warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Acting Stupidly

Erica E. Phillips |
August 20, 2009 | 6:14 p.m. PDT

Erica E. Phillips
Danny Boyle knows the name Shahrukh Khan. Earlier this year, the Indian cinema superstar (known to many as The King of Bollywood) took the stage at the Golden Globe awards to introduce "Slumdog Millionaire" to a wildly charmed audience. SRK turned down the role of the game show host in the film and has since become the host of the real-life Kaun Banega Crorepati, India's version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" and the central plot premise of the award-winning film.
Khan is one of a growing crowd of international celebrities, with super-fans numbering in the millions, who most Americans would not be able to identify if, say, he sat across from them at an immigration counter. In fact, even the name probably wouldn't ring many bells among the pop-culture-immersed people in our country, despite what it might conjure among all ages of girls and ladies within the global South Asian Diaspora. 
This week, Americans were embarrassed (again) by our ignorance in the face of safety and homeland security when Shahrukh Khan was held for questioning by Customs and Border Patrol personnel at the Newark International Airport. Khan has traveled to and from the U.S. several times this year to work on his next venture, a film called "My Name is Khan," which portrays the post-9/11 lives of Muslims living in America. So yeah, his whole Immigration hassle was just ironically characteristic of the system and almost perfectly timed.
Officials mentioned that they asked Khan in for questioning after his name was run through a security database to gather background information. Many people on the Internet have commented and wondered why the officers didn't just search Khan's name on Google. Truly, in a world where information is milliseconds away, how are so many of us still at a loss about where to find answers? According to the Huffington Post, Khan made it very clear that he is kind of a big deal. A smart phone certainly could have helped the Cambridge Police Department avoid similar embarrassment last month.
There is a larger issue here, however, and it gets to the root of my motivation for writing this column. We live in a rapidly globalizing culture, and our collective body of knowledge should reflect these changes. It is no longer acceptable for arts and entertainment media in the United States to focus as narrowly as we do on American celebrities and homegrown culture. If we don't change our cultural conversation to reflect the global nature of our present identity, we are only cultivating ignorance and fear, guaranteeing blunder and embarrassment.
Earlier this month, Vanity Fair published its "International Best-Dressed List" - not surprisingly, the subjects chosen were largely U.S. public personalities. This is an example of not only an ignorance of global culture but a sweeping claim of comprehensive "international" coverage in what is actually an entirely U.S.-centric story. Likewise, we wouldn't consider a critic who reviewed "Slumdog Millionaire" to be able to select, on behalf of her readership, the Top Ten Bollywood films of the 2000s. 
This brings me to a final question (or perhaps a series of questions). First, what is the popular definition of Bollywood among the average U.S. public? Do Americans know it is not the name of a place but is actually a stylistic categorization? Do American readers know much about the history of filmmaking in India, the waves of themes and social messages, or any of the music made popular by this genre? (If not, you should Google it.) 
Now who wants to grab a Bud Light, surf YouTube for Bollywood videos, and "talk about some of these issues" with me?



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.