Manufacturing Outrage - Slumdog and its Discontents

child, Culture and Media, rubina, Slumdog, tabloid, third-world

Slumdog Star for Sale” scream the headlines of a British tabloid, News of the World. Across the Atlantic a New York Times reader suggests:

The best thing that could happen to these poor little kids–Rubina and the little boy–would be for them to be adopted out of their terrible family situations…..

There are other people whose hearts bleed even more:

…..If I had the money, I would buy her in a heartbeat. I watched the movie Saturday and my goal in life is to now travel the world and adopt one child from all of the poorest countries. Too bad I can’t have them all.

A documentary critic proclaims:

As horrific and shocking as it is, (the) news……should — most unfortunately — come as no overwhelming surprise.

Presumably because the poor sell their kids into sexual slavery all the time (Note: sexual slavery is immediately assumed) She goes on to suggest we watch Born Into Brothels’ and Highway Courtesan’ to get the Indian perspective.

Piecing the story together, it seems that the tabloid entrapped the family by posing as an Arab couple (being Arab increases the pathology, get it?), and offered to adopt Rubina and pay $300,000 to the family. This exchange took place via a translator since Rubina’s father doesn’t actually speak English. Rubina’s parents are divorced and the relationship between her parents is far from cordial. The mother wants custody of her daughter, the papers say after the film came out, but it could be an ongoing conflict, we don’t know.

There are a couple of interesting things in this story, firstly everyone is outraged at the father for considering adoption. This is hardly unusual, poor people have often given up their kids up to foster care for a time (the example of filmmaker Stan Brakhage comes to mind, he was in an orphanage for a while), and in India, its not unusual for kids to grow up in places other than their parents house - I lived with my aunt for a while, and my brother grew up at my grandparents place. The ideal of the soccer mom based nuclear family is quite recent. Yes, I get it, the proposed exchange of money is what really bothers people and everyone is sickened by the avariciousness of the family. Now if most people look into their family histories, they’re sure to find that uncle who took everything the other siblings should have inherited a fair share of. Yes, its terrible that people are greedy and criminal, but its hardly the province of the poor. So I wish people would take their outrage to where it belongs - a grossly unjust world where some countries are far richer than they deserve to be, and some people have the luxury of taking the moral high ground without every having to interact with the poor.

Finally, I am just outraged that a tabloid would go in and entrap this family to look as bad as possible, and even more outraged that they would do it to a poor, ill-educated family that does not have the means to fight back. But somehow the newspaper reports have glossed over that fact. I am even more sickened by all the well-meaning bleeding hearts who want to take away poor children away from their families. But we’ve seen that before - in Australia with mixed race and Aboriginal children, in Canada with Native American children, in India with the children of so called Thugs (actually they were forcibly sterilized as well) and Criminal Tribes.