District 9 is a
science-fiction film about an alien spaceship appearing over a town in South Africa.
The story centers on the main character Wikus and his transition from someone
in a position of power to one of the prawns themselves. Annaliza states that even though, “the events
in this story are fictional, there are harsh realities portrayed through storytelling
and analogy (Savage).” Apartheid caused great economic and political
differences between majority (whites) and minorities (blacks). This is similar
to the Jim Crow law era in America where segregation was everywhere. The
Discrimination and racism faced by the aliens in District 9 represents the racism in both South Africa after
apartheid and in America. The sign of Wikus’ actions and how it changes
represents the belief of “treat others how you want to be treated.”

            Racism in the
United States is a well-known concept. Joe states, “Since the colonization of
this country, there have always been minorities on the receiving end of racial
discrimination. Mainly against African Americans during the Civil War and the
Jim Crow periods. Discrimination against Irish immigrants during the 19th
century. Discrimination against Asian immigrants during the mid to late 19th
century (Feagin).” In District 9, the
aliens, or prawns, are treated as the lowest scum of the earth. The aliens are
bribed with cat food and forcefully relocated at the beginning of the film. They
live in a ghetto outside of the city in segregation. The denotation of these
signs are the direct effects of Apartheid and Jim Crow. Blacks were forced to
live in segregation, eat in segregation, and travel in segregation. Peaceful
protests in both South Africa and the United States were attacked with tear
gas, water cannons, and attack dogs. The aliens in the film were bribed with
cat food, and then removed with sometimes lethal force if they refused.
Although the film does dramatize some of these events, they portray the way
unwanted minorities were treated during those times.

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            The alien discrimination is a sign
of the longevity of discrimination in America and also in South Africa. In over
20 years in the film’s timeline, the condition of the aliens is horrible. A
common misconception is that discrimination ended with the death of the Jim
Crow era. The belief that Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy were
progenitors of the death of racism is exactly the reason racism slips through
the cracks today. Shaila Dewan writes, “In each of the study’s 8,000 tests, one
white and one minority tester of the same gender and aged, posing as equally
well-qualified renters or buyers, visited the same housing provider or
agent…the white tester was usually favored” (Dewan). This subdued racism is
detrimental to hardworking men and women who are just trying to make their own
version of the American Dream a reality. Dewan describes this type of racism as
“door-slamming,” an apt term for having a door slammed both literally and
figuratively on an individual or a family. Another instance of discrimination
in the current societal climate can be found with sentencing for crimes. The
U.S Sentencing Commission indicates that, “African-American men serve longer
sentences than white men for the same crime” (King). King further states, “the
racial disparity can’t be accounted for by whether an offender has a history of
violence” (King). The crime could be identical and be committed by a black or
white man. The black man would be given a longer sentence due to his race,
regardless of prior history. Historically the United States has one of the
highest incarceration rates in the world, it is not surprising why that happens
given the information from this news article. These studies show that
discrimination is not something that can be simply changed with policy. It is
often incredibly difficult to identify racism and discrimination but when it’s
identified it can be easily passed off by using excuses.            

second major sign of District 9 is Wikus’
behavior in several scenes. The first is during the eviction process. He
travels with several armed guards, air assistance and even authorizes deadly
force. His role as is one of the oppressor. He actively uses his position of
power to put down and oppress the minority and lesser race. This would
represent how Congress and big businesses operate for their own agendas and
against the greater good or the moral right. Wikus is using his position of
power to enact a policy regardless of how it is done. For him, as long as the
aliens are relocated, he has done his job. Compare this to congress, where
legislators and senators are often paid or have vested interests in certain
things that influence their decisions and votes.

A direct connotation of this behavioral sign is the
current fight for Net Neutrality. Ajit Pai, the FCC chairman, “wants to destroy
Net Neutrality” (save the internet). Net Neutrality is “legislation that
prohibits internet service providers from slowing down service or censoring content”
(save the internet). The relevancy of this sign is displayed with Ajit’s
actions. The internet is such a fundamental resource in the world, but Ajit
plans to vote to repeal Net Neutrality. He is a former Verizon lawyer with a
potentially vested interest of Verizon’s agenda. The response with the
population’s interest would be to preserve the law, but conflicting interests
allow him to enact policy regardless of the input of millions of people
nationwide. This is an example of how he uses his power to put down and oppress
a larger population from an oppressor role. It also shows how an oppressor does
not necessarily have to be part of a majority class. They just need to hold the
power to do so.

Now compare this to the later parts of the film where Wikus
is slowly turning into an alien after being sprayed with black liquid. The
aliens risk lives to help protect Wikus, even though he was one that has caused
them grief in the past. The way the alien’s treat Wikus and Wikus’ sadness of
not having an immediate cure even though his life was saved countless times by
the aliens. The actions of the aliens in this scene is a sign of treating
others how you want to be treated. Although Wilkus and his security team were
brutal in their actions in the relocation process, the aliens treated Wikus as
one of their own. Even then, Wikus still shows indignation when he finds out
the cure is not available. The scene is humbling to watch from an outsider
perspective, to see people who have been treated so poorly turn around and even
give their life for one of their wrongdoers. The aliens had every right to
leave him to be captured and experimented on, but they chose to protect him.

It is a great lesson to the viewers to treat others how
you want to be treated. Even when it how doing the right thing will often not
bring the best results. It brings strong a lesson of morals and principles into
a science fiction film. It can further be connotated as an attack on racism and
discrimination. Treating minorities such as African, Asian, and Latin Americans
with disrespect or contempt for being a minority is easy to do. When you act
with the norm, there is often little to fear in terms of repercussions. It’s
harder to be the person that objects to the norm than one that goes with it. 


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