12, 2010

Globalization in "Slumdog Millionaire"

Being a part of Western culture often blurs our vision of other cultures around the world. For the most part, so many of us either forget or have never even thought about the fact that popular culture and ideals from our side of the world influence and impact other countries through globalization. One specific country that is impacted by Western globalization is India. A prime example of this influence can be illustrated through the use of the show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" in Danny Boyle's 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire. This film encapsulates how Western ideals affect what it means to be “Indian" due to globalization, how Western culture affects our view of Indian culture, and how even the themes of the film portray Western ideals in India.

According to Indian author Shahi Tharoor, "the singular thing about India is that you can only speak of it in the plural. India is fundamentally a pluralist state; its pluralism . . . is reflected in its history" (6). A major part of India's history involves Western globalization, where popular culture is prevalent in Indian society and impacts the identities of its people. For example, Western-based popular culture, such as Disney products, McDonald's fast food restaurants, and even sexualized jean advertisements are prevalent in India today. In Slumdog Millionaire, there is a scene where the main characters, Salim and Jamal, are starving and are each offered a Coca-Cola bottle (Slumdog). The offering of an American-made product is an encoded message that is supposed to ensure the young Indian boys that they are in safe hands because of the symbolism portraying the supposed power and safety that our country possesses.

Unfortunately, the push to send American-made products to India (as well as other countries) can lead to contestation within the Indian culture and the media has affected much of what it means to be “Indian.” Shashi Tharoor describes his experience when he left an eighteen-month gap between visits to India and witnessed firsthand an extreme increase of the globalization of Indian life. He claims billboards advertising endless Western brand names were suddenly all over the place and that even new pop music in New York and London could be heard more profusely than the music of Bollywood (302). In addition to advertisements on the streets, Indian people have begun to be exposed to advertisements on television, since over 40 million households in India now own a television (Tharoor 282). Besides media images, values and beliefs about identity are starting to be integrated into Indian culture through globalization.

One Western ideal that has been integrated into India's culture is the idea of showing off one's wealth. The film itself is very much driven by the need for money and placing importance on physical goods as a means of power, which is very much a Western ideal. There was a time in India where showing off one's wealth was seen as being arrogant and classless (Sorrells). However, according to Balmurli Natrajan, "the insistence on caste as having a material basis shaped by capitalism can be extended to include the work of symbols in its concrete existence, since dominance and authority are legitimatized through symbols" (229). In other words, Western globalization has altered the way of thinking when it comes to class in India.

Even some of the music in the film was influenced by Western ideals. For example, Indian artist M.I.A.'s single "Paper Planes" is sung in English, yet speaks about a "third world democracy" with a chorus backed up by Indian-influenced singers (“Paper”). Featured in the movie, there is also a rap song mixed with Hindi lyrics as well as a track that has classical and Indian music mixed together (Slumdog).

Besides audio, there are various visuals throughout Slumdog Millionaire which illustrate the prevalence of Western culture in India. The Taj Mahal scene is littered with culture clashes as far as what types of clothing are usually associated with Indian and American cultures. For example, when the two brothers discover that they can make money stealing shoes from visitors in the Taj Mahal, Jamal chooses to wear Converse and Salim chooses cowboy boots. When the boys begin stealing clothes from tourists, they are often adorned in what is perceived to be a Western style of dress, illustrated by their choice of beanies, jeans, and other American-style clothing (Slumdog).

American influence comes up again when Jamal takes pictures for tourists in front of the Taj Mahal. After the picture is taken, Jamal compares the tourists' Polaroid to a brochure depicting an American Caucasian woman posing in the exact position that the tourists are trying to achieve. When the boys are discovered to be making money illegally this way, they are chased down by an officer who proceeds to beat Jamal in front of a vacationing American couple. After getting the guard to leave Jamal alone, the American woman says to Jamal, "Well, here is a bit of the real America, son," as she motions for her husband to give Jamal money (Slumdog). This action reinforces the idea on the Indian culture that it pays to be rich and that having money is one of the greatest accomplishments one could have in life (again, a Western ideology).

