OK, I guess I hit a nerve in another thread by saying that District 9 has some racist stuff in it, and that the ignorant monkey ghetto-bots in Transformers 2 weren't actually racist. This is gonna be a long-ass post, so I apologize in advance.
First of all, I will say that I was disappointed by District 9 is a number of ways, but it has it's good points - mainly concerning Wikkus, Christopher and his son and how their relationships evolved throughout the film. I will wait until after I get the racism stuff out of the way before I go further into the film as a whole and why it bothered me a lot, but I don't hate it or anything. After having seen it a few times, I just think it could and should have explored some of the interesting culture-clash potential. The reason the film didn't actually do that, in my opinion, was because the writer wanted to put in this allegory and some neat effects stuff instead of exploring his basic concept and taking a more interesting direction.
It's an allegory for apartheid, right? The film takes the idea of segregation and removes the human element from the equation. Instead of these things being black humans, they are a really ugly alien species. Now it's not just white humans repressing black humans, it's all of humanity repressing aliens. I think that's an interesting idea, but if you look at it in a certain way, it's really sort of insulting. These aliens are described as being lazy, shiftless idiots with no direction or motivation to better their situation. They eagerly trade everything they can find for cat food, which gets them high. They go out and steal shit to trade it for
There's this one alien that seems intelligent enough, but the rest of them are a basically one step above wild animal.
Now, while I can see the parallels the film is trying to draw, where the people are making the broad generalized statements about the aliens, about how they're all stupid violent idiots who wallow in filth and have this dangerous addiction to cat food that can get out of hand, or they're these naive morons who get taken advantage of and can't help themselves because they just don't know any better, etc. Drawing a line between those aliens and black people during apartheid I feel is just a bit insulting.
You may as well just come out and say that most of the black people in south africa were crackheads who went around stealing shit to get their fix, and when they weren't doing that they were just being lazy and letting their living conditions become terrible because they didn't have anyone intelligent to tell them how to live. The thing about real racism and repression is that people who otherwise would go out and work and do the best they could to try to better themselves, support their families, etc can't do that because they are of a certain group and thus are restricted either by law or by society and that makes it very difficult for them to survive and prosper. These aliens don't really make any attempt to better their situation, and that comes off as a very unsympathetic trait to me and breaks a lot of the racism stuff going on. It turns them into a species of bums rather than a group that I can feel any empathy for.
Christopher just becomes "that one alien" who is different from the others, thus emphasizing how all the other aliens behave in basically the same manner. He's the one smart one, the one that seems to understand what's going on, the one that isn't apparently addicted to cat food, etc.
All of them are the same, except for this one. It's like the movie is just trying to tell me that because I identify only this one alien as being different from the others, that it is actually me who is the racist. Like "Oh, I hate most of them but this one guys is cool..." If I were to say that about black people it would be racist, because black people all behave differently because they're human. But saying that about these aliens seems to make sense to me, because they all actually do act the same.
In a way, the movie isn't really an allegory about racial injustice / equality so much as the film needed that sort of character arc for Wikkus. It wasn't really crucial to the plot or anything. you could have made the aliens quite happy on earth and well integrated, and just had Wikkus be the one asshole on the planet who hated them and he was the one in charge of some aspect of their society or whatever. You cook up some other insane reason for turning him into an alien and his character goes through the same sort of arc, and possibly causes everyone else to suddenly fear the aliens as well, making the event even more significant.
But, you know, it wouldn't have been as 'subtle' as making the film mimic apartheid.
I hope this all makes sense. My brain isn't very good at communicating ideas well with words.
As for Transformers 2 and it's supposed racism... Making them look like monkeys could be argued as racist ,but their behavior, on the other hand, is totally not. If they didn't behave the way they do, then would the fact that they look like monkeys even matter? If the robots were voiced by white guys who just spoke the way the average white dude speaks be racist? I mean, wouldn't that imply that white people look like monkeys? That's totally racist, right?
I never got why people consider Jar Jar to be racist, either. Is it just because they have a black dude kinda swagger and talk funny to do the voice? I mean, is there some rule that says black people aren't allowed to play dumb people in any media because it would misrepresent their race as a whole? No other race I can think of has that problem. You see white guys play morons all the time. You see mexicans play morons, you see asians play morons... but a black guy plays a dumb guy or comedy relief and it's just racist?
Don't get me wrong, there's some pretty racist shit out there in films, but the transformer twins' behavior can be found in films that have entirely black casts and were written and directed by black people. Suddenly the ignorant ghetto talk is perfectly normal and OK? I mean, it doesn't seem to bother the tons of black people who are there working on the movie, right?
I guess what I'm trying to say is that while the portrayals of the twins in T2 relies on stereotypes, you can find the same stereotypes in films that are made by black people, or for black people, or however you want to think about it. I like a lot of movies like Friday and Undercover Brother and Black Dynamite. The characters all behave in stereotypical ways and a lot of the jokes hinge on those stereotypes. I guess it's just the fact that a white guy made T2, or that the rest of the cast is largely white and they're supposed to be comedy relief, so that made it racist? Like Al Jolston making fun of black people? But if you made them human characters in a movie like Belly or Friday or Big Momma's House, they would just be another character. Hell, they'd probably seem more like straight characters when you put them next to someone like Chris Tucker or Martin Lawrence.
Anyway, blah on the racism stuff and back to District 9 and why it angers me:
See, I think the racism thing is a decent angle to take that story in, but I think they missed a whole lot of opportunities to add some depth to it. I think in the end they ultimately wanted to make it an action-type movie. If he had stuck with a more drama / suspense sort of plot he probably could have explored some really interesting things. The kids were a really good idea that they never explored. It bothered me that Christopher's kid didn't consider the planet he had been born on to be his home. Maybe as he had grown on earth he would have hit his teenage years and figured out that he'd been on Earth his whole life. May as well try to make it home, you know?
I would have liked to have seen the aliens here for a longer period of time and seen a couple of generations of aliens and their differences. You'd think the younger ones would be a lot more eager to try to integrate with the human society, and that would have probably made them a lot more sympathetic as characters than their parents.
I would have liked to have seen the story be more of a slice-of-life drama that just happened to be about a couple of aliens and maybe a couple of humans. The film as it is turns me off at the beginning because the characters are all totally lifeless, then it switches out of POV mode and Wikkus' plot takes over and it starts getting really really good, and then they start lining up action sequences for the last half hour of the film, and while there are some nice moments in those, the story went from interesting and unique with a couple of really great characters to genre-cliche predictable bullshit.
For what it's worth, tho, between when the characters stop being caricatures and archetypes up until Wikkus smacks Christopher over the head with that 2x4 in his shack... That's a pretty solid 45 minutes or so of great character building, great acting, great pace, pretty decent action with some nice little comedic bits and some nice dramatic moments with christopher. It's like this really awesome movie that's bookended by stuff I just didn't care for.
Last edited by Squiggly_P (2011-01-14 05:41:59)