Sunday, August 16, 2009

District 9

Today I saw "District 9," a grisly film about life twenty years after aliens land. Although the plot was rather cliche (i.e. outcast hero sacrifices himself to save his newly found friends), I appreciated the film for the two main takeaways that it gave me:

1. For me, the film acted as a case study of how badly humans react to abrupt change, new social problems, and, most importantly, major profit opportunities. In this film, the "profit opportunity" is the ability to access the power of alien weapon technology, which for some reason only works with their DNA. Corporations, governments, and warlords are all hungry for this technology, and are willing to use violence, double-dealing, or any other means necessary to get it. It's not that I see people as fundamentally evil, but I think humans are very susceptible to corruption when the stakes are that high.

2. The film reminded me that fulfillment can be found even in the most wretched conditions through self-sacrifice—and conditions don't get any worse than for Wikus van der Merwe, our hero, who finds himself a fugitive from human society after an accident causes him to begin transforming into an alien. While Wikus finds this transformation painful and miserable, vested interests around the world are exuberant, since Wikus can now access alien weapons technology. This makes him the "world's most valuable corporate artifact"; no longer human, but a prize, a resource; and to be degraded to this state is, it seems, as low as one can possibly go. Yet whether the world recognizes it or not, Wikus is able to demonstrate and assert his humanity by sacrificing himself. Even as he lays dying he is victorious knowing that he is what he thinks he is, regardless of what the world around him thinks.

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