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In the film Enemy Mine, Wolfgang Petersen uses human and alien relations as

an analogy for race relations in our contemporary society between white and black
people. Petersen introduces and then changes the categories of normal as
compared to the other in order to argue that racial divisions have more to do with
culture than they do with any arbitrary notion of racial superiority and segregation.
Enemy Mine challenges assumptions that there is something biological preventing
racial harmony; all that we really lack is mutual understanding.
Enemy Mine challenges how we think of race by reimagining racial divisions.
In the film, the divisions between white and black are seen as the divisions between
a normal (that we sympathize with) and the other (that we dont). This view is
widely held, and Isiah Lavender III notes that the American obsession with race is
often superimposed onto science fiction. iIn Black Space, Adilifu Nama reviews
Enemy Mine and accurately pins down how the film uses aliens to make analogies
to race. Nama believes that the Drac are meant to be representations of black
people. Part of his evidence is the costume of the Drac, played by a black actor,
[who] is clad in all-black attire that covers his dark brown reptilian body ii. Other
evidence of the Dracs blackness can be found in its language, which consist of
many clicks and trills. Those sounds are uncommon (if present at all) in Latin
languages, but they are a feature of some African languages. The blackness of the
Drac is subjunctive, in that language and costume styling combine with the aliens
actual actions in order for us to construct his identity as black iii. Jareeba the Drac is
presented as uncivilized to us for failing to understand that Mickey Mouse is not a
sacred prophet like his Shismarr, and the audience is led to laugh at him for treating
Mickey Mouses wisdom with the same weight that he treats Shismarrs.
While the alien Drac are led to be defined as the other, the film makes an effort to
lead us to identify with the humans first. The humans relate directly to self identity,
not just as Americans but as white people as well. The same representations used
to define the Dracs as black make the humans white. First, the films main human
star, and all other important human characters are white people, even though there
are more humans on earth than just white people. Also, Nama notes that the
white-human is clad in an all-white jumpsuit iv. The white jumpsuit provides proof of
Davidges whiteness in a literal and straightforward manner.
Even though Enemy Mine divides the humans and Dracs, the film works to send a
message that racial harmony can be achieved through culture change and a
development of mutual understanding. The culture changes the protagonists
experience are drastic, and both Davidge and Jareeba are completely isolated from
all other members of their race and faced with the prospect of almost certain death
on an unknown planet. Even then, Davidge tries to kill Jareeba. Because they are
forced to cooperate and to work together to survive, they start to understand each
other. Nama suggests in Black Bodies that it is specifically cultural exchange can
lead to increasing degrees of shared tolerance and even mutual respect v.
Eventually, Davidge memorizes Jareebas lineage, cries when he dies and raises his
child, Zammis, as his own. At the end of the film, Zammis names its child after
Davidge. Even though Davidge is of a different race, he and both Jareeba and
Zammis become family. Even Davidges friends support the Dracs liberation from

the slavers, although their primary concern was not the welfare of the Dracs but of
Even though Enemy Mine lays out a possibility for peaceful racial coexistence, the
movie also argues that the human traits that were proud of may be harmful in
the pursuit of peace. Davidge is very independent and innovative, managing to free
himself from his rope bindings and figure out how to build a meteorite-proof shelter
using animal shells. He is a space cowboy, who exudes a rugged American
individualistic persona. All of the humans have a self-centered philosophy, devoid of
altruism and empathy. In the scene where a presumed dead Davidge is to be sent
out to space, the workers not only care nothing for the dead, they try to rob
Davidges corpse before sending him out of the airlock. It is only the cultural
exchange between Davidge and the Drac that give him the degree of empathy to
stand up to the slavers, even though hes thought them immoral before. Davidge
has to overcome this selfish nature in order to help the Drac.
Enemy Mine does a great job using the alien encounter as an analogy for race
and race relations. The film promotes racial harmony and extols its possibility. All
the while, however, it recognizes significant obstacles still exist even when just
addressing racism at the individual level.
Word Count: 860
Lavendar III, Isiah. Race in American Science Fiction. Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 2011.
Nama, Adilifu. Black Space: Imagining Race in Science Fiction Film. Austin:
University of Texas Press, 2008.

i Isiah Lavendar III, Race in American Science Fiction (Bloomington: Indiana University
Press, 2011), 26.
ii Adilifu Nama, Black Space (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008), 73.
iii Lavendar III, Race in American Science Fiction, 32.
iv Nama, Black Space, 73.
v Nama, Black Space, 74.