Friday, August 28, 2009

The trouble with academia

Much of the academic criticism on Bollywood films is oddly similar to the kind of thing I've spent so many years reading on the subject of disreputable horror movies. If I heard it once, I heard it a million, etc: going on about "the other," which is contrasted to an inherent but ill-defined norm, and how the visual POV is assumed to be that of a white male establishment -- to which I always responded, "sez who?"

Now, I'm barely into the well-meaning introduction to a collection of scholarly essays called The Bollywood Reader, and am finding similar assumptions about the reader's approach the material:

"How do we work against readings of Hindi and other Indian cinemas that reproduce the West as the nature cradle and crucible of film...? How do we work against several decades of discourses that have dismissed popular Hindi cinema as merely entertainment or time pass for the illiterate masses?" (p. 3)

We don't have to! There's no reason to give readings that consider all other films as subordinate to (mainstream) Western films so much power. And if discourses are free to dismiss whole swathes of culture they think are beneath them, I feel free to dismiss those discourses. Just like in horror criticism, if some scholars want to limit their perceptions, that's their loss!


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