Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Leftover thoughts after watching District 9

On an unserious note: this weekend my girlfriend and I picked up District 9 from the Redbox after we finished grocery shopping. I would rate it very highly, because it was a stand-out science fiction movie that told a unique story in an innovative way. What I mean by that is that it started out like Cloverfield, i.e. a documentary that flowed into a regular story flow. The only qualm that we had was over the frame rates – they cycled too fast for my girlfriend making her nauseas so she just listened for a while.

Story-wise, I had a number of leftover questions that were unresolved:1.) These aliens came from another world on a inter-planetary ship meaning that they are presumably highly intelligent. But we confined them to a slum section of Johannesburg, relegating them to sub-second class status. Why? The economist in me says they must have a comparative advantage in something, so why didn’t we allow them to have jobs? I assume another movie watcher would say that it isn’t about other world aliens but apartheid so this parallel would answer my question, but I guess I’m just more of a literalist than that. I don’t see all the connections with apartheid but my knowledge of South African history is rough at best. Or the other reply they may have is that there was a protectionist reaction from the people of South Africa: “Earth jobs are for Earth people.” This interstellar anti-trade rhetoric reminds me of Paul Krugman’s interstellar trade farcical article.

2.) Why would the government contract out the running of District 9 to a multi-national (MNU) that was the largest arms-manufacturer in the world? I assume this is a dig at Halliburton and their industry, but realistically the coordination and care would be the domain of a newly-minted division of the UN who may sub-contract small services like food distribution or medical care. My initial answer to my own question is that after a number of years it became too expensive so they solicited bids of which MNU was the low-bid, but sentient species contact, if or when it occurs, will probably be among the most important events in the history of our planet – not something you want to have the lowest bidder managing. That setup seems rife for conflict, which I know is the set-up for the story but again I’m trying to be realistic.