Last night I watched half of District 9. I probably should have watched it sooner.
It’s the story of a white man, sent to investigate (infiltrate) an alien culture, with the ultimate aim of relocating (or eradicating) that culture. Eventually the man finds himself a member of that culture and must battle against his former friends and colleagues who wish to oppress his new found community.
If this doesn’t sound remarkably familiar, then you haven’t watched Avatar.
Now Avatar is a steamy pile, but it has been dipped in golden technology and buffed with Cameron’s millions. It’s pixel perfect. But I couldn’t help to compare the two movies.
In my mind, they use the same plot but for very different ends. Avatar is about fantasy and escape– which is why people are getting depressed with reality after watching it:
In District 9, however, crossing a fictional cultural divide is about shedding some light on our own cultural problems and proclivities. That’s not to say Avatar hasn’t inspired some District 9 like repercussions/reinterpretations: Witness a Palistinian protest in full Naavi costume.
I’ve been leaving my Lamour obsession behind and getting back into science fiction. I’ve just read Snow Crash, started Steal Across the Sky, and am rereading a collection of Phillip K. Dick’s short stories (including Minority Report). I enjoy science fiction because like Avatar it offers fantasy and escape; but I come back to it because like District 9 it tells me something about the world I live in, or in the best case will live in.
Ursula K. LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness presents a similar dilemma of a man struggling to integrate with an alien race. Only this race has no concept of “he” or “she” for the majority of their lives. The main character’s difficulty in understanding the world he’s faced with is written in such a way that we (the reader) have the same trouble picturing what these aliens look like or how to understand what their interactions mean. Only partway through the novel, do we realize that the main character is black. There are all these shorthand ways of “understanding” that can be rooted in our pre-configured notions of gender or race.
I think I might need to re-read the book just to more fully understand the fashion world’s current obsession with androgyny, which by and large, I think has produced some pretty creative designs.
Anyway, now that I’m reading again. Do you (gentle & few) readers have some suggestions?