District 9, or, Another View of Discrimination

I just watched District 9 for the first time two nights ago. When it was over, I wasn’t really sure what to make of it. It had it’s good qualities and it’s bad ones but what was most interesting to me was the reinterpretation of the term “illegal aliens.”

I’m totally serious. This is a film that uses another extraterrestrial race to symbolize illegal immigrants and their relationship to America. Sure it takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa, but that’s not the point. The point is, these aliens descend upon earth and, due to some system failures, are forced to remain on earth as fugitives. They are detained in a camp which soon becomes a slum, called District 9 and after a few years the population has turned from curiosity to hatred of these new creatures. They call this new race “prawns” and treat them all like shit. They perform experiments on them, cut off limbs without any type of anesthetic, and  shoot them without warning or remorse. The aliens’ only value to the humans is their alien weaponry, which can only be operated by those who made it.

The plot of the film revolves around a man named Vikus, who is highly prejudiced against the aliens. He doesn’t believe they have the capacity for much intelligence and doesn’t see that they can in fact feel pain, both physically and emotionally. The tables turn when he is infected by a liquid that causes his body to begin to morph into that of the aliens. He is suddenly wanted by the government, who suddenly no longer sees him as human, so that they may do experiments on him. He must find a way to get back to his human self before he runs out of time, and manages to enlist the help of another alien, one who is working on a way to get off of Earth.

The whole point of the film is that we see that these aliens are just as, if not more, intelligent than we are. They are here on our land because they cannot be on their own for various reasons, and instead of choosing to accept them and truly help them, we have chosen to herd them like cattle into one area and treat them as though their lives are of lesser value. We see them as being of lesser intelligence and we don’t care for them. What I didn’t understand is how, if their weaponry is obviously far more advanced than ours, we don’t see that they are smarter than us? Sure we’re human and our stupidity makes us bold, but still – why has this not occurred to anyone?

The point the film makes is an interesting and a good one, even though it has to completely villainize the entire human race to make that point. Even Vikus has few redeemable qualities.

Anyway, the film was a good one and had a lot of good points, even if it struggled to get there at first.

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