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07 September 2009 @ 02:02 pm
A Rec & Musings on Distrct 9  
The other night I read Memory Shines Like Teeth and Moonlight by lynnenne and kita0610 and it was incredible. I don't read much Spike/Angel, but I would if they were always written the way they were in this fic. It's lyrical, chock full of emotion, so true to character that I feel comfortable saying this is my Spike and Angel, and actually made me think of not only what I was learning about the characters, but also my own romantic relationships. There was something very true and human about what was being said in that fic and think in part it is this - we are the sum of our pasts. It's what leads us to our present and everything that came before is not invalidated in deference to the Now. We love currently, we loved then, and we love others and there's nothing wrong with that. It was beautiful, heart felt, and satisfying because it explains us as much as it explains them. Go leave the girls some love. They deserve it.

I'm not all that great at being uber analytical in posts, but District 9 was one damn fine sci-fi movie. Probably the best thing I've seen since Star Trek in May. What worked so well here was it stayed true to the heart of classic sci-fi - take a fantastic event and explore what the real world reaction to it would be while revealing integral elements of the human condition. A number of recent movies have taken the idea of documentary style footage and ran with it, including Cloverfield (which I hated!), but this one does it so flawlessly - security camera footage, news reels, interviews with experts and family, and field footage. And I believed every second of it - If aliens descended from the sky we'd round them up, put them into a ghetto, treat them as a disenfranchised minority, experiment on them and exploit their limited resources and technology. It dealt with human rights, weapons trafficking, morality, the sketchineses of the government, abuses of power - pretty much the works. 

However, I did have a quibble with this very enjoyable, suspense/action packed sci-fi movie. Why did the alien hero have to be male? The aliens are portrayed as genderless insectizoid type creatures with relatively little knowledge of how to navigate their situation or the legal processses that are imposed on them by a government task force in charge of overseeing the slum they're confined to. I assumed at the start of the film that the aliens didn't really have genders since gender pronouns were never used to describe them and they don't have any obvious defining external sex traits. The government types mostly just shout "You! or "Disgusting prawn!" and things like that, which worked for me. We are introduced early on to the main alien character as one that is quite intelligent, but also is actively parenting a young offspring. The child is even used as collateral to try and blackmail the alien into complying with government demands. This parental relationship automatically caused me to assume that if the alien had to have a gender it must have been female, since it was the sole parent of this kid. Again, this is me imposing my own cultural assumptions about gender and parenting onto an alien species that might have no bearing at all to our own customs. And yet, imagine my surprise when it is later revealed that the alien is in fact male and that his name is Christopher. The human hero of the film refers to him in this way and the wee kiddo keeps calling Christopher "Father." 

The movie then goes on to have Human Guy and Christopher join forces in an uneasy alliance to meet both their individual goals. Christopher is shown to be competant, compassionate, loyal, a dedicated parent, brave and interested in bettering the lives of his species. All "heroic" attributes, but not traits that need be necessarily male. When I asked Gus about the gender question he said, "Well, if the alien had been female than the Bromance factor would have been eliminated." Two male characters from different species join forces to save the day. Okay. I get the bromance thing. But what would have been problematic about Christopher having been female, a caretaker and also a kick ass motherfucker who saves the day? Gus said, "Well, then it would have been some weird interspecies romance." Why? Because there's a male and female? Do movies with male and female charcters automatically have to have some sort of romantic connection? Given the nature of the movie where the Other is a whole different freakin' species, would the gender have made any difference? Apparently, the connotations that gender bring to bear would have changed  the dynamic of the protagonists according to Gus. Huh. Pretty fucking unfair, don't you think? I would have loved to have seen a Mama Alien whooping ass and taking names. I'm not really sure what my point is aside to say "That's bullshit. Why couldn't it have been female." 

Have any of you seen a movie before where gender somehow gets in the way of the character dynamic? Are there any movies where men and women don't pair off, but are portrayed as equals or partners? Am I just crazy for wanting a kickass female alien? 
 
 
 
Barbrahirah on September 7th, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC)
Apparently there was some backstory that got cut out of the movie - the aliens were a hive culture, and their queen had been killed, which was why they were just milling around in confusion and letting humans round them up.
ClawofCat: huhclawofcat on September 7th, 2009 08:33 pm (UTC)
Thanks for chiming in!

Hm. That explains some of their behavior, but how do they procreate if their queen is dead? There must be other female aliens running about since they still are laying eggs (that whole "abortion" scene was horrible) and their population practically doubles by the end of the movie.

There was also that little part of me wondering how it was possible that Christopher was the only dude in that berg that knew how to fly the dang shuttle.

I now have to go in search of District 9 LJ communities!
Barbrahirah on September 7th, 2009 08:41 pm (UTC)
Damifino. I think a lot of times people who are writing social allegorical stories don't bother with such picayune details as creating a logical, workable biology for their aliens. (I've been really wavering on going to see this one, as I've heard very mixed reviews, ranging from OMG INSIGHTFUL to RACIST/SEXIST POS!)
ClawofCat: CoC spike profileclawofcat on September 7th, 2009 10:04 pm (UTC)
Oh, woops. I assumed you saw it. Sorry for the ramble about details you clearly don't have the answers to!

