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Neill Blomkamp's Science Fiction Thriller: How Prawns In District 9 Are Dehumanized

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In the city of Johannesburg, a lost ship from outer space has suddenly stopped its fare. Aliens, who are later to be known as ”prawns”, is found on board, hungry and scared.

The term ”prawn” is used to describe these foreigners, that is also the name of a small fish that is eaten by both bigger fish, as well by humans. By naming them so, instead of considering the fact that they might be as developed as the human race, they not only dehumanize them, they also “overhumanize” themselves. They have no knowledge about these creatures, yet they decide to grade them after their own scale. When you start to dehumanize other beings, you lose your respect for them in the process, because you are now certain that these are below you, in any prospect. To dehumanize something, or someone, consists of the both psychological and physical way to down grade another being, to not only make them less than yourself, but also as themselves.

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It is said that what divides us from primal animals is our capability to love and have feelings besides, those of happiness, sadness and rage. These 3 feelings are the ones every creature contains, as a human being we have the ability to feel compassioned, love, proud and above all we have the ability to recognize these feelings in each other.

Does MNU recognize the prawn’s feelings in the movie? From our point of view, it seems as if they do not care, weather they have feelings at all. The prawns are treated poorly, like they are some underdeveloped cavemen without sense of the human world. Their needs and intelligence is neither met nor accepted.

In this whole process of dehumanizing, some of them also forgets that they do have rights and that they do have the remedies to achieve them. Or did they forget? It is, later on in the movie, made very clear that their intelligence by far overtakes the human kind. Their technology cannot, even be used by the human kind. So maybe because they contain this kind of subconscious power, which in many ways is comparable with the way, we treat our own offspring, they believe that the way out is not to fight fire with fire.

Speaking of offspring, how does Francois treat Tania? Compared to the way Christopher, the so called prawn, treats his kid, Francois doesn’t let Tania in on what’s going on, he lies to her about her own husband and he does not seem the least bit concerned when she is crying her heart out over the loss of her husband.

“I know it is hard, but you just have to let him go” – he says to her. How can he so easily push his own daughters need away?

Where as Christopher at all times is most concerned about his kid. Everything he does depends on what will happen to the kid. When he is in shock, inside the MNU laboratory, only the comment about his kid could get him out of the trance-like way he acted.

To show an example of a change in behaviour, which clearly states what it means to love and recognize others feelings, Wikus is in the beginning very manipulative. He uses big guns and security guards to secure his own safety while addressing the prawns. When he does so, it is not with respect or kindness, rather with humiliation. He talks down to them, like they have problems understanding him, and what he wants is not to make sure their conditions are alright, but rather to move them away and give them even worse conditions. This is dehumanizing, in the making. But later on when he turns into one of them himself, he forgets that he hates them and shows his appreciation by saving Christopher, and a last gesture of love is in the rose of trash he gives to Tania.

In the same prospect,Fransois does almost the same, both toWikus but also interviewers and other people below him. He does not care for their feelings or lives, in any way. As long as he gets what is best for him, and MNU, he could not care less how many lives is lost along the way.

From what we have observed in the movie, and further explained in our analysis, we can conclude that what makes us human is neither the way we look nor from where we come. Rather the way we behave and how we view the world.

If we are selfish and only concerned about our own wellbeing, we are not being humane. However, if we in contrast to that base our actions on the effects on everyone else, we are using one of the many gifts we have as humans.

It might be that we have the capability to feel certain things and take action. But we only become humans when we learn from it and act upon it.æ

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