This was an extra credit assignment I did for English 102 in LaGuardia Community College for a research paper I did on Orientalism. My angle was strongly on racism and it's roots.
February 12, 2014
A Change in Perspective
History tends to decipher the puzzles of life in which we as a society are so busy trying to avoid. Society gets so caught up in progressing towards a better future that it often forgets where the foundation of all of its roots had originated. Orientalism has had a huge impact and influence on the way we view specific regions and cultures. There are so many negative perceptions that can be used in watching Slumdog Millionaire when there is a lack of knowledge and understanding about racism, Orientalist views and the culture in which the movie is based. The understanding of Post-Colonialism also has an enormous effect on interpreting the history of different cultures and societies as well. In the movie Slumdog Millionaire, the perceptions one can hold against many of the characters and scenes can easily be distorted when the person has fixed Orientlist views and a lack of knowledge on the movie’s cultural themes and settings.Throughout the past couple of weeks, I’ve learned a lot in regards to these issues on Orientalism, Post-Colonalism, racism, and etc. One thing that has changed for me throughout the course of this semester was how I perceived certain cultures, situations, and moments, especially within movies such as Slumdog Millionaire. Going back and watching it again, my entire interpretation of the movie has been shifted. Going deeper into the changes that I’ve experienced while watching Slumdog Millionaire, I realized that originally, I wasn’t aware of how normal the Indian culture seemed. My whole life, I’ve been given distorted views on what Indian culture is supposed to be like.
Seeing people wearing turbans and long cloths, the music, the accents – they’ve been exaggerated through the media and Orentalist writings amongst many others. There was one scene in the movie where travelers from all around the world visited the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal seemed to have so much historical and cultural value and it seemed to have more of a historical meaning after watching the movie again with the current knowledge that I have now. For example, the pre-conceived perceptions I had originally possessed of the Taj Mahal were very narrow minded. I now realize how religiously dedicated the Hindu’s were especially within the building itself. The scriptures and symbols also seemed to make more sense to me being that they weren’t just a bunch of pictures that meant nothing but nonsense in Orientalist views. Orientalist’s describe the Hindus and Muslims as “the others” however, in my eyes they seemed like regular people with a great deal of spiritual and cultural values and customs. My views of the characters have been changed greatly as well. Another scene that stuck out to me was the scene where a young Hindu boy was dressed as the Hindu god Rama and held a bow and arrow in his hands. Originally, I had thought that this was strange and I didn’t particularly understand what was happening. In my head, I was wondering why the image of the boy (painted blue) was so puzzling to me. After watching the movie again, I realized that everything I had learned about the Hindu religion through books and media had allowed me to see this boy in a very strange and eerie light. I no longer saw him as strange. I realized that the culture that this boy came from was the reason he expressed himself so spiritually. Colonialism was also an important concept to grasp in watching the film. There’s a reason why the Hindus and Muslims could not get along. The religious beliefs that the Hindus and the Muslims practiced and preached were so different that the people from these religions were willing to die for them. The reason why we have certain countries that represent their own
specific principals of power, culture, political stand points and etc can be traced back to the wars of independence and freedom in which these countries split in order to maintain their beliefs and views. Perhaps European Orientalists saw this as some kind of internal clash of weakness the two cultures had. They didn’t particularly understand either one and saw them as a whole. Religion is a huge importance for both cultures, and Orientalist scholars and travelers may have seen their religious values as confusing, misleading, and possibly even frightening. Overall, many conclusions and theories can be drawn in understanding the history of cultures and society. It’s amazing how blocked our perceptions can become through external sources. This English class has taught me to be aware of my own perceptions and allow these perceptions to neither effect me negatively or positively. Understanding why things come to be the way they are can be traced back to times far beyond my birth. These different conceptions and historical pieces of writings and works have influenced society to be what it is to this very day.