Science Fiction in Films


Over the years, there have been many debates that look to depopularise the issue of racial discrimination. Racism has been criticized in almost every convention, and crusaders have done everything within their efforts to ensure that no race in the world is treated in a more superior way than the other. Advocacies to ensure that all persons are equal and should be treated as humans despite their race have been in the increase.

Racism appeared many centuries ago when some of the rulers depicted themselves and their subjects as superior as compared to other people. They based their boundary lines using skin color which mainly distinguishes people from another. In the recent years, anti racist campaigns in international events such as sports like soccer fight the vice zealously. Participants and fans who abuse other people racially are heavily fined or bans imposed on their teams. This has in return led to significant belief that all people are humans with equal capabilities, and their race does not in any way depict their mental or physical abilities. The anti-racial campaigns have therefore considerably reduced racism perception since the slave trade era where some races were treated as beasts.

Despite the immense fight against the vice, there have been other areas where racism thrives. Film making industry has considerably been unable to reduce the levels of the vice. Since films are created to depict dystopia and some social realities in order to pass specific messages, some special characteristics are required to pass the intended message to the viewer. Unfortunately, most film producers still use racist attitudes to create characters and pass their intended messages. Some races are used to represent little or no civilization while others are used to represent mental sharpness and smartness. Some of these films create racial attitudes for viewers which at times demolish the social milieu along racial lines. This paper will seek to bring out the comparison and contrast between different movies in terms of creating racial attitudes to the film viewers. Our discussion will focus on three films, namely District 9 (2009), Brother from another Planet (1984), and Starship Troopers (1997). The three were produced at different times with a span of over 10 years between each two. They, however, possess similarities as well as differences in terms of manner in which they create attitudes about race.

Comparisons in Racism Between the Three Films

a)      Use of Aliens in all three films

The three films have used aliens in their respective plots. In all three films, the aliens intrude the peace of the people, and the people attempt to deal with them trying to keep and save their own world. In all the cases, the story line revolves around the invasion of aliens into the human world. The differences in ideology and the way of life are the main part of the story and are used as the hub to the creation of the film. In District 9, the aliens land in South Africa, and the natives converge them in a single location known as District 9. Here, they show their differences and they are not as easy to live with. They create problems between them and the rest of the South Africans. Brother From Another Planet is also about an alien that comes to the Earth and is chased by some people who want to recapture him. The third film, Starship Troopers, also tells about aliens who invade the Earth from their planet, Klendathu.

The use of aliens in the three films simply represents the differences in creatures on the Earth. In most cases, people from different races have different native languages and cultural backgrounds. The conflicts between the natives and foreigners (who, in this case, are aliens) in all the three films could be used to represent the differences in background and races. People from different races are perceived to be at war at all times since they have different ideologies and reasoning. It is, therefore, logical to say that the conflicts is a good representation of the difficulties that exist between the perceived smarter races of the world and those perceived not to be as smart. They, therefore, aggravate the status of racism in the world since there seems to be very little that the worldly people and the aliens can have in common agreement.

b)      Naming of Aliens

In all the three films, the aliens are not welcomed by the people in a warm or friendly manner. They are fought off, and there seems to be no peace between them and the people in the world. In District 9, the South African natives quickly lead the aliens into a region where they were confined to ensure that they did not have any contact with the rest of the population. This showed that there was a sense of some feeling of togetherness with them. Though some of the aliens were good, such as the one that saved Wikus, there was already a notion that they were not fit to interact with other people. However, Nigerian women interacted with them sexually which showed the hopelessness of these women for allowing themselves to get intimate with non-humans.

In the second film, the alien was named “Three Toes” as per its physical stature. This showed the extent to which people quickly look for physical attributes of a person in order to name him. The bounty hunters, however, referred to him as The Brother. The other aliens in the Starship Troopers were also named as “bugs” which sounds offensive. This shows that aliens were never welcome to stay with people. Likewise, people with different pedigree could be separated from each other on the basis of their dissent and not their capability.

c)      Alienation of the aliens

There is a common feature showing that the aliens in all the three films are treated badly and are kept away from the people. This shows that they are not welcome to stay with the rest of the people. In District 9, they are kept in a camp where they are controlled and are treated with suspicion and an unwelcoming gesture. The aliens finally started a war against humans in protest of the way they were being treated.

In the other film, The Brother From Another Planet, The Brother was welcome but it was only because people did not know whom he was. Apart from being a young black man, his other unique feature was his muteness and ability to do extraordinary things. However, he only had three big toes which very few people even noticed. Those who noticed tended to fear him, given account of the magical capabilities he possessed. 

Finally, the aliens in Starship Troopers were brutally attacked though they were also invading the Earth. However, it is evident that they were highly unwelcomed in the Earth territory. This led to a major war that claimed the lives of many people as well as wiped out the the aliens on Earth. Critically looking at the treatment of the aliens, we can see that there is an unwelcome gesture of people who do not belong to one’s race. People tend to prefer their racial mates to any other person, and this creates wars among races and prejudice. In some countries today, the situation is so bad that there are deaths and killings at sight. There are also cases of slavery and, in most of these, the enslaved people come from a different race than the slave master. This can be cited to be among the most vivid cases of racial abuse in the world today.

