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District 9 is an original South African film from 2006 styled as a documentary that covers the events of Wikis Von de Mere, a member of MNU. After having been exposed to an alien chemical, he is forced to hide from MNU amongst the very creatures that he so very despises, the Prawns. An unlikely alliance forms between him and Christopher Johnson, a prawn scientist, as they team up to get help for the prawns while preventing Wikus from becoming one.

The movie is mirrors events from the South African apartheid, making it the perfect for talking about equality. The Prawns were stranded on Earth after their ship, essentially a life raft, coasts to a halt over Johannesburg. They are unwilling immigrants, but they’re society has no head and very few intelligent survivors, so no prawn is capable of speaking for the Prawns. They are forced to barter off incredible alien technologies in turn for the barest of necessities, like food. Nigerian Gangs extort the aliens, all the while big corporations like MNU treat them like pariahs. Both of them exploit the fact that the Prawns have grown addicted to cat food, charging them exorbitant prices to further their own goals.

Although it is clear that the Prawns are intelligent, most humans automatically treat them as inferior. The term “Prawn” itself is derogatory, yet it is the only term used to describe them throughout the whole movie. The term prawn means bottom-feeder or shrimp, with the connotation of something unappealing to the eye, but also useful. In other words, a prawn is an item to be exploited.

At the beginning of the movie, MNU is serving their 24 hour notice of eviction to the 1.5 million prawns in District 9. Aliens are bribed, lied to, tricked, intimidated, and threatened, all in order to serve an eviction notice that will eventually send them to a concentration camp, District 10, although it is advertised as better than District 9.

The relationship between the Negros and the Prawns and the Whites and the Humans is clear. The racism of the apartheid is portrayed through xenophobia towards actual aliens. The Negros were treated as inferior because they were presumed to be inferior and they were never really given the opportunity to prove their equal standing. Any attempt of a Negro or Prawn to stand up for themselves was struck down through law or brutality. Christopher Johnson serves as the potential of the prawn species. His intelligence, ingenuity, parenting skills, and care for his species are all reminiscent of a human being, demonstrating that equality is not what you are on the outside, but rather what you are on the inside.

The movie also presents the rights of the individual against the rights of the many. Wikus has been exposed to a chemical that is physically changing him into a prawn. However, rather than provide the best treatment possible, the head of MNU and the scientists decide to harvest his organs. This is done so that MNU would be able to use the Prawn weapons, which only respond to Prawn DNA. The simplicity with which he lost his individuality is astounding; the minute that Wikus could be monetized, he was no longer human, he was an asset that MNU viciously fights for throughout the rest of the movie.

 

-Travis

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