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[Dallas] Ash, can you see this?
[Ash] Yes I can.
I've never seen anything like it.
[Rafa] Hi, I'm Rafa, and before I say anything else, I feel the need to confess that I originally
intended to make this essay about Alien 3, and I tried, guys, I really did. But I ultimately
realized it simply isn't possible to talk properly about Alien 3 without first taking
the time to talk properly about the two films that came before it, and I couldn't do all
of that in an essay that would stay under my (admittedly arbitrary) time limit of 20
minutes. So, instead of one essay, you're gonna get three -- and maybe, if I can
summon the courage, I'll do Resurrection and Prometheus, too. Maybe.
So, Alien: the film that started it all. On the surface, it's a bit perplexing why this
movie became such an enduring phenomenon, both in terms of pop culture and academia.
No film history program worth its salt would leave Alien off its curriculum, but why? Movies
about aliens or mutated monsters that slowly kill off a group of isolated humans one by
one were just as commonplace then as they are now. If anything, they oversaturated the
science fiction genre at the height of its cinematic popularity in the 1950s.
So what made this film different from the hundreds of other creature features that came
before it? Well, there are relatively superficial factors, such as the seriousness with which
the production was approached... [Dallas] What do you got? [Kane] See what you make of this.
[Rafa] ...the attention to believability and atmosphere...
[Lambert] What is it?
[Rafa] ...the performances of the cast... [Ash] I can't lie to you about your chances, but...
...you have my sympathies.
[Rafa] ...and the sheer mesmerizing beauty of the film, but the real key to Alien's
groundbreaking magnificence lies in the Alien itself, and what it represents.
[Kane] It seems to have life. Organic life.
H.R. Giger's design for the monster was unlike anything anyone had ever seen, founded
on principles of sexual horror intended to assault the viewer at a visceral, subconscious
level, while also constructing a politically radical critique of our society. Of course,
the xenomorph was not the first monster to function on a symbolic level. There was The
Thing, for instance, which channeled American fears of a communist infiltration, and of
course Godzilla, which I examined in an earlier essay, but none had ever tackled sexual violence
the way Alien did.
While there had been other monsters that featured sexuality as part of their horror, or at least
as part of their appeal, the xenomorph's sexual
threat is far more literal. It's an organism that is utterly dependent on violent acts
of oral rape in order to reproduce. The facehugger, which can seemingly lie dormant indefinitely
until a host arrives, forcibly inserts itself down the throat of its victims to impregnate them.
The smothering, the finger-like limbs that grip the face, the tail tightening around
the throat…this image bears an uncanny resemblance to something out of a hardcore facial abuse
porno, which…you know what, I'll just let you Google that on your own.
Getting face-raped by an alien creature is horrific enough on its own, but it's made
much worse by the indiscriminate nature of the assault. The Alien doesn't distinguish
between the genders of its victims, a point subtly emphasized by the disturbing lack of
eyes at every stage of its life cycle. In other words, it has the capacity to turn anyone
regardless of gender into an unwilling mother for its demonic offspring. [Ash] Kane's son.
[Rafa] What happens to Kane -- a violent rape resulting in an unwanted pregnancy and death from childbirth --
is a trifecta of historically feminine fears that are perversely inflicted on a man.
We bear witness to the total desecration of the male
body and the gender binary it represents.
Watch how the adult Alien attacks Brett...
...and Parker.
[Parker] Get out of the room!
[Rafa] These attacks are phallic. The erect,
toothed tongue strikes Brett and Parker in a place that has been established as a sexualized
area: the face, where Alien impregnation occurs. And I really shouldn't have to explain what
happens to poor Lambert.
If we take a closer look at the facehugger, we can see that its phallic appendage also
doubles as an umbilical cord, infantilizing Kane at the same time it feminizes his body.
[Dallas] What's it got down his throat? [Ash] I would suggest it's feeding him oxygen.
[Dallas] Paralyzes him, puts him in a coma...
...then keeps him alive. Now what the hell is that?
