This quote sums up District 9:
The humans’ treatment of the “prawns,” which is clearly modelled on the Apartheid government’s actions, as well as the local masses’ recent xenophobic behaviour, is quite horrible – but it’s also difficult to stop laughing if your tastes in humour are cynical and politically incorrect..
I enjoyed it. I really did. It couldn’t have been the rational part of me that had enjoyed the movie; it must’ve been the irrational part. Or perhaps it’s because there were many South Africanisms in the movie, especially Wikus’ use of ‘fok’, ‘fokken’ and ‘kak’. Another thing, and this I read on someone else’s review, is that neither the Pentagon nor the White House had any involvement. How’s that for awesome and refreshing?
But there were many scenes that upset me – visually and morally. Hakeem Kae-Kazim, the Hotel Rwanda actor, criticised the movie; and Armond White also criticised the movie. Other reviews give it far more praise than scorn: NYT says it is a “smart, swift new film from the South African director Neill Blomkamp”;Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 89%
The movie does have many flaws. And, let’s admit it, it’s a racist anti-racism movie. But it did have a few scenes that stood out.
Another quote that sums up what I think about the movie: “But I don’t think that means we can give it a free pass from the charge that a significant aspect of the film IS racist or assume that because some of the film is anti-racist, nothing in it can be racist.”
So, besides the plot holes, here are the things that I noticed – and that alarmed me – about District 9:
We see few women
Christopher’s son doesn’t have a mother. The only women we meet are connected to Wikus – his wife, his mother and his colleagues – or they are witch doctors or prostitutes. But we don’t even get to meet the prostitutes: we only see them doing the things – interspecies sex – they do. And the witchdoctor looks scary, no? “…she might as well have had a bone through her nose and been muttering “unga munga”"
When do we get a woman [of colour?] as a main character? And when do we get a woman who has more than a couple of sentences in a Sci-Fi movie?
Soweto’s citizens are barbarians
Does Blomkamp not know that Desmond Tutu lives in Soweto? And that there are many middle class people living in Soweto? Surely they do not all riot?
The Nigerians speak Xhosa
Nigerians are not Xhosa; Nigerians speak Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Kanuri and English, among others. I understand that the drug lord could’ve used South Africans to work for him but we never know for sure; all we know is that the Nigerians run the cat food scam, not South Africans.
The fast food manager had a gun
Why would any fast food manager have a gun hidden away in case someone like Wikkus limps in?
Black people – Nigerians, mostly – are uncivilised.
Yes, there are Nigerian drug lords living in South Africa. But there are also many Nigerians who live legal lives. We only get to see the bad ones; we don’t see ‘good ones’. Why not portray one or two ‘lesser evil’ Nigerians?
Contrast this to the white people whom Blomkamp depict as rational and civilised, even though they are evil. Their characters are a bit more well-developed – one even has a family! – and more thought out than the black characters.
The lone good black character is yet another cardboard cut out figure and we don’t even get to see much of him.
The riots reminded me far too much of 2008′s xenophobic riots
It was uncomfortable to see how black people are once more depicted as savages who run around with sticks, looting everything in sight. They could’ve shown one or two middle class people in their middle class Soweto home, talking about how they’d rather the aliens leave for good.
But no. He doesn’t want to depart from the familiar trope of African savages – he probably reckons that his mostly American, mostly white, northern hemisphere audience doesn’t understand anything that differs from their preconceived ideas about Africa.
This be no Apartheid/District 6 allegory
I’ve heard this one so many times, from so many different people. I don’t agree with it and I’ve only encountered one or two dismissals of this theory.
The aliens and real South Africans of colour only have two things in common: they lived in shacks and they weren’t welcome. And not all POC South Africans lived in slums during the 1960s and 1970s; many lived in neighbourhoods similar to ones we see in white areas.
POC in Apartheid South Africa didn’t destroy trains for ‘no reason’; they destroyed property in protest of their treatment by the NP government.
I’d love to hear a good argument for why I should see District 9 as an Apartheid allegory.
You’ll enjoy it much more if you can switch off your brain by ignoring – or celebrating – the racism, the gaps in the plot and the needless action scenes.