Today I watched “Slumdog Millionaire.” It was my second time viewing the film and I noticed how much my reaction to it has changed. The first time I saw it we were in Montpelier. I was overwhelmed by the poverty, the lack of social support for children, and the blatant classism and tremendous (entrenched) inequality. I unconsciously dismissed Jamal’s predestined, unlikely and happy ending and, thus, just found the story to be so tragic. I cried as Jason and I walked up the hill from downtown Montpelier to our house.
So much has changed since then. Today when I watched the movie, I enjoyed it and found the pure undying love of the hero for the heroine to be quite nice – something I didn’t really notice the first time. I saw the older brother as the necessary yin to the yang of the hero – the person who navigated the harsh realities of slum life and kept them both safe – which allowed his younger brother to maintain distance from the struggle and keep his “pure gaze.”
The inequality, the classism, the dismal prospects of parent-less street children – those things did not shock me on the second viewing. I think that being here in China has made those things unremarkable and invisible to some extent. Instead of feeling outraged, and as if I should be able to do something about it, I recognize it as a way of life that is not considered all that scandalous or remarkable to those familiar with it, and which has its place in an entire social system – a social system which I only understand as an outsider.