23 Mar 2009 12:00 pm   //   Filed under: Movies

“Slumdog Millionaire” in America

I finally saw “Slumdog Millionaire” and it lived up to the hype. Few movies do such a good job with pacing and storytelling. To me, the use of the TV quiz show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” symbolized India’s dream of moving beyond its history of the caste system. Today even a “slumdog” can become rich – on TV.

It made me think about why reality shows are still so popular in the U.S. America has a history of falling short on its promise of opportunity to all, but it’s still a concept that’s built into this country’s fabric. Work hard and you will be rewarded. It usually takes many years of toiling in obscurity, though. Who has patience for that when television can distill the American dream into a quick series of edits? An unknown figure emerges Christ-like from obscurity and is made a star—and there’s still time left for commercial breaks.

Recently, so many people showed up to audition for “America’s Next Top Model” that the crowd grew unruly and the authorities had to shut it down. How little sense does that make? This is a country founded on the idea that anybody can make it. Yet an extraordinary number of people believe the way to realize their dreams is to show up and stand in a big line.