The repugnant appeal of the abject: cityscape and cinematic corporality in District 9

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 11
  • SDG 10
  • Abstract:

    This article explores the different aspects of abjection in Neill Blomkamp’s film District 9 (2009), namely abjection and the urban space, the aliens and the process of abjection, and the human body and the state of abjection. Julia Kristeva’s model of abjection offers a useful lens through which to view District 9, as it is a theoretical exposition of the psychological origins and workings of loathing and disgust. Besides the tension and action of science fiction cinema, the viewer is constantly confronted with the dynamic of the abject which manifests in the dystopic cityscape of Johannesburg (and specifically the ghetto of Chiawelo) and the repulsive bodies and the repugnant social habits of the aliens. It is ironic and significant that the film’s central character, Wikus van de Merwe, becomes the extreme manifestation of the state of abjection as a result of his metamorphosis into the repulsive appearance of the Other. This rupture of the boundary between the inside and the outside of the clean and orderly body evokes critical questions about real and symbolic identity, which implies a new comprehension of humanness/humanity. Ultimately the viewer’s confrontation with the abject in District 9 is a confrontation with fear, as Hook (2006) argues