Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dynamic Aliens

The portrayal of aliens in District 9 is far different than in other Sci-Fi movies I have seen. Rather than depicting them as "evil" creatures, they are given many emotions that emulate a human. Many of the aliens are more kind than most of the humans, allowing the audience to feel sympathy rather than fear for the species. The aliens seem to be depicting African peoples victimized by apartheid - they are forced to live in ghettos and live menial lives, with the human race discriminating against them. After a comment that was made in class, I realized the intrigue with aliens is that we (movie makers, authors, etc) can make them anything we want. They are the unknown. Yet, there is one very definitive idea of the personality of aliens throughout many films. I think this portrayal is exceptionally interesting because it removes the stigma many movies have created for aliens in the past and gives them human characteristics.


  1. Sara, I agree with what you state, that District 9 is unlike many other science fiction films you or I have seen. What stands out about it, in my opinion, is that there is no attempt to mask the overtly social/political commentary about the not-so-distance South African past. In this sense, it is surprising to us as viewers because we are not watching a film of good human vs. bad alien. We aren’t watching a film in which the technology, intelligence, or aliens themselves are supposed to impress us; we are merely to understand the reasons for their struggle and their plight. As you say that District 9 is different than other sci-fi movies you’ve seen, I at the same time made some connections to other sci fi movies and general traits of these movies. For instance, I couldn’t help but think that the aliens of the movie were not overwhelmingly horrific/monstrous to us viewers. Perhaps at first, in the opening scenes, we are revolted, but there is so much about the aliens that is remarkably like human form. I read somewhere that the design crew for the film wanted to make the aliens look really outstanding and crazy, but they realized that audiences would not sympathize with characters who did not have some human characteristics. This is why the “prawns” have such humanlike bodies: they have faces, eyes, a torso, and 2 arms, and legs. We can better understand them I think, because our brains automatically register their human form. It’s almost like how babies recognize human faces; our brains recognize human forms- we probably would’ve have a hard time sympathizing with a creature that was not bipedal, faceless, eyeless. Think about that.

  2. I was the person in class who indicated that aliens are the unknown, we can paint aliens in any fashion we want: with respect to personality, appearance, technology and weaponry, language, and intelligence. When I watched District 9, I was therefore interested in the appearance and background of the aliens. As I state previously however, we do not learn much about the aliens, their world, their technology; that is not important. We come into the story in medias res not because we need to learn all the details, but because the overall message of the film is wrapped up in the significance of the aliens’ unfair and immoral treatment and their plight.
    In addition, I’ve read a lot of posts from the class talking about apartheid and racism in the film. Yes, the film is about apartheid. Yes, the overall message is about the evils of apartheid and racism. Yes, that is the reason it takes place in South Africa- the director is South African too. Jackson and Blomkamp make no attempts to disguise that the film is a great metaphor for apartheid (and rather a brilliant way to universally express the message- through aliens!) However, I think one can lose the overall message of the story in shallow analysis by suggesting that the movie is racist against Nigerians. If we are to learn anything about the film, it is how ANTI-APARTHEID, ANTI-RACISM it is. The gang in the film is yes, stated to be a Nigerian gang. Gangs exist in South Africa; it is part of realism, it is part of life. This film does not portray ALL Nigerians negatively, no. To suggest otherwise is to take the movie out of context and exaggerate a small detail, thereby neglecting and forfeiting the overall ANTI-RACIST message of the film. District 9 films other black South Africans, we cannot forget. They are not portrayed negatively- they are neutral- they are citizens of Johannesburg who are concerned for their safety and for the city’s future. Remember the women being interviewed about the “prawns?” What about the South African people in the fast food shop Wilkus enters? What about Wilkus’ second-in-command who in the last scenes of the film shows great heroism in trying to expose MNU’s corruption?
    Taking on the note that District 9 is racist against Nigerians is like suggesting that Scarface is racist against Puerto Ricans. When starting up a debate like that, you lose the entire purpose of the film!! While I’ve studied apartheid in classes I’ve taken on Africa, I recognize that I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of the atrocities done to black South Africans. From this film, I think we can recognize manipulation, corruption, and evil and thereby recognize how much cruelty done to the “prawns” was done to the black South Africans.

  3. Like Sara, I experienced different emotions during District 9. I think that at first, I unconsciously found myself siding with the humans in District 9, as much as I didn't want to. Like the humans, I saw the creepy looking aliens and I saw the way they lived seemingly like animals. There is something grotesque about their bodies and the way they live. As the movie progressed, I got more used to the aliens and saw how horribly they were treated. It was then the humans turn to seem grotesque, like when they have the center for examining prawn body parts, or when the Nigerians try to eat Wikus's alien arm. The movie's ability to change my perspective about the aliens and the humans shows that it is truly well-made and powerful.