District 9 is a sci-fi actiony-thrillery type film that plays a bit like a documentary. It’s about an alien ship that lands over Johannesburg. Inside the ship awaits a large group of malnourished aliens which later are called prawns by some of the humans. The human population brings the aliens to a temporary housing facility with humanitarian intentions. The temp. housing quickly becomes a permanent ghetto. The majority of the film takes place twenty years after the aliens’ arrival. There’s a lot of tension between prawns and humans. A group called the MNU is trying to evict the aliens and move them to a new facility, but the group is kinda corrupt. I won’t go too much more into the plot, but I found it to be interesting.
I watched this movie for my Introduction to Postcolonial Literature class. Apparently this film has been talked about quite a bit in that sphere of academia. After watching it and discussing it in class, I can easily see why. It doesn’t take too much brain power to see the analogy between the situation the aliens find themselves in and that which many people groups such as the Jews during WWII or those affected during apartheid times. It really highlights how much people have/do “other” anyone who is different from them, leading to racism and xenophobia. Some of the signs and billboards that appear in the background of the scenery are direct revisionings of signs found throughout history.
The use of sci-fi in this film allows for discussions of othering, racism, and other related topics in a general sense without pointing to specific instances where these horrific events have taken place. Some people in my class mentioned how terrible it is that we have to resort to using fantastical metaphors to talk about this stuff, but I personally didn’t see an issue with it. I feel like the use of aliens and a fabricated allegory instead of a historical recounting of real-life events allows for a more universal point of entry into these topics.
We also discussed quite a bit how even though the film is trying to go at these difficult topics through a unique and creative point of entry, it still relies on old trops. A white man is still our point of entry into understanding the aliens. He is the protagonist and the one we should ideally sympathize with (though I didn’t I was all for Christopher-the main alien we encountered). It is kind of frustrating that the movie industry still relies so heavily on stories centered around white men. I’m all for diversity in films and books so that they actually accurately depict the world. As a white person though, this use of the white man wasn’t something I initially noticed. Once it was pointed out to me, I too was a little frustrated.
We also talked a bit about gender. There are very few women in the film (three to five) and none of them play major roles. In fact, I couldn’t tell you any of their names. It was a little weird. We also weren’t really sure of the aliens’ system of gender. Did they have gender at all? It was unclear, but masculine gender was generally assigned to all of the aliens. So how did they reproduce? These are the hard hitting questions.
The main alien we encounter is named Christopher. I adored him and his son. They were the recipients of my sympathy and love throughout the film There’s a lot I could say here about this character, but I thought one of the most interesting points brought up during my class’s discussion was the possibility that he may have been a Christ symbol. *light spoiler* I mean Christ is literally in his name. He is also the ‘redeemer’ of his species. He even transcends at the end of the film as he flies off in his space ship. We didn’t go too in depth with this idea because we were running out of time, but I was very intrigued by it.
Overall, I would recommend this film. It’s definitely not something I would have picked up on my own, but I really enjoyed it. There’s also so many different discussion points to go through. I would have loved having a longer discussion with my class, so if you wanna talk about it, hit me up in the comments.