Do you feel voyerized or exploited?
Slums of Mumbia India
What is it about human nature that forces us to look at the suffering of our fellow human beings? We have an intense need to gawk at the scene of an accident, a bubbling curiosity to drive through the worst neighborhoods to view the belongings of evicted tenants strewn on the lawn, and a deep lust to read about the struggles of our blogging friends. Is this simply human nature or something else. Have we been conditioned by the continual onslaught of violence that the media crams down our throat? Maybe we’ve been desensitized by the evening news and the constant reminder of how tragic the world has become. Do we tune in our ears and affix our eyes without even realizing ,or do we make a choice?
I can only speak for myself when I say that I have a wander lust to travel to remote countries and witness the human condition. The power of witnessing people at their rawest form gives off some sort of romantic notion. Real people raising their families and surviving against all odds is inspiring and somehow magic.
How did I get this way? I never stopped to think about that ,nor did I even realize I felt this way, until I viewed the recent phenomenon called “SlumDog Millionaire.” It is an extraordinary film of brilliant, up in your face, cinematography and a Bollywood soundtrack too good to miss. This modern day Cinderella tale takes you inside a world too painful to imagine and yet so breathtakingly beautiful in color and culture. I found myself falling in the love with this film very early into the picture and yet I still wondered if it was innate human nature or learned behavior that made me and so many others feel this way. I’m not sure that I can explain why I was so taken with this film. It was intense at times and in other moments slipped by like a ripple in the water but each and every second was just as captivating as the last. The characters lent you their emotions without you even realizes the exchange had taken place. It was seamless and when the movie ended you felt good. A modern day fairy tale told with a twist. I loved it!
Some have accused writer Simon Beaufoy of exploiting the people in the slums of Mumbia and criticized the name Slumdog. They claim the word dog is demeaning to the people of India but he claims it is only a shortened version of Underdog. Has he exploited the people of India? Have we voyerized their existence? I have to admit that upon my return home from the movie I wondered how true to culture he’d been. I quickly googled the Mumbia slums and found that the images were true. The sights and sounds of this movie are the real thing, no mistake. Does that make it okay?
I loved the movie but I can’t answer the question of whether this film trivalizes the struggles of the people of Mumbia nor if this kind of fairy tale makes us forget what tragic conditions many people around the world or just outside our front door are forced to endure. Is it right to be curious? Is it okay to look? Is this what makes us human?
I have no doubt that most of us have been voyerized because of our religion, a scar on our face, a limp in our walk, or the old beater we are forced to drive. We have also been on the other end of the spectrum as the voyee.
Ghetto/slum of Detroit, Michigan
Although I am a voyeur who enjoys this type of look into the human condition, I’m afraid to let myself get too close and feel their pain. It’s easy to look from a distance without getting close enough to smell the garbage rotting on the street but my view may have to change. I was recently asked to get closer to the streets by monitoring at risk children and becoming their court advocate. I want to step forward and lend a hand, but I don’t know if I can take it. I am afraid to feel too much; it might hurt a little and make me think a lot. This would mean that I couldn’t turn my head when it got really ugly or walk away when the smell got too strong. I would have to become more than just a voyeur; I will have to be involved. Do I have what it takes? Can I use my moxy and curious nature to help children who can’t help themselves? I’m ecstatic and terrified at the same time. I haven’t made a decision yet but stay tuned to find out.
Dance scene jai Ho
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