Date of Award
Religious and Theological Studies
Lynn Schofield Clark, Ph.D.
Danny Boyle, Generosity, Media representation, Neoliberalism, Preference for the poor, Religion
The question of what generosity is and how it is practiced in relation to the neoliberal contexts of late capitalism has emerged as a subject of interest across a variety of fields. Instead of placing emphasis on the recipient and the cause or structural inequalities contributing to the need for generosity, new practices of giving have appeared on a variety of media platforms and have been performed by a host of celebrities, sports figures, and politicians that emphasize the giver's moral goodness.
By using a critical cultural studies approach, this dissertation demonstrates that in the visual culture of humanitarianism representations of generosity in popular films articulate current neoliberal constraints on human dignity and presumed goodwill. These visions of generosity enforce a neoliberized idea of givers and takers. The dissertation argues that the film Millions (2004) proposes an intriguing counter-narrative to prevailing notions of neoliberal feel-good generosity by using Catholic and Marxian discourses. In its focus on two young boys who find and consider what to do with a bag of stolen money, it imagines generosity as relational, less calculated for personal gain and excessive in its indulgence. The movie identifies the need for collective giving and relational generosity rather than blaming the poor for their conditions.
This dissertation therefore considers the film, Millions (2004) as a cultural forum (Newcomb and Hirsch 1983/1994) through which viewers are encouraged to analyze "naturalized" understandings of generosity by reflecting on calamities and conditions of inequality that challenge "feel good giving" and "project of the self" approaches to generosity. Millions explores the gap of disconnect between us and others and how money can mediate the desire for connection. This film therefore provides the cultural space for considering the unconscious lived relations regarding what a child learns about money and giving and how what he learns is taught and reproduced.
I conclude that as films and cultural artifacts like Millions draw upon explicit religious themes and imagery, they further provide a contextual space for critical religio-political reflection, where viewers may uphold, maintain, or transform their understanding of how to be independently or collectively generous in relation to their religious traditions and larger system of beliefs.
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Chiou, Grace Y., "Feel-Good Giving: The Mythic Construction of Generosity in Millions" (2015). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1396.
Received from ProQuest
Grace Y. Chiou
Mass communication, Religion