Thursday, September 17, 2009

Do you ever ask "what would I have done?"

Mister Man and I enjoy a little science fiction or fantasy from time to time. He's sort of hard core and actually tunes into podcasts like Sci Fi Surplus on a regular basis. I am more of a fairweather friend to sci fi than Mister Man, a "band wagon jumper on-er", if you will. I didn't even seen Terminator 2 until Mister Man sat me down and made me watch it last year (and wow - it's a really good film!) We even once traveled several hours out of our way to visit Vulcan, Alberta (as witnessed below).

I have really enjoyed film and literature that posits different worlds, parallel universes, dystopian futures etc. So it was with much excitement that we finally went to see District 9 a couple of weekends ago. As you probably know, the press was quite mixed. Some people called it brilliant, some called it a brilliant but flawed vision, and some folks just out and out hated it. For me, it leaned towards the former, though it could be argued that the race politics were a bit dubious in terms of the depiction of Black Africans. That being said, I read this brilliant and insightful review here, which argues the contrary.

There's still a lot to be said about District 9. The formal conceit for the first half(ish) of the film is documentary (a form that is near and dear to my heart). It's not set in the future, but rather begins in the late 70's with the arrival of a huge alien spaceship over South Africa. And the documentary conceit at the beginning of the film is quite convincing. Once the exposition unfolds, it becomes more drama than doc, and eventually becomes a bit of a "shoot 'em up" kind of film. But underlying it always are questions of racism, hatred, and intolerence.

While I understand the narrative is a social commentary about a situation that was particular to the colonisation of South Africa, I couldn't help but extrapolate and think about all of the times in history that we human beings, in all of our "wisdom", have oppressed others, simply because THEY WERE "NOT LIKE US".

I think about what happened in North America before and during the civil war, and the awful treatment of slaves. I think about what happened in Nazi Germany, and I think about the Japanese internment that happened right here in B.C. I think about the fact that I come from a place in which we murdered the indigenous people to the point of extinction (and I'm surprised that the Wiki entry actually contests the issue of genocide which has been widely proven).

Most of these historical atrocities happen at the hands of xenophobia, and, while many people dismiss these scenarios as "stuff that happened a long time ago", here's the thing: they continue to happen today.

So, as I sat in that movie theatre with my popcorn, watching people abuse and slaughter other beings, I was suddenly in Germany during WWII, and in Virginia in 1862, and in Rwanda in 1994. And I wondered, "what would I have done if I'd been there?" I'd like to think that I would have helped people. I'd like to think that I wouldn't have been the person holding the gun. I'd like to think I was one of the good guys.

And what I thought as I sat in that dark theatre in North Vancouver watching District 9, is "would I have had the moral fiber and courage to do the right thing?" I really hope so.

No comments:

Post a Comment