Interpretation and Visualization of Apartheid in Film District 9

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Updated: Aug 18, 2023
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District 9 is a science fiction movie that narrates the story of an alien in trouble. These aliens can’t help but make Earth their refuge, though they can’t escape the war with Earth’s inhabitants. After removing the imagery and invasion of the aliens, I would prefer to discuss the setting in which the alien was isolated. Although aliens do not exist from the perspective of modern science, the phenomenon of apartheid in South Africa is exactly the same as the plot that reveals the ugly side of humanity.

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When an alien group came to Earth, they didn’t behave aggressively; they were merely seeking help. In the story, the aliens are portrayed as ugly and they consume garbage. This image reflects people’s discrimination based on appearances and stigma towards different races. The aliens, who merely lack the necessary energy and resources, brought their wisdom to earth, however, they are regarded as foolish. They use highly intelligent weapons in place of lower life-form’s food to maintain their lives.

This is an insult to these alien visitors. Cruel humans forced them into the slums, stealing their weapons while exploiting their identities. This exposes the weakness of human nature depicted in the film, which comprises of not only unfair treatment towards aliens but also greed and ambition. Therefore, this kind of ugliness is not only manifested in discrimination against foreign races, but it also exists amongst colleagues and family members. When Wikus had the genes of two species at the same time, the humans’ first reaction was to capture him alive and dissect him into multiple specimens for studying alien genetic weapon technology. However, the so-called ‘alien prawns’ trust and protect what they consider to be ‘similar’ at the cost of their own lives.

The science-fiction scenes that we see are exaggerated and cause a strong visual impact. In fact, behind that surface lies a connection to real-world phenomena. The story reflects that in 1945, a few whites practiced apartheid against a large number of blacks. Blacks faced various oppressions in the isolated zone. Poor and chaotic living environments led to a series of social issues such as illness and crime. As a result, blacks had to resort to extreme attempts to resist but were faced with even harsher repression. Black people have experienced the sufferings of apartheid and hopefully, they can obtain equal status. In the film, however, black people use violence to bully aliens, a demonstration of the flaws in humanity. In the movie, the Nigerians who live alongside the prawns have experienced apartheid from white people, yet they disenfranchise aliens who have experienced the same. This requires thoughtful consideration.

Technology continues to evolve, but the core question is whether those who rule the world will change their nature. The realization that the situation depicted in the film is manifesting in every corner of the world is sobering. What we can do is reflect on ourselves and spread positive values.

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Interpretation and Visualization of Apartheid in Film District 9. (2023, Mar 09). Retrieved from