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Around the release of Zootopia, a friend on Twitter posted a short thread about the futility of cinematic/literary metaphors for race. His argument was that, at best, these metaphors over-simplify and reduce complex real world matters without materially contributing to combating racial injustice. At worst, these metaphors unintentionally confuse and obscure real world suffering. And so if someone wants to make a literary argument about race, perhaps it would just be better to strip the metaphors away and have a frank conversation about the topic.

I adore District 9. It’s one of the essential science fiction films of the last ten years. It’s also a metaphor for apartheid in South Africa. Aliens forced to live in poverty and as non-citizens while they’re poked and prodded by paternalistic Afrikaans. It is also obviously problematic to recast black South Africans as alien space shrimp in the story of their own struggle for liberation (and to also make one of those white Afrikaans — who is the film’s POV and lead — so integral to that struggle).

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