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August 19th, 2009
04:42 am
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When fiction lies

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From:dancinglights
Date:August 19th, 2009 02:33 pm (UTC)
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I'm going to respectfully disagree with you on the basic premise that in my mind Whitey is never sympathetic as a human being. He doesn't save a damn thing until he already fucks it up for everyone else. I don't consider him a heroic protagonist in the least, and thus do not excuse his behaviour. Nor do I find him forgiven for it; I find the other, actually sympathetic protagonist doing what he can in situations Whitey has repeatedly messed up for him, moving toward his goals, and then ditching Whitey for a period of years (at least) while Whitey quite literally transforms into something possibly sympathetic.

Maybe it's a blindly wishful reading. Either way, the movie has brought up this and many other similar dialogues online and off. I consider the ability of the media to spur such dialogue and bring up far more questions than it answers to be its its value as a film above and beyond a summer blockbuster.
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From:baxil
Date:August 19th, 2009 09:17 pm (UTC)
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> I'm going to respectfully disagree with you on the basic premise that in my mind Whitey is never sympathetic as a human being.

Thanks for speaking up. I can also see that being a fair reading of Wikus' assholery. Are we being told by the movie not to like him? If so, that would go a long way toward nullifying my point.

I can see signs that support that reading. Wikus attacking Chris, and then later running away instead of saving his life. (And the other examples I cite.)

But what brings me up short is seeing the moral framework the movie surrounds him with: the real evil are the corporation and the gangs, who are doing really bad stuff like killing for their ends. By pitting these directly against Wikus and making Chris a bystander, it seems like the film wants us to be on Wikus' side. Also see Wikus' conversations with his wife and his quest to restore their relationship; whereas Chris' friend(?)/partner(?) simply dies in a horrible way and Chris is left with just vengeance (which he doesn't actually take, unless he really does come back with an army after the movie's end).

I am also glad that the film is bringing up these questions. What troubles me is that, having seen the film, I am left feeling like after it raises the question, it tries to point me to a not-good answer. I made my post in the spirit of sharing that, and it's good to hear other perspectives.
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From:dancinglights
Date:August 20th, 2009 02:06 pm (UTC)

pardon the edits

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I'm going to expand on this a little because I've been driving myself crazy since yesterday trying to achieve something articulate.

Here's the Wikus-centred storyline I saw:

The setup for the movie introduces us to a bumbling, possibly affable corporate tool. We immediately realise we are not going to be Inspired by a Heroic character; in fact, we are to pity this guy a little, because a: he obviously loves his wife, b: by the nature of the type of movie, he's about to be caught up in something big and ugly, and c: he doesn't see it coming. We follow the guy for a while and watch him blindly throw his privilege around. If one is used to dealing with privilege issues, one already starts cringing at his and everyone else's behaviour. Not very long into the film, just in case the audience harbors ideas that the aliens are an exact allegory to human beings and/or out of some good-old-boy ignorant outlook actually like the guy or haven't noticed him thoughtlessly perpetuating the problem, we are shown him killing a shack full of alien babies and laughing. This sets the scene for some lessons.

Wikus then begins a literal transformation throughout which he begins to understand the level of evil he has spent his life thoughtlessly perpetuating. He begins to suffer, and begins to want to right his mistakes. He becomes somewhat more sympathetic as a character. Yet just when you think he might have learned well enough, he attacks Chris and steals the ship, proving himself still on some level a desperate human being without full understanding of the consequences of his actions. He has not learned well enough, he has not transformed into a sympathetic hero. At the very moment in the film where the ship piece (matching the fallen one from the early 'documentary' footage) comes out of the ground, the audience now has enough information to build a Chris-centric storyline and decide who is actually the protagonist of the movie. Wikus is not fully sympathetic until he is no longer a human being, and then it's still questionable.

The beauty of the approach to handling systematic/institutionalized and thoughtless/unconscious racism is that every other instance of thoughtless -ism in the movie, intended or not, goes to further prove its point. Yes, the protesters have offensive signage. They are the allies that mean well and still get it wrong. They happen. The alien race is never given a name from their own language? How good have oppressors been, historically, at listening to things like that or differentiating between tribes of the oppressed? Etc, etc. I suspect you and I and many other folks who hold the privileged end of this allegory get our hackles up because we spend so much effort trying not to suck like that. We're outraged because we're paying attention. We're supposed to be.

The movie doesn't have positive things to say about humanity. At all. It is a reminder of how we suck, intentionally and unintentionally, and a call to Stop That. A human hero would have ruined that, and I was exceptionally pleased that, in my perception, that's not the route they took.

Edited at 2009-08-20 02:22 pm (UTC)
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From:baxil
Date:August 22nd, 2009 05:45 pm (UTC)

Re: pardon the edits

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> > When good fictional stories lie, it's in the service of exposing deeper truths about the sapient condition. They set up what-ifs to provoke thought. They shake us out of comfortable expectations.

> I suspect you and I and many other folks who hold the privileged end of this allegory get our hackles up because we spend so much effort trying not to suck like that. We're outraged because we're paying attention. We're supposed to be.

Touché. By my own standards, this is a strong argument that D9 was actually a good movie (modulo a few storytelling flaws).

I really appreciate you taking the time to expand on your point. I don't know if it's going to change my opinion of the movie, but I'll let it roll around in my head for a while, and I'm happy to point other people here.

Edited at 2009-08-22 06:23 pm (UTC)
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From:elynne
Date:August 22nd, 2009 07:49 pm (UTC)

Re: pardon the edits

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Oh, good points.
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