Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sci-Fi Movies Usually Have a Deeper Meaning

Dammitall, I really am a sci-fi nerd, aren't I?

I was engaged in a deep conversation last night. Well, it didn't exactly start off that way. I was asking my mother about some new video releases that she had on DVD and expressing shock at how quickly movies zip out of the theaters these days.

While I perused her videos, I noticed that she had District 9. I mentioned that I loved the movie. She looked surprised and even said, "You're kidding?" I answered that both my husband and I really liked it. She apparently didn't like it as she said I could take it home to keep.

I remarked that I had read a review on it and the reviewer simply focused on the special effects and the sci-fi aspect of the film. To me, this reviewer missed the entire point of the film and I added that I appreciated the deeper message conveyed in the film. I continued to say that it was obviously a sharp condemnation against racism in general and, since it takes place in South Africa, apartheid in particular. She replied that she "got" the message, but she thought the movie sucked. Fair enough, we typically have dissimilar taste in entertainment.

This exchange got me thinking about sci-fi. It seems to me that sci-fi often highlights what people are sometimes afraid to say about the problems of the modern time. Lest you believe that sci-fi is just about nerds with pointy ears and light sabers, I'll remind you of the many issues that sci-fi tackles: racism, criminalization of wide swaths of the population, sexism, violence, ageism, the horrors of an unchecked (& balanced!) government (including law enforcement), the evil that walks unnoticed or ignored among us, and more. You probably understand what I mean if you've spent any time at all reading or watching sci-fi.

Since I started off talking about District 9, I'll focus on racism. I think it's correct to say that racism is hateful foolishness believed and repeated by the ignorant. Ever notice how usually the most racist people are the ones who don't know a damn thing about those who they hate so much? Ever notice how hanging out with people, even people who you don't particularly know or like, often leads to mutual friendship and respect?

Putting anyone in bondage is wicked - and I'm not talking about BDSM here, folks. Subjugating others is wrong. Oppression (typically violent itself) leads to further violence and, ultimately, revolution. Given their treatment by the humans, is it any wonder that these aliens are quarrelsome, skeptical, and dissatisfied?

SPOILER ALERT: Stop reading if you haven't seen District 9 because I'm going to spoil some of it here.

In the movie, the lead character is depicted gleefully killing the unborn young of the aliens. He threatens to split up a family by removing parental custody of an alien's child. He regularly calls the aliens by a derogatory slur. Guess what? In a most satisfying turn of events, he becomes that which he despises. He ends up removed from his own family. I noticed an ultrasound picture behind his wife at one point, but there wasn't any child shown, so I'm assuming he lost his own unborn child. It really sucks when the shoe is on the other foot, doesn't it?

Though the movie is about aliens and humans, I think it's a fascinating allegory about the races. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Is that really so hard to do? We have so much more in common with each other than we have differences. I guess I'll never understand xenophobia. Vive la difference!, as our French friends would say. I agree. Don't you?

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