I saw the movie District 9, and will be talking about it in this post so there will be SPOILERS, in this post. If you don’t want the movie plot to be revealed before you see it, then do not read this post.
Spoilers starting now:
It took me some time to process District 9, because the movie itself was not what I expected it to be. Yes, there were aliens, Yes, there was a giant spaceship, Yes, there was a colony that was misunderstood by humans. I saw all that in the previews, and expected that. What I didn’t expect, was that the aliens are not the main characters or antagonist (villains), they just are. They are an assumed situation in the film, and you learn about it a bit, but there is a lot of mystery surrounding them. The humans also, are not the main characters. They just are, in Johannesburg South Africa, and they interact with the colony as any group of humans would to an unknown group of foreigners who have taken up refuge without choice outside an already inhabited area. There is conflict. No, the main character ends up being a bumbling, unintelligent, selfish, unassuming character who is hired as a mediator (or instigator) between a Large Corperation interested in exploiting Alien Weaponry under the guise of “helping” the foreigners. He is not wise enough to know that he is hurting the aliens and amusing himself at their expense, as he goes through the camp and tries to get them to sign a legal document that “evicts” them from the shacks they inhabit and will allow the Corperation to move them to a Concentration Camp 10 miles further away (and without as much media accountability – basically, a Guantanamo Bay situation).
If you don’t understand anything I just said, watch the movie and return, because I’m going to make some observations about the movie that many will think are Too Deep, but that I feel are valid. Feel free to discuss, tear me apart, or affirm my thoughts. For your perspective, I am both a social justice advocate and theologian at the same time, and I think the two actually are intertwined and spring from one another. Here are my observations:
(1) The perspective of this film is very current, in the sense that today, all the injustices that occurred at the beginning of mankind (though somewhat mediated through accountability and philanthropy/human morality), are still present in today’s world. These evils occur most readily and areas that the developed world ignores in its media because the sight is too overpowering for the ordinary person, and would distract from the day to day functioning of the developed world itself. Not only this, but in our developed world, small injustices occur every day as ordinary people do not care for one another.
(2) The perspective in this film is very biblical, in the sense that the Bible of Judaism and in addition, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, are both very interested in Social Justice due to the Image of God in every human being – humans have worth. For the purpose of this film (and since we have not met any alien lifeforms yet), the alien creature serves as a metaphor for ANY alien presence in our midst, and so it has a dimension of learning for us that transcends the Sci Fi genre. The aliens are creatures, and so, are created, thus, are also part of the Imago Dei (In God’s Image) paradigm. The thrust of the plot evokes very basic human problems, which have been evident in human society since the very first act of evil, from murder to human exploitation in slavery and forced ignorance. So our current situation, the Bible, and District 9 are concerned with the same problems.
(3) The correlation between Our Time, The Biblical History, and District 9’s plot have a simlar rising tension that we need to recognize. In the movie, you see the problem in little bits at first. The aliens are living in abject poverty, people don’t like them, and misinterpretations arise about them that create tension. They become less than valuable as persons, and so eventually the larger society decides that whatever they wish to do to the aliens is alright. Just maintain a semblance of civility in the media, and no one cares if secret facilities do horrifying experiments or use the aliens for their technology. This is analogous to the story of the Hebrews, who in Egypt multiplied and prospered but lived off to the side in Goshen, away from the main population. Eventually, a resentful Pharoah placed their labor under his thumb and before long, millions of people were in slavery. That labor became a right of the Pharoah and his people, and the slavery became worse as the labor was expected and human worth became less than that of a machine. They were only worth what they could do. Eventually, after human arrogance became intolerable, God’s anger swept across Egypt under the face of Moses and his staff, and the Hebrews left to go to the promised land a generation later. Egypt would never be as glorious as it once was after its decision to place other humans under its thumb like bugs. Now look at today, as District 9 is pulling out – how many injustices are being performed in places the media is not recognizing? How many millions are in sexual slavery, and being used for their services rather than being allowed to contribute to the world in their own way? How many wars are fought to exterminate one tribe, or one ethnic group, or to take the resources (land, water, ports, people) from another in cold calculations that devalue human worth. All these things are the same at the beginning, today, and in District 9.
(4) The main character, the bumbling human that accidentally takes on the DNA of the alien and begins a transformation process to the other side, becomes the Moses like Mediator for the Aliens. He is an unwitting Christ figure, because he is one from the Human side that begins to incarnate into the form of the other species. He takes on the oppression that the aliens face because he is the only mixed man/alien. He is shot at, experimented on, beaten and crushed. And slowly he realizes in his interactions with the alien species, that they have their own culture, and their vulgar living styles are merely reactions to a harsh and unfamiliar environment surrounded by people who don’t want to help. The Man/Alien mediator walks among them, at first as a selfish man, but later sacrifices his own humanness to allow an alien to go back to his homeworld to get help for his impoverished and oppressed brothers (and sisters? – I think they are androgenous). That is the high point of the film.
(5) This movie is about how the tension breaks into a Holy Rage, as the mediator (unable to stop the evils of the perverted militia/army men), begins to cleanse District 9 through what can only be described as a slaughter. This is reminiscent of the cleansing of the Holy Land under the Biblical figure of Joshua. In District 9, we see a personal Holy War waged by a man/alien mediator that does not know of any other option. It is a fanatical option, but those who do evil are trapped in their decisions and love of destroying others. They cannot see the worth of another being, and so the Man/Alien literally destroys their physical being. They are judged physically for their evil. At least that is what the movie presents visually.
In my final thought, I have to say, that the vulgarities of this movie rang true. It was gritty, it was sarcastic, but it rang true in many ways. The violence was intense, and I don’t recommend this for young viewers without an adult who has already screened it and decides whether a young person can handle it and process it afterwards. But there is truth here that needs to be dealt with. Should we let evils like what happened in District 9 (or in many corners of the world today) go so far in darkness that a judgment of force and violence becomes necessary. If each human on earth made it their perogative to value human (or sentient life in District 9) as much as is valued in the Scriptures as Created Beings of God (see Genesis chapters 1-2), then such evils would be less frequent, and would not get to the level we see in this movie. These are my thoughts, and I will continue to process it as I learn to help and love others in my own life through social justice work around the world and in my own neighborhood. Have I gone too far, or does this make sense?