Friday, August 28, 2009

District 9: Theme-Fail IN '09

First of all, let me just say that I prefer my science fiction movies not to be thematic blunt objects with which the audience is hit over the head in a darkened movie theatre.

However, if you are going to present a monolithic-theme-heavy movie (where 1 theme or a single clustered set of related themes is hurled at moviegoers like a grenade), then please don’t defeat your own themes, okay?

In District 9, one of the major themes is the notion of “demonizing the other”, where the other is represented by the aliens (prawns, mind you). This is pretty well established throughout the movie.

Unfortunately, bad script-hacking also slipped in to the mix. Enter the unrealistic and hateful representation of the Nigerians.

But it’s science fiction, you say. The filmmakers can depict any person or group any way because it’s Science Fiction.

Nope. Negative. No, they cannot and here’s why: When introduce the aliens and the MNU, these are first-order science fiction elements, because there aren’t any aliens that publicly landed in Johannesburg South Africa and the MNU would not exist but for said landing.

The Nigerians living in South Africa, on the other hand, do exist in reality. Painting them (as group) as 100% gangsterish is bad enough by itself, but to then imbue them with a cannibalistic, witchcraft-like belief system that no Nigerian in South Africa has ever been observed practicing? According to research, it’s pretty rare in Nigeria too.


Writer’s thought bubble: Inflated stereotype + bull$%#& = Great Science Fiction screenwriting

Attentive audience member’s thought bubble: Inflated stereotype + bull$%#& = Inflated bull$%#&

This smacks of an ethnocentric-xenophobic-stereotype tornado running in the mind of the writer.

Point is: If the theme of your movie is demonizing the other (x) and (x) is the focal other in your movie, then for the love of all that is thought-provokingly obvious, DON’T demonize the non-focal other (y).

[Where x is the alien race and y is the Nigerian community living in South Africa.]

I wonder if someone noticed the above on the last day in the post-production editing booth and that this is the reason for the whole “Message? No, there’s no message in District 9” song-and-dance that everybody involved in the movie is trying to sell to the media.

Putting Aliens as placeholders for black people is not a good idea at the best of times, but if you do it like the creators of District 9...Well, bad things happen on screen. For example, Aliens Christopher and son are the exceptions to otherwise destructive aliens. Counter-examples! Counter-examples! Counter-examples! Surely, we could have seen half a dozen other aliens not being destructive (even if this is just for 2 minutes of screen time)

Non-pontificating section (a.k.a. Opinion of District 9 as a Science Fiction movie):

District 9 is a ‘middle of the road’ SF movie with awful racial and ethnic (Nigerian) stereotyping: It scores a FAIL-TASTIC 4/10 on this buff’s movie-awesometer.

Neil Blomkamp, the director of District 9, seems to suffer from the Not-aware-enough-to-harvest-the-real-and-synthesize-fictional-parallels-disorder.

Can’t wait for ‘District 9: The Director’s cut.’ Now without offensive Nigerian caricatures!

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