Another effect that globalization plays in the film occurs when Jamal attains a job at a magazine company during his late teens. The substance of what is produced in the magazine mirrors those that we have in America. There is even discussion of a story which sounds eerily similar to the dramatic story of Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie that has taken place in Hollywood. The magazine mimics the style which American magazines follow, except for the fact that the celebrities in their magazines are Indian. Within the same magazine publishing building, hundreds of workers between workloads concentrate on the television screen in the room, depicting the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"

On a macro-level, globalization has its pros and cons when it comes to spreading information about one culture to the rest of the world. Slumdog Millionaire depicts Indian culture in only one light, and a predominantly stereotypical one at that. The film mainly focuses on the slums of India and shows images of poor, ruddy towns that are in dire need of help. Unfortunately, many people across the world take the media as it is to be true and this can misconstrue the understanding of other cultures as to what it is to be Indian. Even the title can group an entire people into being perceived in one way, since "slum dog" is a derogative term used towards Indians. The title, along with the images of the poorest areas of India, creates the idea that all Indians are "slum dogs" and, therefore, globalization allows for the negative and false portrayal of a culture to be spread throughout the world. Besides putting a culture down, these stereotypes allow for another culture (Western culture in this case) to appear to be the "better" culture of the two since it is implied that we apparently posses the tools in order to obtain wealth and glory, unlike the people of India.

The driving force of the whole movie that exemplifies the idea of globalization and its impact on a particular culture is the theme of the film itself. First of all, the theme "From rags to riches" is a Western theme and becomes even more Western as it is paired with a love story where the "good guy" prevails, the "bad guy" loses, and everyone “lives happily ever after.” In order to sustain and uphold the storyline, the characters in the movie are able to use certain technology that was made available to them due to globalization, such as the television and cellular telephones. Lakita, or the "damsel in distress," which is again a prevalent theme in American films, is able to find Jamal since she not only is able to see him on the game show in various shop windows and at home, but also because she takes possession of Salim's cell phone which she uses to communicate with and ultimately locate Jamal.

Within the show itself, much of Indian culture is lost, not only because it is an American-based show, but because the host himself has American traits. Although the host is Indian, his hair, clothing, and accent are much more similar to what is generally perceived as what it is to be “American" than what it means to be “Indian.” The host, as well as the other characters, speaks English throughout most of the film. For American viewers, this is great because we are able to understand the language without using subtitles. However, there is a loss of authenticity as it diminishes Indian culture in the film through homogenization of culture.

Although Slumdog Millionaire is a great movie, there are many places where the Americanization of Indian culture takes away from what it is really like to be Indian and what we are fed as consumers in another country. According to author Balmurli Natrajan, "capitalist relations require caste relations to reproduce itself in a postcolonial setting" (230). Basically, we are imposing our power on India through globalization. As an educated person, I feel privileged because I am able to see past the stereotypes created in Hollywood films such as this one, but it is quite unsettling to know that the same is not true for all Americans and other cultures who view this film. I can remember not too long ago when I was in high school that depictions like these of other cultures around the world were believable. Unfortunately, many people take these stereotypes to be credible and end up judging an entire culture without knowing the truth. Based on viewing Slumdog Millionaire, globalization has not proven to be a positive factor when it comes to sharing the richness of India's culture with the world but is, rather, a depiction of what it means to be Indian through an American lens.

