Alien/Race. Alien Nation , 1988, Graham Baker. District 9 , 2009, Neill Blomkamp. Depicting Aliens. Many films this semester: portray Aliens and Non-Humans as monstrous or other, although some question that “otherness.” But should acknowledge films that portray “good aliens”:
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Alien/Race Alien Nation, 1988, Graham Baker District 9, 2009, Neill Blomkamp
Depicting Aliens • Many films this semester: portray Aliens and Non-Humans as monstrous or other, although some question that “otherness.” • But should acknowledge films that portray “good aliens”: • “Cute Aliens”: E.T., Lilo and Stitch, Ewoks, Wookies?, etc. • There are also some films in which aliens are presented as neither as monsters nor simply as “cute”: • The Day the Earth Stood Still, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Starman, Cocoon . . .
Alien-ness • Yet, aliens usually judged on how much they are like humans—or aren’t. • Thus, we often see existing fears/desires/beliefs (and sometimes stereotypes) about “other peoples” are often projected onto “aliens.” • Thus, Ewoks are clearly based on certain existing ideas about “primitive” cultures; similarly, the Na’vi in Avatar are obviously similar to various indigenous cultures/peoples. • Of course, sometimes the alien characters seem to borrow on obvious racial/ethnic stereotypes:
Alien Racism • Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of South Park, talking about Jar Jar Binks' racist heritage:"As many racism jokes as we tried to get in, George Lucas still floored us (by including) the most racist stuff ever," sighs Parker. "He does it so much better than we do.”
Alien-ness • But in some films, alien races are clearly meant to comment upon issues of racial/ethnic/cultural difference: • The Brother from Another Planet (84), Enemy Mine (85), Alien Nation (88), and more recently, District 9 and Avatar. • Race can be a controversial topic, and Annalee Newitz’s & Slavoj Zizek’s essays for next week on Avatar may be controversial too. • But should make for good discussion.
Alien-ness • Thought seriously about showing District 9 today, but instead: • A film you may NOT have seen: Alien Nation (88) • District 9 is surprisingly similar to Alien Nation in number of ways. • Both deal w/ alien races living on Earth—comparison to racial/immigrant communities.
Illegal Aliens? • Readings show that it was important to producers that aliens not look too inhuman. • Comparison to In the Heat of the Night, starring Sidney Poiter as African-American detective, paired with white racist Rod Steiger. • Set in Los Angeles • Associated w/ Drugs, Drunkenness, Crime • Portrayal of Sam’s Family, Domestic Life • Assimilation/Foreignness • Slave background
Alien Apartheid • In District 9, clear paralleling of alien segregation and apartheid. • Not afraid to make aliens look alien, seem different from humans. • Becomes more an action film and social commentary seems lost by end. • Wikus character never seems to confront his own racism/ role in apartheid (remains disgusted by alien-ness). • Heavily criticized for its nasty portrayal of Nigerians.