Though this may seem like any other stereotypical extra-terrestrial movie, District 9 is unique in that it creates a scenario showing human discrimination towards alien begins; something that is an obvious metaphor for all racial discrimination. District 9 shows a world where the battle for previously eliminated racial equality resurfaces. It is no coincidence that District 9 is set in South Africa, where apartheid, discrimination mainly against black Africans, was an issue for years before it was finally eliminated in the 1990’s (Wikipedia, 2012).
Because of its past, South Africa is the perfect country to show this new type of discrimination against an entirely new intelligent species; also the writer/director Neill Blomkamp was born and raised in Johannesbur (The Guardian, 2012). Because of the metaphor used in the movie dealing with the issue of discrimination, the racial lens can be used when viewing District 9 to identify stereotypes and power struggles between the new alien race and human beings, and also to connect these struggles to all current and past racial discrimination (Safundi, 2010).
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District 9 begins with the new race of aliens coming to Earth. Of course, they are accepted into the world at first, with many people actually assisting them in merging society, but soon discrimination against them begins to emerge. District 9 is enforced, separating humans from the non-humans. Signs with symbols of aliens crossed out designate their exclusion from society including work, which perpetuates their existence as slum-dwellers. Stereotypes against the aliens, such as claims that they are diseased or accusations that they have a criminal nature begin to surface, causing these problems (Sociology, 2008).
Soon a struggle for power breaks out, and people everywhere begin to repress the species into a small, run down shack town in order to control them. This is not unlike past or modern racial discrimination. Just like the aliens in the movie, African Americans also were and are accused of being more likely to commit criminal acts, were once not allowed into stores due to their race, and were repressed so that whites could retain power over them (Sociology, 2008).
Parallels between the movie and this real-life problem even appear as discrimination also forced, and forces blacks into run-down neighborhoods. In reality, many black people only want to have equality, a goal that is connected to how the aliens only want to be able to go back to their home planet (Sociology, 2008). Stereotypes cover up a race’s true and pure goals. Many members of a specific race only seek out benevolent goals, and due to racial stereotypes, others do not see that they are aiming towards this goal type.
Instead, they wrongly accuse all members of a race to be malevolent. The effects of Marxism shine artfully through the storyline of the film District 9, as evidenced by the commodification of the main character Wikus Van De Merwe and the overall value system created by the human occupants of Johannesburg (Literary Theory and Criticism, 2012). The Nigerian leader assumes that he will gain mystical powers that will cure him of his handicap, thus improving his social status, by eating Wikus’s alien arm.
He assumes he will no longer be seen as a frail man in a wheelchair but rather, he will receive a greater respect from the population, as well as increase his intimidation of the masses through his ability to operate the alien weaponry thus making him more feared and powerful. Configurations of power informing the construction of the order of being are therefore central to the constitution of humans in District 9 (Literary Theory and Criticism, 2012).
Sexuality also falls prey to this commoditized society that is depicted in Johannesburg (Literary Theory and Criticism, 2012). Interspecies prostitution is described as one of the crimes within the slum. Assumedly this labor of prostitution is only done because the women that are providing the service have no other abilities or skills that are valued by the society that they are in. Having no other option, these women rely on the only thing valued, their sexuality, to gain payment from the aliens.
The strongest evidence presented in the film for commodification is the character Wikus who becomes infected with the alien technology and biologically transforming into an alien, allowing him to activate alien weaponry (Literary Theory and Criticism, 2012). When he escapes he becomes a target and is subjected to the same forced exclusion imposed by humans against aliens who are perceived as antithetical to the social norms in which humans live.
He is hunted for his powers, and he is therefore not human and not alien. This in itself brings out the aspect of mixed race, that those who are of mixed race are viewed differently from others. However, by saving Wikus, Johnson’s son destroys the boundary between human and alien constructed by human society, to introduce a conception of humanity that is inclusive. As Wikus is about to be killed by a member of the MNU squad, aliens appear from the surrounding slums and dismember the mercenary.
Comparably, his allegiance to the alien group is recognized which triggers loyalty within the community despite his previous culpability in their treatment as non-human. He completes his transformation into an alien, unable to return to the human world. The film’s themes of newcomers and danger, prejudice and difference, and identification with the aliens are key sociological issues, but also themes that we encounter in our daily life. These parallels between District 9 and real life are prime examples of how racial discrimination is, and was present in society, and how it can surface again.
The discrimination may not be against something as fantastical as an alien species, but it can easily resurface against a race that has been discriminated against once before, or even get worse for a race that is discriminated against in our modern day world.
“Apartheid in South Africa. ” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Apr. 2012. Web. <http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Apartheid_in_South_Africa>. District 9. Dir. Neill Blomkamp. Sony, 2009. DVD. Furze, Brian. “Race and Ethnicity. ” Sociology in Today’s World. South Melbourne, Vic. : Cengage Learning Australia, 2008. 337. Print.
Moses, Michael Valdez , Graham, Lucy Valerie , Marx, John , Gaylard, Gerald , Goodman, Ralph and Helgesson, Stefan. “District 9: A Roundtable”, Safundi, Michael Moses Feb 1, 2010 11: 1, 155 — 175 Book on Web. Sarah. “Literary Theory and Criticism: Marxist Critique of District 9. ” N. p. , 30 Jan. 2012. Web. <http://engl333groupblog. blogspot. com/2012/01/marxist-critique-of-district- 9. html>. Smith, David. “District 9: South Africa and Apartheid Come to the Movies. ” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 20 Aug. 2009. Web. 03 Dec. 2012. <http://www. guardian. co. uk/film/2009/aug/20/district-9-south-africa-apartheid>.