Conservative Critic Rejects District 9's 'Agitprop,' White Guilt
Big Hollywood's new District 9 review comes awfully close to defying the site's status as an essential right-wing organ for creative contrarianism. For a while, the critic seems to have even liked Neill Blomkamp's sci-fi stunner, praising the director's action chops and lead actor Sharlto Copley's "multilayered, star-making role." But! Is it good for the conservatives? Naturally, that's where things start to go ideologically haywire.
To be fair, Carl Kozlowski seems just as bothered by the ideas that a mother ship would float in place for three decades ("There's also a little thing on earth called gravity," he writes, making him perhaps the first conservative to invoke the tenets of science as a reality check), or that the human and alien races sharing a divided Johannesburg, South Africa, can understand each others' languages. But it's the race-baiting grand finale that packs the most disturbing heft:
[T]he film is attempting to score points off apartheid - a policy that was eradicated by South Africans in 1994, a full 15 years ago. The aliens are dark-skinned, and all the humans pursuing them are white, despite the fact that the government and all levels of society have been integrated or even overwhelmingly black for the past decade and a half. But since this is a movie that has to push an agenda, the aliens (blacks) wind up far more sympathetic than the white humans chasing them.
This might have been brilliant 20 years ago, as a piece of agitprop designed to stir the masses against the elitist white power structure. But coming so late in the game, District 9 is like an over-decorated yet forgettable Christmas present: attractive on the surface but extremely disappointing within.
Actually, the "humans chasing them" happen to be an ethnically integrated force, so that's factually incorrect. Also, the aliens don't have dark "skin" as much as they have shells. Moreover, Kozlowski might want to ask Blomkamp -- a Johannesburg native -- just how "late in the game" District 9 actually does come. Movieline certainly did. "I wanted it to primarily be something [...] unusual and compelling, and then after that, you can start weaving in the fabric of apartheid and South African history into it," he told us, later adding:
"You said future dystopia, but that is Johannesburg. The only difference is that there's a spaceship there, but if you throw the spaceship out, that's Johannesburg. It's gated communities and biometric thumb-readers if you want to get in. The rich live here and the masses of impoverished people live there. It is science fiction -- a city of science fiction."
Beyond that, though, did Kozlowski just say what I think he said? That blacks and whites in South Africa deserve equal "sympathy" on the mere basis of a political change 15 years ago? Or that South African blacks -- 27.9 percent of whom are unemployed, nearly seven times the rate of jobless whites according to recent government statistics -- aren't at the type of social disadvantage alluded to allegorically in District 9? Were centuries of social order reversed in the time since Blomkamp relocated to Vancouver 11 years ago? I'm sure both he and Sony would want to know in case they have any designs on a sequel.
· Review: 'District 9'-An Alien Internment Camp? [Big Hollywood]