As for seeing it, my vote is go for it. Unlike you though, I didn't have any expectations going in, so that will no doubt color your viewing if you do decide to take the plunge. Despite any distasteful content, and there certainly is some, it's a well written screenplay, has great special effects, characters you root for and don't necessarily fill the typical tropes of "hero" (Human Guy definately is a shady dude) and certainly got me thinking about some of the issues presented in the scope of the story. I also found it refreshing that the movie doesn't take place in the US and (I think) all of the actors are South African and Nigerian.
slaymesoftlyslaymesoftly on September 7th, 2009 09:32 pm (UTC)
I bookmarked it for later. Nag me every once in while about whether or not I've remembered to take a look at it, will you?
ClawofCat: knowing faceclawofcat on September 7th, 2009 10:06 pm (UTC)
Sure thing!
Sevvysevvy_o on September 7th, 2009 10:12 pm (UTC)
Oooh I really wanted to see District 9!! But Scott wanted to see Inglourious Basterds more so we saw that instead. lol
ClawofCat: buffy pensiveclawofcat on September 7th, 2009 10:54 pm (UTC)
How was Inglorious Bastards? That's on my to-see list. My mom wouldn't stop raving about great it was.
Sevvysevvy_o on September 7th, 2009 11:58 pm (UTC)
Really good! I went in not wanting to see it so I was really impressed. =)
hello_spikeyhello_spikey on September 8th, 2009 04:29 pm (UTC)
My reading of the picture was that the aliens did NOT have human gender, but the male was being used as neuter. *shrug* In which case Christopher WAS female. And Male. And Mother and Father. In absence of any prawns being referred to as "she" - at ALL - I stick by that reading.

Of course I agree with you on the gender question - I don't think it should have mattered if Christopher was called "he" or "She". It could never have been a romance between them - Because Vikus is in love with his wife! DUH!

Honestly, the only movie with a kick-butt female who has no romance is Alien. That's it. *bitches and moans*

I have a whole side-rant on how This Is Why Female Super Hero Movies Suck.(TM) - the writers can't seem to get over the main characters FEMALENESS. It has to be an overt ISSUE, and the issue has to be how she relates to men. /rant
ClawofCat: hotchicksclawofcat on September 9th, 2009 02:40 pm (UTC)
My reading of the picture was that the aliens did NOT have human gender, but the male was being used as neuter.
That makes total sense, but it still annoyed me that male was being used. *harumph* I guess it "simplifies" things. It would have been awkward English for the kiddo to have gone around yelling "Parent!" all the time. But I do think they could have avoided using gender prnouns at all. Most of the scenes Christopher was in were solely with Wikus, so referring to each other by name wasn't really necessary. And when the government lackies were involved they could have fallen back on prawn. Not like my opinion mattered or was factored in to the screenwriters process. I'm sure it didn't even occur to them.

the only movie with a kick-butt female who has no romance is Alien. That's it.
There's also Terminator II. At that point, Sarah Connor no longer has a love interest. She's just crazy and badass to the max. I always get this weird feeling of excitment whenever I see her busting kneecaps with a nightstick :D

It has to be an overt ISSUE
I know! Well, hopefully sometime soon an enterprising female film maker will come along and do female heroes justice.
KSena: Xena Thoughtful by nokitas@aube_des_artskseenaa on September 9th, 2009 08:38 am (UTC)
And thats why I love Xena. :-D *grin*
ClawofCat: Buffy stake raisedclawofcat on September 9th, 2009 02:42 pm (UTC)
Heh. You know, I've never actually watched Xena. I think I was too little to really be interested in it when it originally aired. Funny enough, Gus loves Xena and has, like, all the DVDs. Maybe we should watch a few eps together.
KSena: Xena sexing up Gabs by somewhat_lost_2kseenaa on September 9th, 2009 06:55 pm (UTC)
I think you should. :-) It is a lot of fun, and don't take itself seriously at all. ;-)
servus_a_manu: Angelservus_a_manu on September 9th, 2009 12:46 pm (UTC)
I love Spike/Angel fic that gets a rec from someone I trust. I'm not much of a slasher, so I need a really emotional story to get me behind the "pairing", though I do readily concede that there is a whole bunch of relationship subtext in canon to mine. I bookmarked it, since my writing class is kicking my ass right (or write!) now. Evidently my instructor is a psychologist by trade and all of our academic papers are centered around personal, touchy-feely subjects. I'd like to touchy-feely him in the head with a baseball bat. Anyway, switching over to a word file now... great to hear your thoughts, as always!
ClawofCat: fangel wisdomclawofcat on September 9th, 2009 03:00 pm (UTC)
You know, I can really get behind the idea of Spike/Angel. Unlike 'shippers, I don't think they were banging during the series, but I'm sure they did in the past and I could see them pursuing at least a physical relationship in the future. But the pairing is often written so abismally (Spuffy, too) that I readily pass it by. However, I will always read girlpire's Spangel or anything of hers, really. If I had to point to a writer and say, "I want to be like X," it would definately be her. Hence, my rec of "Friday" to you. I also understand that kita0610 and lynnenne (formally lynnenne) are the iconic Spangel writers. They are like the Herself and Eurydice of Spangel fandom, so naturally the writing is wonderful and I've been really into what I've read by them. Lynnenne did this really gorgeous post-NFA Buffy/Angel/Riley fic. When I'm back at home, I'll drop a link. Weird pairing, but she made it work so well.

I'd like to touchy-feely him in the head with a baseball bat.
LOL! Sorry that the prof is pushing you to places you're not really comfortable going. That can, occasionally, be really great though. I remember I was taking a class called "Anthropology of Disaster" - incidentally, my prof also worked in the field of psychology and therapy - and I had to write this comparitive paper on Titanic and 9/11 as seminal NY disasters and how the ripples of their effects were felt in various media forms, including newspapers and movies. Now I lived in NYC during 9/11 and this was a really emotional subject for me and I can remember crying writing this paper and watching United 93. It was intense. My thesis also had to do with 9/11 and I was reading a book about spontaneous memorials and I actually read about a memorial in my neighborhood for a kid that I went to elementary school with and again I totally burst into tears. But it turned out that they were both pretty decent pieces of writing. So you never know. Maybe your prof is getting you exactly where you need to go to get the best product out of you.