It’s been a while since “District 9” has been out, but a few people recently told me they found this movie “deeply disturbing”. I tried to get specifics, but no explanation I got gave me additional understanding as to the how and why they felt that way. But, it did remind me I was supposed to write about it.
I liked the movie. For one, it showed a view of the human race that closely matches my own. In case anyone is wondering, it’s not very flattering. But the movie is more than that; it is an exploration of what it means to be human. It explores the notion what makes us human is not how we look, but rather how we behave and act. In that respect, at the start of the movie the main human protagonist, Wikus, appears less human than Christopher, the main alien protagonist. By that I mean he shows little empathy, and very little compassion, even toward his fellow humans.
As the movie progresses there is an interesting juxtaposition; Wikus seems to gain “humanity”, becoming more aware of the needs of others, responding to that awareness, and doing so all the while looking less, and less human. One might hypothesize he learns how to be human from Christopher’s example, but I think that’s not the case. The movie exploits the two being’s relationship, initially showing it as mutually self-serving, and eventually ending up with Wikus selfishly taking action to help Christopher, and Christopher pledging to return and help Wikus. By the end of the movie the transformation of Wikus is complete. He has learned all about “being human” by ceasing to be human. Powerful stuff.
There are a number of interesting things with this movie leading me to some speculation. From the intro we learn the rescued aliens appear to be workers, presumed to have little to no ability to take care of themselves. One could theorize they are an indentured class of aliens with minimal education and few social skills. That would explain the reaction to finding themselves leaderless and plopped down in an alien world, unable to adapt to the rules of their human hosts, and consequently being gradually sequestered and ostracized from “civilization”. They don’t comprehend what is happening to them, and are almost child-like in their dealings with the humans.
For instance, they are unable to organize and offer a challenge, legal or by force, to the technically inferior humans. They are willing to trade weapons for food instead of leveraging their technology and knowledge for improved treatment and conditions. Then again, perhaps they really don’t know how the stuff works. Still, in contrast to Christopher, presumed to have held a position of power or leadership, they don’t exhibit even rudimentary abilities to make plans, to be concerned for the future; they are concerned with their next meal, and that’s about it. My guess is they are genetically engineered, bred for manual labor, relative docility, and servitude.
I say that because it behooves a ruling class to have a population incapable of planning, of growing beyond what they are, and dependent on said ruling class for subsistence in exchange for docile servitude. One can envision lives on their home world consisting of working, eating, watching sports, and playing with the equivalent of iPhones as the elites take care of things.
And what of these elites? Christopher is obviously technologically savvy, able to devise and execute long term plans, and to keep them hidden from their ever increasingly oppressive hosts. As a side note, it’s interesting Christopher does not attempt to organize the workers, despite possessing significant firepower only the “prawn” could activate. I think that supports my thinking about the workers; Christopher knows it would be pointless to even try.
But it’s not as if Christopher does not care for them. He is incensed when he discovers humans are performing medical experiments on his kind. And yet, even then he holds back from pulling a Rambo and wiping out all manners of humans with what appear to be very powerful weapons. His concern remains to activate the command module and get back to the ship. Only now he has an additional mission; he aims to bring help for his kind.
Here I must stress the incongruous. Presumably he is heading back to his world, and coming back with reinforcements. Yet, in all his attempts to get away, he refrains from killing and resisting the humans even as he is separated from his son. One has to wonder how he will help those he eventually leaves behind.
You want to know my guess? He is not a soldier. He is a scientist, an engineer, or perhaps a podcaster, and despite his imposing size and obvious strength, he is not predisposed to violence. But we know from the weapons this race of prawns is no stranger to warfare and armed conflict. I am guessing there is a warrior class, possibly genetically engineered for battle. And I’m further guessing the prawn, as an alien race, are far, far more technologically advanced than the soon-to-be hapless humans. Christopher speaks of returning in three years (if memory serves me correctly), and given a nominal distance from the sun to the theorized edge of the solar system of one-to-two light-years, it’s easy to deduce these so-called prawns have mastered faster-than-light travel. Not to mention they have a ship that can hover for years without a power source. They not only have FTL, but some pretty slick anti-gravity.
All in all it does not bode well for the human race . . . except I would not be surprised if the prawns are fundamentally “better-than” the humans who hosted them. After all, it was Mark Twain who once observed “Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.”