Nigeria Bans District 9

If I'm being perfectly honest, I'm surprised the following news item did not happen sooner:

"Dora Akunyili, the country’s information minister, has asked movie houses in Abuja, the nation’s capital, to stop screening the film because it depicts Nigerians as gangsters and cannibals. “We have directed that they should stop public screening of the film,” Ms. Akunyili said. “We are not happy about it because it portrays Nigeria in bad light.”"

While it is true that the Nigerians are classified as villains in District 9, I do believe this is an overreaction on the part of the Nigerian Ministry. There are no heroes in District 9. Everyone, prawns included, is on a sliding scale of pretty bad to evil. The hero, Wikus, starts off as a deplorable human being abusing the prawns to get what he wants. The prawns are quick to break into violence in retaliation to even the slightest distate with human contact. And the Nigerian gangsters are obsessed with alien weaponry and personal gain.

Is the Nigerian portrayal all bad? Yes and no. Even when they do something good, like offer the prawns the opportunity to get real food, they're doing it for personal gain. On the sliding scale, however, I tend to think the South African government cover-up and genocidal leanings against the prawns place them at a higher level of villainy. Wikus' behavior in the beginning of the film is worse than anything that Nigerians do over the course of the entire film.

I do not recall the film claiming Nigeria was invading South Africa in order to cannibalize the people of the nation. I seem to remember the leader of the gang attempting to eat the arm of a man slowly turning into a prawn in a misguided attempt to gain his powers. You know, something that couldn't happen in real life.

What I'm getting at is this: it is just a movie. The rhetoric of the film is based in South African peace and freedom struggles, so there are some mentions of corruption in the country. Part of this corruption as portrayed in the film is a small faction of Nigerian criminals abusing a race of extraterrestrials. As far as I know, there is no giant spacecraft hovering over Johannesburg and Nigerians aren't prone to bouts of self-preserving cannibalism. There are no stockpiles of alien weaponry and human to alien mutation is strictly the stuff of science fiction.

Should I be offended every time someone puts a corrupt Catholic in a film? No, because that film most likely isn't claiming in any reasonable stretch of the imagination that the entirety of the Catholic Church is corrupt. A simplification of international tensions between Nigeria and South Africa? Perhaps. But I feel the analogy is fitting and stand behind it.

Special thanks go out to Steven Lloyd Wilson at Pajiba for pointing the story out this morning.

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