Saturday, August 22, 2009

District 9 is Ghetto

District 9 is Ghetto:
South Africa or South Central?

Paul Scott

Picture this. A giant alien hooptie space ship with 24 inch rims and fuzzy dice on the mirror pumpin' Snoop Dog runs out of gas over a quiet Los Angeles neighborhood . With no where else to go, the alien gangsta's take up residence in the quiet manicured lawn community, quickly turning it into a 'hood. Eventually, the aliens are forced to go live in the projects surrounded by the usual black steel fence.

OK, that's what I got out of District 9, anyway.

The movie about unwanted aliens (from outer space, not across the border) landing over Johannesburg has already drawn comparisons to South African apartheid but I saw it more about the hoods in America.

Of course, initially, the apartheid connection was obvious, however, there were several things that made my mind drift from Africa to across the Atlantic to America.

First, the Africans under Apartheid were not the invaders, they were the invaded. (Check out Basil Davidson's chapters on South Africa in his book, "Africa in History") Also, with the bumpin' Hip Hop soundtrack, the movie was too modern to really be about Apartheid.

So, I saw more South Central LA instead of South Africa.

The movie had all the makings of a classic early 90's gangsta flick. You had the assault rifles , the pimps and prostitutes and gang graffiti. You even had crack in the form of cat food. One alien even wore a baseball cap cocked to the side. Not to mention you had the Po Po arresting brothers (I mean aliens) and given them Rodney King styled beat downs.

It must be noted that fellow ghetto residents, "the Nigerians," believed that by "eating" alien skin it would cure such ills as "high blood pressure" and diabetes; diseases which are prevalent in the African American community. This is kind of like the widespread belief held by many black folks that the biggest problem facing the "inner city" is gang warfare and if gangs were eliminated, then all black societal ills would automatically disappear.

The white hero of the story, Wikus Van der Merwe, who, by way of infection, was slowly transforming into an alien added an interesting dimension to the story serving as a reluctant abolitionist. I saw this a metaphor for white fascination with "gangsta chic" and the concern of white parents that Hip Hop music is the reason that Little Bobby got caught smoking "the chronic" in the school bathroom.

Although, the Van Der Merwe transformation was done by a genetic experiment courtesy of government or corporate entities, for propaganda purposes, the media (Fox News) reported that he contracted a disease by having sex with alien women.

Translation. He got exposed to "gangsta rap" and started acting "black." Kinda like one of the Jonas Brother suddenly becoming Eminem.

The final scene really divorced the movie from apartheid, as the alien liberator "Chris" jump started the "mother ship" for the purpose of securing help to take his people back home.

Those who are students of black nationalism are aware that this was the theme of several African American movements ranging from Marcus Garvey's UNIA to the Nation of Islam's theology of the "mother ship." (Not to mention a running theme of George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic, whose sound was heavily sampled by early West Coast rappers.)

This was quite different than apartheid, as the Africans were fighting for control of their own country as they were already, "home."

After viewing the movie I was left unsure if it e was about improving race relations or the white paranoia over the cultural amalgamation.

You tell me....

Paul Scott writes for No Warning Shots He can be reached at (919) 451-8283.