“As the film revels in the violence, degradation and horror, it invites you, the Westerner, to enjoy it, too…Slumdog Millionaire is poverty porn,” wrote London Times’ columnist Alice Miles.
The phrase “poverty porn” spread across the Indian media as commentators nodded in agreement or shook their heads even before the film premiered in its native Mumbai and India could (legally) watch it.
A group of the city’s slum dwellers, including children, protested against the word “dog”. A social activist filed a defamation case in Patna. And this week, hundreds of slum dwellers in Bihar’s capital ransacked a movie theatre demanding the title be changed.
So, is it really “poverty porn” for the Westerner’s delectation? Are beatings, torture, and the maiming of street beggars a sick form of adult exotica?
Perhaps the question can be rephrased: does a morbid fascination with the suffering of others find a place in art and is “Slumdog” are a striking example of this?