So on Friday, I went to see District 9. For those of you who haven't seen it, or read Sugabelly's latest post on it, here's the rundown: South Africa, sometime in the near future. An alien spacecraft has become stranded over Johannesburg, and the aliens have become refugees in the city, living in their own slum, after which the movie is named. A government agent, while working to move the aliens from District 9 to a refugee camp outside the city, comes into contact with some sort of biological alien fuel which begins to turn him into an alien. Soon he is on the run from everyone, and the only people he can trust are the aliens themselves.
It is an extremely well-crafted film, and I will say that I really enjoyed it. However, it has major flaws and this is where my praise stops. The main antagonists in this film, apart from the nefarious MNU, an organization conducting illegal experiments on the aliens, are a group of Nigerian gangsters living in District 9. They take advantage of the aliens' situation by dealing in their weapons, selling them food at exorbitant prices, and running an interspecies prostitution business. Their leader is wheelchair-bound, and a believes that by eating the flesh of aliens, he will gain their "powers" and rule the world. Of course, he hasn't cured his disability, but he still hires some crazy witch woman to do his rituals. They try to capture the main character so as to eat him and finally get what. The only other significant black characters were government employees, one timid and one a dog of the military, both with very minor speaking parts, none Nigerians. Basically, Nigerians were the second lowest on the food chain, outranking only the aliens. And that's only because they're human.
The writer/director, Neill Blomkamp claims that his experience growing up in Johannesburg towards the end of apartheid informed the film's conception. From a New York Times article on the film: "If it all sounds like a science-fiction parable for South Africa’s segregationist history, Mr. Blomkamp, 29, says that is no accident. “The whole film exists because of that,” he said.... The plight of the film’s crustaceanlike extraterrestrials can be easily read as a metaphor for the persecution of South African blacks under apartheid. But Mr. Blomkamp said he was also trying to comment on how the country’s impoverished peoples oppress one another. While “District 9” was being filmed in the Chiawelo section of Soweto, Alexandra and other townships were ravaged by outbursts of xenophobic violence perpetrated by indigenous South Africans upon illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe, Malawi and elsewhere."
However for any person with HALF A BRAIN who's even mildly informed about racism would be able to tell that this movie is racist (you could even say tribalist) toward Nigerians. If Blomkamp was attempting to make any commentary about racism with this film, he contradicted himself as soon as he started writing the script. Let's not even talk about how the entire main cast was white, while the actual percentage of white South Africans is only about 5%, and the Nigerians were the only specific black population identified in the film. I will even go as far to say that this is not a metaphor for the suffering of blacks under apartheid, but a real-life re-enactment, only replacing black South Africans and white South Africans with black Africans and Hollywood producers/writers/industry execs.
Nigerians have continually suffered misrepresentation and slander at the hands of the Western media and entertainment industry. Any Nigerian character in a television or film production is either corrupt, an out-and-out criminal, or just plan stupid. Nigeria itself is represented as an impoverished, undeveloped country with an oppressive government. Examples: Dr. Eko on Lost, the obvious misrepresentation of Nigeria in The Philanthropist, the diamond dealers in Wolverine, and so on. Here's some information for the uninformed out there (who should really read my first post): Military rule ended in 1999. 90% of our population does not live on less than a dollar a year. We are educated, and our economy is growing. We have a middle class, upper class and lower class. We are not all criminals, for God's sake. This goes for any other African nation too.
As I came out of the movie, I wondered what Nigerians had done to deserve this. We're definitely not the only corrupt African nation, nor the one who needs the most help. Yes, we deal with corruption and crime, but what country doesn't? I mean, the US got rid of two governors last year because of corruption - they really shouldn't be acting like they're better than us in that respect. I honestly think that it's simply because we have oil. Nobody cared about Nigeria until the oil boom in the 70s. Then everyone was all over us. Then they find out that we're not all rainbows and butterflies. The media condemns us, and the entertainment industry uses that to their advantage. They reference a foreign country to make themselves seem globally-minded, and reference us as evil and poor because the rednecks who've never taken a proper history or geography lesson in their lives will believe it without question. Again, the US educational system fails to educate their people properly. I can't believe that people would actually believe that Nigeria would deal with hurricanes: for God's sake, the news publicizes natural disasters in small islands in South-East Asia all the time - you think they just forgot to cover the ones that happen in one of the most populous countries in Africa??? But then again, that's plausible - the media doesn't care about Africans anyway.
I'm tired. I'm freaking tired. These people should just stop bloody picking on Nigerians. Find some other country to slander. Or better yet, just don't even try to put Africa in your movies and TV shows - God knows you'll never get it right anyway, so why bother? Someone send me an Ousmane Sembene or Hayao Mizayaki film so that I renew my faith in cimena.
Note: This post has been edited for profanity to make it appropriate for your typical internet audience. Also, I didn't mention the fact that the "Nigerians" were not speaking any Nigerian language, but people, let's get real - they didn't cast any real Nigerians, so they weren't about to start speaking Yoruba or Igbo for us. They just got some thuggish looking South Africans and asked them to act like gangsters and speak Zulu or Swahili. (And that, boys and girls, is how you make Nigerians for your movie! Now go and play "Let's Misrepresent The Africans"!)