Hollywood did much back patting on Sunday when it awarded Slumdog millionaire 8 awards. The approval of not only the movie but the actors took on a fetishistic veneer as the night rolled on.
The media made sure to point out that this evening was filled with many firsts for the young actors; the first time on a plane, first time in a limo, first time in a hotel with room service…yes how wonderful. Isn’t it kind of the media to lift these children out of poverty and obscurity to show them a taste of the good life?
What no one bothered to comment about was the fact that after the glitz and glamour of the evening came to an end, these children were returned to the poverty from which they were plucked. They will enjoy a few weeks, perhaps months of fame and in no short order their names will be forgotten. They will blend right back into the slums in which they were born.
Hollywood is famous for its feel good projects that lead to no real substantial change for those involved. On Oscar night, Ryan Seacrest could not even be bothered to learn how to pronounce their names. The media was more excited that the producers of this movie were kind enough to fly the kids in, even though they had not been nominated for an award.
Everything involving this movie was rife with western paternalism. So great was the desire to wallow in the white mans burden not a single person bothered to think about how they could actually help these children rather than exploiting them. Imagine the culture shock they must have experienced as their benefactors paraded them on the red carpet as though they were pet dogs in a kennel show.
The producers wanted to show the reality of abject poverty and this is why slumdog millionaire was shot completely on location. The problem with pointing out inequality is that once you have knowledge of it, you must do something to combat it. It is a well known fact that education is the key to uplift and therefore the producers could have ensured that these children received the best education possible. How hard would it have been to ensure that these kids had a good home to return to? With the exchange between rupees and American dollars it would have been less than was spent on this ridiculous night of waste.
I wonder how they felt waking up in their beds far from the glitter of diamonds and fancy dresses? Though it must have been nice to be surrounded by the familiar once again, I cannot help but wonder what it felt like to know that their time in the sun had come to an end? To wake up sure in the knowledge that the poverty which had become a way of life since birth would once again embrace them, must have been hurtful. If we truly want to celebrate slumdog millionaire, the children that stared in that movie should be given every opportunity to follow their dreams. We cannot save all the deserving children on this planet but at least we can stop exploiting them to prove how advanced we are as western peoples.