Contrasts in Racism between the Three Films

Despite the aforementioned comparisons, the three films have several contrasts in their racial implication that will discussed here.

a)      Aliens fighting within themselves

In the first two films, District 9 and The Brother From Another Planet, there are internal wars that develop within the aliens population. This can be best explained by the manner in which one of the Aliens in District 9 tried to help Wikus to escape from the other aliens when war broke up between them and the rest of the human population. This alien did not cooperate with its counterparts but helped the humans. In the other film, The Brother From Another Planet, there was an almost similar incident where The Brother was chased by aliens from his planet. They were bounty hunters who had followed him all the way in order to capture him and take him back home in order to ensure that they got their bounty.

However, in the third film, Starship Troopers, there were no cases of such betrayal at first. They joined hands and fought all the way. However, the main bug was intimidated and studied thoroughly by the humans in order to ensure that they gave the information that the humans needed to fight them. In the three illustrations, therefore, we can see that there are cases of internal betrayal. Despite some races being looked down upon by other races, they as well go against their own and join hands with the rest of their enemies. An example could be the Africans who cooperated with Europeans, especially the Eastern Europeans, to colonize their countries and kill their fellow Africans.

b)      The role of worldly races in racism spread

There are rivalries and differences created in the course of fighting the aliens between the worldly people in the films. Some of these simply show the untrustworthy of some races in the world and superiority of others. In the long run, a picture would be created in the minds of the viewers showing dislike to certain people and admiration of the others. In an anti racist film, the composition of the “evil” and the “good” people should be well distributed across the races involved. On the contrary, these films categorize people of a similar race as evil, while that of another race as good. The viewer will in the long run tend to dislike the “evil” race as the movie depicts.

In District 9, the Nigerians are shown as very uncivilized people with a chanting witchdoctor and an unending blood thirst. They are unreasonable, and their leader is eager to eat the magic hand that Wikus van der Merwe has given him to satisfy his cannibalism instead of keeping the hand and using it to counter the aliens’ war. The blacks are also seen as sex-hungry by accepting to sexually satisfy non-humans (aliens). The good person is Wikus who despite making several fatal mistakes, is  presented as a reasonable man, and his deeds could be forgiven.

In the other film, “The Brother”, the alien is quickly nicknamed as ‘Three Toes’. This is a good indication, that there is a renowned tendency of people looking for other people’s physical characteristics in order to differentiate them from the rest of the population. Incidentally, the Three Toes was a black young man.  The aliens in the Starship Troopers are also nicknamed as bugs, which show the naming using physical characteristics. In most cases, these names are offensive and promote racism.

c)      Presentation of Racism

Though the intruders is the main source of conflicts in the three films, it is notable that the manner in which racism is demonstrated differs in all the three films. In District 9, for instance, there is an invasion by aliens, but the true racism is depicted by the Nigerians who are shown as cannibals and sexually attractive to the aliens. The film depicts the Nigerians as uncivilized and when their leader is given the hand by Wikus van der Merwe to heal other people, he wants to eat it up and possess the powers of healing. In case he ate the hand and never obtained the powers, he would be left helpless. This shows him as very stupid and unreasonable. The film also names the Nigerian leader Obasanjo which is offensive to the Nigerians since their president at the time of production of the film carried the same name. This, in fact, led to the film being banned in Nigeria. Further, the film shows African women as sex-hungry and unreasonable because of accepting to have sexual relationships with aliens which were considered non-humans. The other films, however, did not show racism in such manners.

The Brother From Another Planet shows racism in a different way where the alien is a black young man but with three toes. He is intelligent, but he realizes that he was different from the rest of the people due to his three toes. He noted that people were given names as per their physical characteristics. This is a good representation of the people in the world who quickly look up for one’s physical characteristics in order to place an individual in the society which overall promotes racism.

Finally, Starship Troopers rarely shows racism since everyone is busy joining hands to fight off the enemy, the Bugs.


Films are among the significantly popular entertainment sources for the world population. They are important in the representation of the society and science fiction. They can be used to drive themes that may be expected in future and create better understanding of some of the common present day situations. They do this in a better and a more efficient way since they are created to entertain as they pass the intended information. Due to their popularity and entertaining nature, they may be used to adversely spread bad information and euphoria about a certain element in the society. Racist language and implications in films could have far reaching effects that could affect people from different generations. As discussed in our paper above, films have failed to adequately eradicate or shoe efforts that would lead to the elimination of racism in the world. They still show some races as backward and insensitive to humanity such as the Blacks in District 9. The same is repeated in Brother from another Planet which shows the aliens again as blacks giving the viewer the hint that blacks may not be belong to the earth after all. They could be closely related to aliens, which is utterly unfair in regards to the black race.

Films also attempt to look out for the differences between people with different dissents. For instance, the main hero in The Brother From Another Planet was referred to as ‘Three Toes’ due to his three toes. This could encourage the use of our personal morphological differences to describe those people who are different from us. Once the rift in feeling more superior expands and we regard ourselves better off in comparison to others, we would, in this case, be highly promoting racism.

The films further create a very wide gap between the worldly races. In District 9, there are conflicts between the Nigerians and some of the South African Whites when it came to handling the aliens. This shows aggravated differences in ideology between the races in the world. The natives of the areas where the aliens invade give names to them which shows the differences in form and probably in all the other ways. This comes as a way to encourage segregation of people along racial lines with offensive words taking course. The aliens were referred to as “Bugs” in one of the films which is an offensive name.

To sum it up, film industry is still promoting racism in its productions. The three films we have looked at belong to different generations, but they still have similarities in regard to racism. It is, therefore, notable that there is a need to make an improvement in the industry to ensure that racism is eradicated to zero level among the world population.

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