Slumdog Millionaire Ideology of Meritocracy


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Slumdog Millionaire: Ideology of meritocracy

Slumdog millionaire is a 2008 film produced by A.M studios, about ayoung Mumbai teenager, called Jamal, who grew up in the slums. Oneday, he participates in a television show called “Who wants to be amillionaire”, where the participants are asked 20 questions(Boyles, 2008). At each level, the participant increases the prizemoney, and ultimately wins a million dollars when they hit the 20thquestion mark. The young teenager uses past life experiences toanswer the questions, mostly from his childhood days and times thathe spent with his family and friends in the slum. After the talkshow, he is arrested on suspicion of cheating, as the authoritiesbelief that there was no way that he could answer all thesequestions, perhaps given his social status. Danny Boyles directed themovie. The major ideological authority belief demonstrated in themovie is meritocracy. Jamal’s rise to the embodiment ofrevolutionary dynamism of capital belief is a demonstration that hewas working to break the traditional norm of the Indian society.Despite a few scenes of cinematic graphics, no other potential issuesare associated with the film that may need viewer discretion.

Thefilm demonstrates this film by showing Jamal as an intellectualcapitalist who uses that which has happened to him, and whichdirectly affects him, to win the ultimate prize. Lawson (1994)alludes that the principle of meritocracy is personal ability.Despite being suspected that he cheated, Jamal proves that he usedhis own life experiences to achieve what he did. In one particularscene, the moderator of the questions attempted to deceive Jamal bygiving him a wrong answer, but he believed in his abilities and wentahead to win the money.

Lawson(1994) explains that, the twining of liberal democracies in themodern world is helpful in explaining the concept of beliefsprojected in films and books, for example, the Slumdog millionaire.The enthusiasm that came with its breakthrough was highly associatedwith the nature of the capitalist minds in the lower classes of thesociety, that meritocracy is the way to liberalism, as the people ofthe upper-class society would put it. Also significantly, Henslin(2007) says that the concept of meritocracy is helpful in explainingthe success of the lower and middle class people when it comes togaining power in the society, which in this case occurs by linkingits elements with the events of the popular Arab uprising.

Froma conflict theory perspective, the film demonstrates how those peoplewith more resources and abilities in the society exploit others inorder expand their capacity. Jamal was arrested for suddenly provingto the society that he indeed could rise out of poverty and make hislife better, by social forces in the society were holding him backevery time. Another example of conflict theory was the murder of hisbrother by a rich gang boss. The creator uses the symbolicinteractionism perspective to show how Jamal used experiences fromhis life to answer the questions correctly. Finally, the entirestoryline, from a functionalism perspective, is connected throughexperiences and events. Everything that happens in the film issomehow related to another, beginning from the life in the slums,television show and life after winning.


Boyle, D. (Directors). Slumdog millionaire. AM Studios, UnitedKingdom.

Lawson, H. M. (1994). Attacking Nicely: Women Selling cars.Sociological Viewpoints, 10(1), 1-25.

Henslin, J, M. (2007). Eating your friends is the hardest: Thesurvivors of the F-22.