the social progressivism of unsanitary kitchens

Last night I watched a movie called District 9, a tedious little parable about xenophobia and capitalist exploitation which portrays a bunch of aliens that look like giant cockroaches and have been shipwrecked on earth, then rounded up and forced to live in a giant shantytown outside of Johannesburg. Apart from everything else I find this element especially unconvincing, because I don’t think you exactly need barriers and armed guards to force cockroaches to inhabit slums and trash dumps. Obviously this is all supposed to evoke apartheid, but somehow it apparently never occurred to the filmmakers that anyone might find it a little bit in poor taste that they chose to have those victims of discrimination symbolically represented by giant cockroaches.

Not that I’ve heard anyone complain about this yet, but that may just be because people are still confused over just who is supposed to be representing what, since there are actually Africans shown in the movie guarding/hustling/oppressing the aliens, although for some reason they are specifically identified as “Nigerians.” I know that there is some sort of embryonic rivalry between Nigeria, as the most populous country in Africa, and South Africa, as the wealthiest, but this still counts as the most random prejudice I’ve encountered since the anti-salmon hostility of an Animal Planet special on Siberian wildlife I watched a few weeks ago in which threatening music played in the background every time there were salmon swimming onscreen and happy music whenever there was footage of bears catching and eating them.

Anyway, at one point in the thing flashing in front of my eyes last night the main character gets sprayed by alien fluid and starts transforming into an alien himself. Another alien he meets promises him that if they can get him back to the mother ship they can reverse the process and return him to the way he was before. Which made me think, being as this is supposed to symbolize crossing a racial divide in addition to, well, turning into an alien, if only Elijah Muhammad had been able to get Michael Jackson back to the Nation of Islam’s magical spaceship in time maybe so much nose cartilage would not have had to die in vain. But the whole movie is so over-wrought, when they finally get to unfurl some Method Acting, with the main character sobbing over the phone to his wife because his right hand has just turned into a giant claw, I was thinking, big deal, I’m sure Hunter S. Thompson woke up many a morning in some Las Vegas casino trying to figure out why his hand had turned into an alien claw, but he never started whining about being a victim of apartheid.

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