Works Cited
"Paper Planes Lyrics." M.I.A. Web. 10 Dec. 2010. .
Natrajan, Balmurli. "Caste, Class, and Community in India: An Ethnographic Approach." Ethnology 44.3 (Summer, 2005). University of Pittsburgh. JSTOR. Web. 20 Nov. 2010. .
Tharoor, Shashi. India: From Midnight to the Millennium. New York: Arcade Publishing, 1997. Print.
Slumdog Millionaire. Dir. Danny Boyle. Prod. Christian Colson. By Simon Beaufoy. Perf. Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Madhur Mittal, Anil Kapoor, and Irrfan Khan. Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2008. DVD.
Sorrells, Kathryn. "Communications 356 Class Lecture.” Cal State University Northridge, Northridge, California. Oct. 2010. Lecture.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Media Education Assignment

This is my idea for an assignment which could be assigned to a middle or high school classroom.

Media in the Classroom: PowerPoint Outline Assignment

Project: Make a PowerPoint pesentation mapping out a specific goal you have either presently or in the futureand the steps in which you will achieve this goal. Content must be appropriate for the classroom and we will share with the class. Goal must contain a minumum of three steps. Show your personality through use of colors, lack of colors, and pictures. Make it interesting!

Purpose: Geared more towards high school and middle school students so they can learn how to create PowerPoint presentations since they will use them MANY times throughout college. Also, they can learn how to map out and organize an assignement by using outline format. Unfortunately, many students today do not use and/or know how tocreate an effective outline for projects, essays, etc. I’ve learned that especially younger students love to talk about and express themselves, so not only will they learn to set up an outline, but they can have fun doing it. I can also possibly set up a project right after revovling around using an outline to write a paper.

I. Intro: My goal
A. Attention getter
B. Background/reason for goal
C. Thesis (main topics; 1-2 sentences)
1. Step 1
2. Step 2
3. Step 3
4. Step 4
II. Body
A. Step 1 in detail
1. Importance of step
B. Step 2 in detail
i. Importance of step
C. Step 3 in detail
i. Importance of step
D. Step 4 in detail
i. Importance of step
III. Conclusion
A. Restate main points
B. Powerful ending

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Media Education

When I first picked up David Buckingham’s Media Education, I thought “Great. Here’s another waste of my time I have to spend reading an assigned book I’m not even interested in. And SIX chapters??? Even worse.” But once I read the first page, I was hooked. This book is so interesting in the way that it describes the shift the media and technology has taken, specifically when it comes to the topic of children. The book refers to the gap between generations involving technology and I can completely understand what Buckingham is talking about because I am the “child” and my parents are the “older generation.”

I was surprised and glad the book touched on not only the fact that people are becoming less and less personable with each other (we can create aliases through the use of sites like Facebook, etc.), but also the implication media plays in our lives as it affects our perceptions of “race,” morality, body image, and what is “cool” and “un-cool.” So many messages in the media are not explicit, as the Western culture and media drives us towards what is perceived as the “correct” way to be: blonde, straight-haired, blue-eyed, thin, pretty, heterosexual, and white.

It is important for us as future educators to allow our students to be aware of these messages being portrayed by the media and society around us. Recently I came upon an article on Yahoo about African-American girls feeling like there is something wrong with their hair because they don’t have the long, flowing hair portrayed in endless numbers of ads, magazines, and on TV. Toys, such as Barbie, do not help this situation either. However, Sesame Street has created a Black puppet with hair like these little girls who think there is something wrong with them. Unfortunately many little girls like them don’t know that they are perfectly fine and the problem lies in the media’s portrayal of what it means to have hair as a woman. The puppet on Sesame Street sings about how much she loves her hair is brags about the fact that she doesn’t need to worry about wasting time and money in the beauty salon because she can take her cute hair and tie it up.

