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University of Southern California District 9 A Science Fiction Movie Essay

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Word Count: 200 I watched District 9, which takes place in South Africa, so immediately you saw the disheveled environment these people lived in. There are fences up with old run down buildings that look like they are about to fall apart. The goal is to eliminate all the prawns because they are seen as “bottom feeders” and live in the dumps. This discrimination comes with violence towards the prawns, especially in the scene when Wikus and his team find a breeding house, where the prawns are eating a decomposing cow. They light the place on fire and laugh as they hear the “popping sounds” of the prawns dying. This is how they cleanse the area of prawns and can be linked to what we would call genocide. Wikus stumbles upon an alien plot and is exposed to a liquid that starts to turn him into a prawn. The tables have turned as he soon starts to feel a connection to the prawns and the part of him that was once full of racial prejudice dies. He fully becomes a prawn and becomes loyal to them, by killing other humans. This shows the prawns he has no allegiance to the human world anymore. WC: 209 In the film District 9, the lead actor playing the part of Wikus is tasked with serving eviction notices to refugee extraterrestrials (labeled as “Prawns”) in 1980s South Africa. This film follows Wikus on his journey after being exposed to a biologically engineered black serum; slowly he transforms into the extraterrestrials that he and the rest of humanity have grown increasingly impatient with. This film is particularly interesting to analyze for prejudice because the perspective of Wikus changes from the oppressor to the oppressed as the film progresses. As Wikus becomes increasingly infected with the Prawn mystery liquid, the government attempts to harvest his body for medical experimentation; he escapes, but is forced to hide out in the slums created by the Prawns. Here Wikus confronts the creator of the serum and comes to common understanding with the Prawns. This is the final perceptual shift in the film for Wikus as he comes to confront his prejudice towards the Prawns head on. The local gangs would harass and dehumanize infected Wikus and ultimately in an attempt to help his newfound allies he turned on his own species. Changing almost entirely into a Prawn, we see an entire shift of perspective of the lead role from the oppressor to oppressed. I chose to analyze District 9. Sharlto Copley, who plays the lead role of Wikus Van de Merwe, evolves a myriad of attitudes towards prejudice throughout the film. Prior to his transformation, when Wikus is a field operative giving eviction notices to the aliens, he speaks extremely belittling to them and sees them as inferior. Copley’s performance involved cynical laughter and derogatory language, and showed Wikus’ blatant inhumanity. Perhaps most striking of Copley’s initial performance was when Wikus forcibly removed an alien embryo from its nutrient sources, causing the baby to scream in suffering, while Wikus simply laughed and jeered. This act demonstrated that Wikus simply didn’t care for the aliens’ injustice, as he was on the winning side. Once Wikus began his transformation and was forced to flee to District 9, Copley began changing his demeanor drastically. Another crucial act performed was when Wikus attempted to sever his alien hand. Wikus severed a finger, but could not proceed with the whole arm, as the pain was too great; Wikus was so disgusted with turning into an alien that he could not accept himself and viewed himself as lesser. Copley did a fantastic job with manic screams and crying as Wikus battled with his identity crisis. This performance was one of the most significant because it demonstrated that Wikus still felt pain and emotion despite turning completely non-human at the end of the film.
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