Slumdog Millionaire

by Chris Bertram on February 8, 2009

Just back from seeing “Slumdog Millionaire”: . Very good, I thought. No doubt those who know India and Mumbai would have a better critical perspective on the film’s portrayal of time and place, but as a piece of cinema it is superb. It isn’t a feel-good movie for the most part, though it is consistently funny when it isn’t being horrifying, and it does make you feel pretty good at the end. (I had tears in my eyes, but since that was also true of the closing scenes of Crocodile Dundee, you might not think that much of a test.) Of the three excellent films I’ve seen recently (the others being The Reader, good, and Baader-Meinhof Complex, terrific) this is the one I’d say that no-one should miss.

Update: please feel free to use the exercise below, or any adaptation thereof, with or without attribution, if you find it useful. (Prompted to post this by a conversation at Laura’s).

One of the first times I taught about the gendered division of labour in my Contemporary Moral Issues course, a student articulately challenged the relevance of the issue to her. I had assigned the key chapter of Susan Okin’s classic Justice, Gender, And The Family, which argues that the gender system is in violation of fair equality of opportunity, because girls are socialized to be carers (and boys aren’t), therefore end up disproportionately in caring (and therefore lower paid) labour, and, because they take the lion’s share of the burden of caring labour in the home, end up lower paid than their spouses; and yet face a high probability of a divorce after which they will not be able to share in their spouse’s greater earning power (I disagree with Okin about Rawls, but agree with her that if the mechanisms she identifies are at work there is a social injustice — more on that another time). For her empirical case, she relies heavily on Lenore Weitzman’s study of divorce. My student said this research was not relevant to her generation. Putting aside the methodological worries about Weitzman’s study, I was rather unnerved to figure out on the spot that the women she studied were in the generation of my students’ grandparents. I wouldn’t want to draw conclusions about my own life course from studies of my grandparent’s generation either, especially if I had had it drummed into me both by parents and teachers that my own circumstances were entirely different from those of my grandparents, and even more if I were aware (as some of the girls are) that so soon after admitting girls as equal participants universities now have to practice affirmative action for boys in admissions to get close to equal sex-ratios. I pointed this out, and then, again on the spot, tried to figure out a way of showing that the issues, if not the figures, probably are relevant to my students nevertheless. I was pretty happy that in 5 minutes I had them convinced that at least it might be relevant. Here is a slightly refined version of the exercise.

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