Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Nicole Martinez

English 495

7 December 2010

A Little Bit of this Culture, A Little Bit of that Culture

The theme of globalization is apparent in the movie Slumdog Millionaire, which is set in Mumbai, India. There are many examples of the influence of Western culture on Eastern peoples. There are also ways in which many other cultures are mixed. If it weren’t for globalization, the intersection of all of these cultures would not have happened, and we would never have a movie as complex as Slumdog Millionaire.
There are specific instances in the movie where European culture influences the outcomes of the characters lives. In the movie, the protagonist, Jamal Malik, is a contestant on the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? To begin with, the show is British in origin, which is the first clue in the movie that there will be an intersection of cultures. This show has versions in over 100 countries, and India is the setting of not only the game show but the movie as well. Another European influence observed in the movie is exhibited in the question about the book The Three Musketeers that was written in France by Alexander Dumas. This book has further cultural references because Dumas got the idea to write the book from something he read in Amsterdam. There is also a question about the game cricket, which is played in many countries, including India. It originates from England. The character Jumal, works as a Chai Wallah in a Mumbai call center. In one portion of the movie, they are receiving calls from Scotland and Jamal speaks with a woman from there. I saw a very interesting example of European influence at the end of the movie while Jamal was waiting for Latika at the train station. On the wall behind him is an epigraph in stone of the name “Frederick W Stevens.” I thought it was somewhat strange that Jamal would be sitting directly in front of a name that was so clearly visible, that it must stand for something. When I researched it, I found that Frederick W. Stevens was a British architect who built the train station in Mumbai when the British controlled it. This was no mistake on the part of the director. He certainly wanted the audience to see that there has been a clear influence on India from Europe.
There are many ways in which American culture has intersected with Indian culture as well. In an essay by Revathi Krishnaswamy titled, “The Criticism of Culture and the Culture of Criticism: At the Intersection of Postcolonialism and Globalization Theory,” he argues the difference between post colonialism and the globalism that the world is now experiencing: “postcolonial theory has emphasized the cultural basis of history (the cultural constructedness of history as well as the archival value of cultural productions) while globalization theory, in turn, has highlighted the cultural basis of the economic (the economic value of cultural productions as well as the cultural production of economic value)” (Krishnaswamy, 107). This dependence on economic value of cultural productions is apparent when Jamal and his brother Salim are working, or hustling money at the Taj Majal, they steal shoes from people who take them off to go into the temple. Then they set up a stand and sell shoes calling out “American shoes for sale!” as they show a close up of a pair of Converse All Stars and then a pair of cowboy boots. This is also the time when Jamal receives a one hundred dollar bill from an American couple because a taxi driver is beating him up. The Americans who are so benevolent tell him something about Americans being kind and generous, but there is no other evidence of this kindness throughout the movie. Then on the game show, Jamal is asked which president is on the American $100. He responds that it is Benjamin Franklin, and he knows this because he was benevolent enough to give it to a blind kid who helped him. The blind kid helped him find his friend Latika and also to know which American president was on the bill. At the beginning of the movie, Jamal and Salim are shown as young children who are fanatics of the Indian action hero, Amitabh Bachchan. The clips they showed of him really reminded me of movies my father used to watch with action heroes like Bruce Willis who saved the day every time. The lone action hero appears to be a very American phenomenon. The use of the action hero, American shoes, and $100 bill all serve to show how Indian culture has been influenced by American culture because of globalization.
The contradiction of religion is apparent in the movie. Likewise with the other influencing cultures, there would be no story without the influence and interaction of Muslim and Hindu cultures. Jamal’s character is greatly disturbed by seeing his mother and much of the people who live in his slums die. The reason they died was because Muslims came to attack Hindu’s. Jamal’s family was Hindu. This is apparent because she wore the typical sari and had a red dot on her forehead. The massacre that happened in Jamal’s slum served to help him in the game show when he was given a question about religion. After answering the question correctly, he tells the game show host that he wouldn’t have been able to answer the question if it wasn’t for Rama and Allah. Rama is a Hindi god and Allah is a Muslim god. Also, it is alluded to that Jamal’s brother Salim converts to the Islamic religion. This is evident when Jamal spies on Salim when he is praying on a mat with the Muslim hat on. So as racial culture becomes globalized, so does religious culture.
The overall storyline of the movie is very Western and formulaic. It is the basic story of how the poor boy overcomes incredible odds, becomes rich and then gets the girl. The twist on the formulaic story is that it is so deep seated within the times of globalization. In an essay on the movie Slumdog Millionaire that also deals with the theme of globalization, author Sudesh Mishra states that “the economic might and hypermobility of the new Indian diaspora has led to a reorientation of subject matter, particularly in the subgenre of the NRI [non resident Indian] film, from the bounded or internalized country-city logic of the national to the internal-external and lateral exchanges that characterize transnational relations” (Mishra 325). Without all of the external influence, there would be no story to tell. Furthermore, it is the blending of all of the cultures that have been influenced by each other that makes this movie great.

Works Cited
Krishnaswamy, Revathi. “The Criticism of Culture and the Culture of Criticism: At the Intersection of Postcolonialism and Globalization Theory.” Diacritics 32.2 (2002): 106-126. Project Muse. Web. 10. Dec. 2010.
Mishra, Sudesh. “News from the Crypt: India, Modernity, and the West.” New Literary History 40.2 (2009): 315-344. Project Muse. Web. 10, Dec. 2010.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Brainstorming for this media group project has been great. There are limitless options for teaching students about media utilizing media. I had a really good idea about a way for students to write stories and learn computer programming at the same time with a program called Alice. This is the description of the program on the website Alice.org:

“Alice is an innovative 3D programming environment that makes it easy to create an animation for telling a story, playing an interactive game, or a video to share on the web. Alice is a teaching tool for introductory computing. It uses 3D graphics and a drag-and-drop interface to facilitate a more engaging, less frustrating first programming experience.”

