13 December 2010
Globalization: Western Influence in “Slumdog Millionaire”
What is globalization? Globalization “refers to the ways previously distant parts of the world have become connected in a historically unprecedented manner, such that developments in one part of the world are now able to rapidly produce effects on geographically distant localities” (Tomlinson). In Danny Boyle’s 2008 film “Slumdog Millionaire,” the theory of globalization, specifically western influence, is prevalent throughout the film.
The movie is based on one of the main characters of the film, Jamal Malik, playing as a contestant on “Who Want to Be a Millionaire?” However, Jamal is competing in the Indian version of the American game show. This shows the affect that Western influence has had on something so mundane as television programming. It is also worth noting that the show is entirely in English, not in the official language of Mumbai, Marathi, or even Hindi. The show could have easily been in Marathi or Hindi with English subtitles for viewers, but it goes to show how the west has permeated Indian culture. The game show host, Prem, is also an example of just how much American culture has had an affect on Indian culture. Prem speaks English in an accent very similar to an American accent. Instead of speaking English with an Indian accent, Prem’s persona is reflecting an American game show host to his viewers even though he is in India.
Not only have American television and language reached India, but products too. When Jamal is recounting his childhood, he remembers the time him and his brother, Salim, first met an exploitive man named Maman. When Maman approaches the two boys sleeping under a makeshift tent in a landfill, he pops open two bottles of Coca-Cola and hands one to each of them. Coca-Cola is undoubtedly a globalized product. However, the bottles of Coca-Cola being handed to the two boys stand for much more than beverages. The product is being used as a symbol of connectedness. Maman is trying to reach out to the boys by extending the product to them. In addition to Coca-Cola, American brand shoes are another product that are featured in the India-based film. When Jamal and Salim find themselves at the Taj Mahal, Salim decides to steal a pair of shoes. Out of all the unattended shoes, Salim chooses to take a pair of Chuck Taylor Converse tennis shoes, another Western product that is featured in the film that has reached the Indian boy’s fancy. Later on, Jamal and Salim sell stolen shoes on the street and market them by yelling out “American brand shoes” in hopes that they will feverishly sell (“Slumdog”). Shortly after, the next scene is of Salim wearing a pair of cowboy boots. What better piece of iconic Western culture is there?
Western ideology is also evident in the film. When Jamal is being hit incessantly by an officer, an American couple stops the officer. The wife turns to her husband and nudges him to compensate Jamal for being beat by the officer and says, “here is a bit of the real America, son” while her husband hands Jamal an American hundred dollar bill (“Slumdog”). The belief that money can fix anything is sadly an American ideology. So when the American couple sees Jamal being hit, they instinctly reach for their wallets thinking that it will somehow make up for what has happened to Jamal. Towards the end of the movie, Jamal asks his love interest, Latika, why everyone loves to watch “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” She replies, “it’s a chance to escape, isn’t it? Walk into another life” (“Slumdog”). By watching the American television game show, Latika hopes to escape her reality of living in India and transcend into Western life. This illustrates another Western ideology that has unfortunately penetrated Indian culture, the Western ideology that America is the ultimate country. Latika thinking that America is the superior country is a Western way of thinking. Instead of relishing in her native country, she imagines the game show as being an escape into the West.
Consequently, although “Slumdog Millionaire” is a film that takes place in India, Western influence is evident throughout the film. Through globalization, the West is able to reach the East and vice versa, but Western influence has impacted the East, as is apparent in the film. Ultimately, through the power of globalization, the world is connected and boundaries are erased.
Works CitedSlumdog Millionaire. Dir. Danny Boyle. Perf. Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Madhur Mittal, Anil Kapoor,
and Irrfan Khan. DVD. Twentieth Century Fox, 2008.
Tomlinson, John. “Globalization.” The John Hopkins Guide To Literary Theory & Criticism. 2nd ed.