• Final Mile

Anatomy of an Oscar coup – Part 2

continued from here

For a start, fifteen weeks after it’s release, the movie is still holding strong at #5 on the box office lists. It was still topping the UK charts start of February. With a rags to riches storyline, Slumdog Millionaire worked brilliantly to to invoke a strong sense of contrast with current reality.

Lets take a quick look at the climate Slumdog Millionaire was released in 2008.

The stock market crashed in September. Sept. 15: The first ripples are felt as Lehman Brothers declares bankruptcy. Sept. 29: People lose money as Dow falls -778 because the bailout is rejected. Nov. 19: The Big 3 scavenge funds to not go under Dec. 1: It is officially announced that the US was in recession since Dec ’07.

In the midst of all this drama, came along a movie, Slumdog Millionaire. Just like the colour Mimosa, it signified hope, optimism, and reassurance, with a happy ending to moot. The timing couldn’t have been perfect.

As Robert Cialdini, a social psychologist puts it:

“The contrast principle affects the way we see the difference between two things that are presented one after the other. If the difference between the compared items is fairly great, we will tend to see a greater difference than actually exists.”


For a “First World” nation like America, where so many people had been robbed of their American dreams for now, and were worrying about their futures, saw someone from a “Developing Nation” go on to win millions. This affected the way they saw the movie in their current reality.

Lets say the US of A was still doing well, Slumdog Millionaire would probably be seen as nothing more than mere entertainment. Some random guy in some developing nation won 2 Million Indian Rupees ($4,00,761). Good for him. Well done, Danny Boyle.

But now that you’re constantly worrying about where the next dollar is coming from or where your last dollar went, something about Slumdog Millionaire is endearing. It has a stark contrast to the current reality, and this dramatically affects the way that the US and UK see the film.

Why didn’t it do too well in India, you ask? Well, it wasn’t new news, really.

#contrast #heuristics #oscars #slumdogmillionaire

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