The media has the power to portray positive and negative images of what they believe it means to be of a certain group. I hope that we as prospective teachers can have open discussions with our students about the mixed messages in this world and that it is people who decide what is “right” and “wrong” for the whole, not that there are laws that say your hair has to be a certain way in order for you to be accepted.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Poem 1


from the depths of a soul
we shall never know
was the love that ran deep and True.
and time ran her course
but with brutal force
as Failure burned, a fire blue

again and again we go on and pretend
of our Vows unbroken and True

Poem 2

“A New Day”

Ah! Let us rejoice
The birth of a new voice
Completeness, acceptance . . . ring the bell!
Fore lost, fore so frail
Shouting words of “Prevail!”
A life that has just begun.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Literary Elements Evermore

Think of your favorite poem. What makes this poem memorable? Is it the poem’s imagery, rhyme, meter, tone, or symbolism? Whatever the reason, there are literary elements behind the reasons you have chosen your favorite poem. These literary elements are found in all poems and the reader to connect with the poem, even if they are unaware of the techniques involved bringing the poem to life. One of the most famous poems ever written is Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” It has been said that people often enjoy Poe’s works because of his simple style and profound symbolism, which, according to Allen Tate, leads to “a large number of persons who never read poetry before [but] have learned how to read and enjoy it” (214). Through Poe’s use of imagery, diction, and meter, the reader is able to sympathize with the poem’s narrator and understand the confusion of losing a loved one.

Poe uses dark images throughout “The Raven” in order to set the vibe. Many of the images are dark because they emphasize the pain that the narrator is experiencing due to the loss of his love, Lenore. The poem takes place in December, which is generally the darkest and coldest month of the year. December also symbolizes a sense of coming to an end (Hallqvist). If the poem had taken place in another month, such as May or June, the symbolism would drastically change since spring months are usually associated with light-hearted themes and the beginning of positive experiences. According to Poe, he chose the month of December as part of his setting so that he could make the night “tempestuous, first to account for the Raven’s seeking admission, and, secondly, for the effect of contrast with the (physical) serenity within the chamber” (“Philosophy”). We connect with the narrator in understanding that he is going through a lonely time after his wife has passed away because of the time in which the poem takes place.

Another image repeatedly brought up is the idea that the narrator is drifting off to sleep as he sits alone in his study. Dreams symbolize that the narrator may simply be imagining what is happening around him, such as the visit from the raven, or that his life is in a haze. The narrator repeatedly refers to his state of sleepiness when he claims he “nodded, nearly napping,” “dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before,” and when he refers to the raven claiming, “And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming” (Poe “Raven” 55, 56, 58). The reader can relate to the state of dreaming while going through a depressing experience. The narrator reiterates his dream state in order to instill in the reader that his state of grief runs so deep that he is not completely conscious of his surroundings.

The raven itself is perhaps the most obvious symbol in that he brings forth dark and lonely feelings in the narrator. The raven reminds the narrator of Lenore and the fact that she will be with him “nevermore,” symbolizing the narrator’s dark, depressing thoughts that he wishes not to face. The narrator refers to the bird as being “grim, ungainly, gaunt, and ominous” (Poe “Raven”). Since ravens are black, it is only fitting that a dark creature comes to the narrator in his time of depression. Had the raven been another bird, like a parrot or dove, the darkness of the poem would lose its meaning, since parrots symbolize happiness and doves symbolize peace and clarity.

Diction plays a major role in the reader’s understanding of the angst and confusion the narrator is experiencing. Some of the words used throughout this poem are uncommon to most people’s everyday use of vocabulary. Although we can manage to understand the poem overall, the short pauses taken to glance at an unknown word allows there to be a place for the reader to subconsciously experience the new and confusing feelings one might experience while grieving. Besides being hard to understand, the challenging words themselves reveal deeper meanings. One of the most challenging stanzas to understand in “The Raven” reads as follows:

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
‘Wretch,’ I cried, `thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he has sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenth from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore' (57-58).

In this stanza, the narrator uses images of heaven and hell to express his loss of Lenore. In the first line, “censer” literally means “incense.” He describes his thought of “seraphim” angels swinging the fresh scent of incense. For those unfamiliar with the term “seraphim,” it might be hard to determine the meaning of this part of the poem. “Seraphim” is the plural of “seraph,” which is one of the highest ranking angels in heaven (“Seraphim”). The narrator goes on to use the word “respite,” meaning temporarily suspending an event from taking place (“Respite”). “Nepenthe” is an ancient drink which is said to have the power to allow people who drink it to forget their sorrows and troubles (“Nepenthe”). And finally, “quaff” means to drink an intoxicating beverage with enjoyment (“Quaff”). Once all of these terms are defined, the meaning of this stanza is much more clear and simple: The narrator smells incense, which he believes to be held by angels, as he begs them to postpone his sorrows of Lenore.

