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District 9, Essay Example

Pages: 2

Words: 610

Essay

District 9 is a 2009 South African science fiction film that depicts the conflicts that arise when a group of extraterrestrials are stranded on Earth, specifically in Johannesburg, South Africa.  While the film is a work of fiction, it highlights some very important sociological concepts such as social stratification and racism, both of which have been major issues in South Africa’s history.

District 9 prominently highlights how social stratification influences how humans view and interact with the extraterrestrials.  “Social stratificiation is a system in which groups of people are divided into layers according to their relative power, property, and prestige” (Henslin 166).  In the film, the best example of social stratification can be seen in the relationship between humans and extraterrestrials.  For example, the extraterrestrials are considered to be at the bottom of the social hierarchy.  In a way, the manner in which society distinguishes humans from extraterrestrials is a form of apartheid.  The extraterrestrials are not allowed to be part of society because of their species/race.  Additionally, because of the difference in species/race, these extraterrestrials are not allowed to be members of society, but rather are forced to live in designated government camps called districts.  Moreover, these districts are not maintained as other parts of the city are, but rather are slums.  The extraterrestrials are not given any opportunity to move up within the social hierarchy and are deliberately discriminated against.  In the film, the government is highly influential in the formation of this social hierarchy.  Through legal ordinances, the government has determined where extraterrestrials can live, where they are allowed to congregate around, and if they are allowed to take public transportation.  Because the government determines these parameters and others, this social stratification is institutionalized, much like apartheid was. Regarding property, the extraterrestrials are without property of any kind; they are forced to live in slums and not given the opportunity to own anything besides what they can manage to scavenge from what is thrown away by humans.  Lastly, the extraterrestrials are considered to be beneath humans in terms of prestige.  The humans consider themselves to be better than the extraterrestrials simply because they are human.

Another important issue prominent in District 9 is racism, or rather, speciesism.  Race can be defined as “a group of people with inherited physical characteristics that distinguish it from another group” (222).  In District 9 discrimination is based on species.  Either an individual is a human or they are an extraterrestrial. There are several ways in which this discrimination impacts the extraterrestrials.  As stated previously, the extraterrestrials are forced to live in districts that segregate them from human society.  Moreover, humans often refer to the extraterrestrials as “prawns,” which further reinforces the contention that humans discriminate against them because they are of a different species.  In District 9, it can be argued that much of this racism/speciesism is based on stereotype driven fear.  Because no one has ever interacted with an actual extraterrestrial and the only interaction between human and extraterrestrial people have ever been exposed to is found in works of fiction, it is likely that the people of Johannesburg considered extraterrestrials to be a threat to them based on their assumptions of what aliens are like based on how they are portrayed on television and in films.

In District 9, social stratification and racism/speciesism are highlighted through the relationship humans and extraterrestrials are forced to maintain. While District 9 may highlight how humans may react to an extraterrestrial “infestation,” it also serves to remind people of how apartheid and other forms of institutionalized racism have impacted the world.

Works Cited

Henslin, James M. Essentials of Sociology: A Down-To-Earth Approach. New York: Pearson, 2010. Print.

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