I have explored the program a little myself to see if it would be good for my daughters to use, and it looked cool. As an introduction to computer programming, it works well to keep kids engaged and utilizes their imagination because they get to make a story come to life.
The problem arose when I tried to show it to my group members and the class computer wouldn’t let me download it. So our lame classroom foiled my great idea. Oh well, we still had a plethora of ideas, and had a great time working them out together.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lets all make flip books out of our Media Education texts!

My daughter Frida is a freshman in high school. In the first half of this semester, she took an elective class which taught them how to write, film and edit a short movie. For the second half of the semester, her class is learning about Photoshop and how to manipulate images. I imagine the next semester will encompass some other sort of media based elective. For tenth-graders, they have another elective class that studies different film genres: they watch movies, learn about their history and write papers about them. What I want to know is why are we learning about "electives"? Is the purpose for us to simply incorporate some of this into our lessons as English teachers? I find that Buckingham's text could easily be called "Teaching Popular Culture," because that is what he talks about the majority of the time.

Something that disturbs me is how his studies are based in England, which is a pretty different culture than ours. Buckingham talks about the school system there- with their strengths and weaknesses regarding media education- but their system is way different than ours. He also refers to their political parties, which are different from ours as well. Why couldn't we study an author who is familiar with our own culture? I see how I could be opposed in this viewpoint, after all, our class is called "Multigenre Literacy in a Global Context." But I feel that this portion of the class should focus on us as Americans (which I know is anything but homogeneous), looking at the whole world which we can access in a media context, and analyzing it from that perspective.

When I read that last sentence, I think it sounds very wrong.

Maybe I am wrong.

But if we are going to view the world in a global context, a book written by an Englishman isn't going to open up that perspective. We should be studying a compilation of essays by writers of different cultures if that is the case.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

the virgins

Last week I went for a hike near Las Virgenes Canyon. I had a water bottle, camera, apple, and my mythology book in my backpack. I hiked for about an hour and then found a quiet spot to read. The story I chose was from "The Female Divine" chapter, titled "Callisto and Arcas," which is from Ovid's Metamorphoses. Well, was that a disturbing story, or what?! I was so unassuming when I started the story; just sitting alone, relaxed, ready to read a story of a powerful goddess. But all I got was a tale of rape. Lame and depressing. Callisto was raped by Jove and then banished by Diana. This story sucks, because as a hunter, Callisto was hunted by Jove, and then she was turned into a bear by jealous Juno and she was still hunted by man. The hunter becoming the hunted, how ironic.

Then I realized I was hiking around "Las Virgenes" (the virgins) which I found to be funny. So after that emotional journey, I learned something about mythology and constellations and my hike wasn't ruined after all.

This video contains a condensed version of the story. It seems someone posted it to promote some Third Eye Blind album, so just ignore the ending.

But I suggest you read "Callisto and Arcas" in the myth book. It is tragic.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

If only I would think before I speak

I kinda want to take back something I said in the last class. When Professor Wexler asked us to come up with a modern day myth, I said that the movie Avatar could be one. But after thinking about it, I think Avatar is too modern. There is no history to it. It isn't something we have grown up with, it hasn't become part of our culture. Sure, it has some lessons or morals, but it is a story at this point, and not necessarily a myth.
So if I had to choose another mythological figure in our culture, I suppose Madonna could be considered mythological. She represents different values than other mythological women of the past, she reflects some values that our society holds. For example, female empowerment and sexual freedom. She is referenced and remade in other aspects of popular culture. I just watched an episode of Glee that kind of touched on her mythological, larger than life nature.
I feel a little better now.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

That whole poetry writing experience wasn't too bad after all. I didn't force myself to write a Sonnet, which would have been too contrived and lame. I also didn't take the easy way out and write 2 Haiku's. I am proud of what I wrote, and that it was relevant to my experience. It actually felt pretty good reciting "The Excremental Qualities of Poetry" in front of the the class too, which surprised me. And it really made me smile using potty humor in my poem. I hope my students will surprise themselves with poetry one day as well.

I truly enjoyed reading and listening to everyone else's poems. I feel that although our class may be quiet alot of the time, there is still alot of depth to everyone. Introverts unite!

So for this week, we are studying mythology.I haven't come close to finishing the reading, but I am still learning alot about the female divine. For example, in the past I had heard of a concert tour called "Lillith Fair" that I heard celebrates women. Now as a result of this assignment, I actually know what (actually who) it is named after.

The myth about her is that she was Adam's (the one who was with Eve) first wife who was "coeval and coequal with him." She became upset with him when he wanted her to lie underneath him for sex. She had once recieved magical powers by tricking a god, and he gave her wings so she could fly from Eden. She is said to have appeared in the desert to travellers and tricked people by tickling their feet and then strangling them to death.
Why isn't she in THE Bible?
Why was she not part of that mythology?
Overall, these new, female dieties are fascinating to me.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Freeing a verse

The Excremental Qualities of Poetry

I sit down
Knowing that something

I wait
And I wait,
I doodle and scratch my head.

Some thing
Comes out.
It really isn’t much.

The form appears
To be familiar.

It is not pretty.
(not like roses)
It sure smells like it.
(definitely, not like roses)

I wonder what
The Captain
Would think of it.

I can say that my experience has been
Less than

Yet, I do love falling deep into it.