Another aspect which makes this poem memorable is its meter. Meter is the pattern a poem maintains where rhythm is organized and “imposes on verse a regular recurrence of durations, stresses, or syllables that is intended to parcel a line into equal divisions of time” (Deutsch 90). The meter in “The Raven” mimics the form of a song as it rhythmically flows from one line to the next. The extended length of the lines allows for the reader to slow down and prolong the pauses at the end of each foot, allowing for the reader to take in all of the information about the setting of the poem and the narrator’s thoughts.

Meter also adds to the reader’s conscious or subconscious interpretation of the poem. For example, the reader may feel as though the meter of the poem reflects the ticking of a clock, as the narrator sits alone in his study. We also get the feeling that the narrator is up at all hours of the night, grieving. Poe himself refers to this poem as having been constructed “with the precision and rigid consequence of a mathematical problem” (“Philosophy”). The almost monotonous rhythm of the poem allows for us to identify with the feeling of endlessness the narrator is facing as it continues to emphasize the ticking of a clock.

Although it may not be obvious at first glance, poets use various literary devices to enhance the meaning of their poems. Poe used imagery, diction, and meter (among others) to bring out the sorrow of the narrator in “The Raven.” So the next time you read your favorite poem, ask yourself “What literary devices are used in this poem” and “Do these contribute to the reason why this poem is my favorite?” You may be surprised to find that, in fact, certain literary devices contribute to the significance of the poem. Perhaps you will look at poetry the same “nevermore.”

Works Cited
Deutsch, Babette. "Metre." Poetry Handbook: A Dictionary of Terms. Fourth ed. New
York: Barnes & Noble, 1981. 90. Print.
Hallqvist, Christoffer. "Edgar Allan Poe's ‘The Raven.’" The Poe Decoder. 12
Sept. 2010. Web.
“Nepenthe.” Def. 1 and 2. Web.
Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Philosophy of Composition." The Poe Decoder. 12 Sept.
2010. Web.
Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Raven.” 100 Best-Loved Poems. New York: Dover Publications,
1995. Print.
“Respite.” Def. 1. Web.
"Seraphim." Def. 2. Web.
Smith, Philip, ed. 1995. 100 Best-Loved Poems. New York: Dover Publications, 1995. Print.
Tate, Allen. "The Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe." The Sewanee Review 76.2 (Spring 1968).
JSTOR. Web. 12 Sept. 2010. Web.
“Quaff.” Def. 1. Web.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Whitman, Yeats, and Frost


"I Hear America Singing"

I noticed this poem is strongly geared towards the importance of men and their roles in America than it is towards women. All the male roles have to do with building and hard labor (mechanic, carpenter, mason, boatman, shoemaker, and wood-cutter) whereas the women's roles are within the home and don't require much labor (singing, sewing, and washing).

"O Captain! My Captain!"

I like the organization of this poem because it follows a chronological pattern. The first stanza talks about the death of Abraham Lincoln, the second about his funeral, and the third about the afterlife.


"When You Are Old"

This poem was bitter sweet to me because it talks about aging, but also about the importance of having had someone to spend your life with. Even though the subject of the poem has aged, he or she is reminded by the narrator that "one man loved the pilgrim soul inside of you,/And loved the sorrows of your changing face" (81).


"The Road Not Taken"

This is probably my favorite poem of all time. I love the simplicity of it and even though the poem is straightforward, there are many discussions which could be brought up from it, such as questioning what would happen had the narrator taken the other path and what experiences you've had which resonate ideas from within this poem.