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What I disliked about District 9

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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.

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Written by Joy-Mari Cloete

September 7th, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Feminist movies are an aquired taste

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Much in life are worth the time that we spend getting used to them. Whisky is one of them. Some people claim they only liked salty liquorice after the third or fourth try; I, however, liked it instantly. But it took me a long time to appreciate whisky.

So I was thinking about movies recently, mostly because of a post that I had read about feminist movies. I don’t remember much of the movie Volver. I saw it at the beginning of last year. I only remember what I felt after I’d seen the movie.

I wondered whether such movies aren’t perhaps the type one gets used to … slowly. I didn’t hate the movie; I had a neutral feeling about it. It was different to the movies I am used to. Most of the movies I used to watch are those with male-centric plots. Boy meets girl, they fall in love but then something happens that drives them apart. Girl cries and devises a solution to win boy back. They get back together. The End.

Even when there is no real love plot, women are not the focus; men are.

Zoolander is one of my all-time favourite movies and it has a guy as the protagonist. I have only a few favourite movies that pass the Bechdel test. This test rates movies on 3 criteria:  It has to have at least two women in it; Who talk to each other;  About something besides a man.

So I wonder. Should I watch Volver again? Am I a bad feminist for not liking the movie much the first time around? Or should I just find other feminist movies to watch?

I grew up on a Disney diet of Snow White and The Three Musketeers. That’s what I and many others are used to. Yes, I enjoyed Monsters,  Inc but it fails the Bechdel test.

I’d love feminist movies — or movies that pass the Bechdel test — to become the norm but I realise it will take a long time. Most women are OK with watching chick-flicks and men are still pandered to; women are ignored. Well, most of the time — there are a few movies that get women right. And I do not have the statistics but strong, women-centric films are mostly from Old Hollywood, European, or ‘Indie’. Why? It’s because women are a niche market. And you have to search high and low to find women-centric movies; Mr Video stocks blockbusters, mostly.

87 Million women in America went to the movies in 2007; 85 million men in America went to the movies during the same period.  And more 60+ women than men of the same age have been going to the movies from 2003 to 2007.  The MPAA 2007 Movie Attendance Study records the 40- to 59-year-old age group as the most frequent movie going group. Surely this should mean that there is a lot of scope for women-centric movies.

And surely this means that girls growing up today will not have to get used to feminist movies; they will come to see such movies as the default.

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Written by Joy-Mari Cloete

April 20th, 2009 at 11:46 am

I’m not bored of social media but…

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I was confounded when @PluginID told me he’s a bit off social media. This was only a couple of months ago. I couldn’t understand why but now I do: it’s draining. Not always but very often it feels as though you have to read, digg, vote for and tweet as much as possible. And that, friends, is draining.

Last week I tweeted that I may delete my MyFace account. Only @the_dre was in favour of me doing it; @sessa, @laurakim123 and @shahil were all rallying behind my keeping the account.

I deleted the account a half an hour after I had asked the question on twitter.

And I feel lighter. That MyFace account has seen too many misunderstandings between me and 2 of the people whom I were dating at the time. Yes, I caused the misunderstandings and fights by posting too many personal things on there but still.

So I think I’ll amend my social media mantra only slightly. I will lay off on Twitter, I no longer have a MyFace account, and I will blog more. I will still use Twitter, Friendfeed and whatever else is available but I will not use those channels excessively. Things have changed since I made a slip of the tongue  — too much of a good thing is not enough — my mantra. No more excess for this lady. A bit of mystique would do me good.

Update: It’s been nearly two days of no Twitter for me. And it’s been awesome.

Update on 28/02/2010: I deleted my Friendfeed account a couple of months after I wrote this post.

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Written by Joy-Mari Cloete

February 25th, 2009 at 10:23 am