Sunday, April 3, 2011

District 9 (2009)

I found this South African sci-fi picture to be a rare combination of ideas, action, pathos, and thrills. Subsequent viewings haven't changed my opinion at all on that score (minor plotholes aside); it delivers in a way few films of its type ever have. Know what else is pretty rare about District 9? It breaches the subject of humans and aliens having sex. If you think about it, absent Earth Man and Space Girl Captain Kirk-type relationships, humans and (non human-looking) aliens almost never get it on in sci-fi movies, presumably because it would squick most people out.

Notice that, even in Avatar (which also came out in 2009, and has since inspired more than its fair share of slash fiction and porny cartoons on the internet), the sex depicted is still strictly Na'vi on Na'vi. It only seems like it's inter-species because one of those alien bodies had a human 'mind' inside doing the thinking for it. The hero's permanent adoption of Na'vi form at the film's conclusion ensures ten foot tall Neytiri will never have to contend with Jake's tiny human penis and no actual real human-alien sex will ever be happening.

District 9, on the other hand, depicts a world in which we are told horny alien "prawns" engage in some kind of sex with female Nigerian prostitutes, presumably in exchange for alien weaponry. Does this mean handjobs? Fellatio? Around the world? Do the aliens get erections? We do see one urinating. The mind of the viewer must fill in the blanks for themselves as we never do see any S-E-X happen onscreen.

Such a relaxed attitude towards alien-human nookie seems to apply strictly to human women however (and will any human women really be surprised to hear that?). When the government makes Wikus (the films' protagonist) a fugitive, the first thing they do is have the media inform the populace that Wikus has been buggering "prawns", has contacted an "alien sexual disease", and can infect others up to 20M away. Why, they even mock-up a picture of Wikus in flagrante delicto!

It's not just those outside the camp who are amazed and disgusted by the idea that Wikus has been having sex with aliens though. When he attempts to buy weapons from Nigerian gangsters (the guys controlling the alien-human prostitution, remember), the man he approaches is interested only in Wikus' dirty laundry; "how did you do this one, my man", he marvels, holding up the offending image in a magazine, "doggy style with a demon. You're one brave white man. Were you wearing a condom?"

The film plays with our ideas of what is normal, abnormal, right or wrong. As Wikus changes physically, he undergoes a mental change as well, coming to view the "prawns" as (at least including) intelligent individuals of worth, while MNU, the company he previously worked for, are revealed as the real villains in the situation.

Is the greater perversion human-alien sex, Wikus' transformation, his integration into the alien community, the aliens themselves? -- or is it isolation and containment, aborting fetuses en masse with a flamethrower, indiscriminate slaughter, and the sort of human experiments that cause "prawn" Christopher Johnson to pause and lower his weapon in shocked disbelief?


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