[Rafa] This corruption of maternity is echoed in the figurative mothers of the derelict spacecraft
and the Nostromo. The derelict is an eerily feminine object, the shape of its hull suggesting
a pair of legs spread open, and the entrances between them are unmistakably vaginal. The
bio-mechanical appearance of this ship suggests the possibility that it might have once been
alive, at least partially, but if so, it is most certainly dead now, defiled by the eggs
it carried in its womb-like cargo hold. Similarly, the Nostromo, whose central computer is referred
to as “mother,” is inevitably destroyed because of the infestation of the xenomorph.
These mothers have been so degraded by their masters -- by the Company's special
order and whoever thought it was a good idea to carry these many eggs around -- that
they in effect become dangerous themselves. Incapable of nurturing, their bodies become
traps instead of sanctuaries.
Viewed this way, Ripley's compulsion to save the cat is understandable: a maternal,
protective act in defiance of the Alien's all-consuming patriarchal power.
In essence, the Alien personifies the worst excesses of male lust, and here we begin to
see a grander social critique take shape.
[Lambert] You pound down the stuff like there's no tomorrow.
[Parker] Listen I'd rather be eating something else, but... right now I'm thinking of food.
[Rafa] If hyper-masculine sexuality is the main threat
of this film, so much so that it destroys men as well as women, the film can be read
as a feminist allegory for the oppressiveness of patriarchal society. The Alien represents
male sexual dominance being exerted on the people, who are then pushed into performing
traditional gender roles that ultimately destroy them. The gung-ho machoness of Kane...
[Kane] We've come this far, we must go on. We have to go on.
[Rafa] Parker... [Parker] I'm for killing that goddamned thing right now. [Ripley] Okay.
[Rafa] ...and Dallas... [Lambert] Who gets to go in the vent? [Ripley] I do.
[Dallas] No. [Rafa] ...ends poorly for them, just as Lambert's hysterical passivity leads to her demise.
[Lambert] What? And end up like the others?
[Rafa] Even Ash, an asexual robot, feels the overwhelming need to make a male performance.
His admiration and envy of the Alien's physical perfection inspires him to attack Ripley by shoving a
porn magazine into her mouth, mimicking the Alien's sexual violence, and he does it
on something that almost looks like an altar of pornographic images. This, of course, also
leads to his destruction.
The one exception in all this, obviously, is Ripley. Unlike Lambert, she bears little
resemblance to the archetypal female and is largely defined by characteristics that were
traditionally masculine. As the only character who clearly defies culturally imposed gender
roles, perhaps it shouldn't have been all that surprising that she alone survives.
[Ripley] Why don't you just fuck off? [Parker] What?
[Rafa] But the Alien's threat is a bit more nuanced than simply being a walking penis monster.
Remember that the facehugger is hermaphroditic, possessing both male and female traits, and
can also impose female traits on male victims. And as an adult, the xenomorph appears to
have an insatiable bisexual hunger.
It seems that at least part of the Alien's horrific otherness
stems from its opposition to heterosexual and cisgendered norms; perhaps that is why
the asexual Ash is also threatening.
If packaging male aggression and non-normative sexuality in the same monster seems out of
line with contemporary feminism, you have to remember that the film was made during
the era of second-wave feminism, which viewed transgender identities as threatening to femininity.
And of course, everyone behind the camera was a straight, cisgendered man. Bisexuality
has also historically been treated by both progressives and conservatives alike as being
dishonest, a demographic populated by straight people fooling around and homosexuals unwilling
to fully admit who they are. [Carol] You were a lesbian?
[Piper] At the time.
[Cal] You still a lesbian? [Piper] No, I'm not still a lesbian.
[Liz] Yeah there's no such thing as bisexual. That's just something they invented in the 90s
to sell hair products. Deal breaker!
[Rafa] But before we take the idea that the film is a complete leftist manifesto and run with
it, it's worth noting that Ash's role in the film is taken from a conservative science
fiction tradition, not a progressive one. In classic American science fiction cinema,
which reached its zenith in the 50s during the height of Cold War anxieties, the distinctions
between right-leaning and left-leaning films are most evident in their depictions of scientists.
In progressive films, concerned with nuclear proliferation, war-mongering, and McCarthy-ist
witch hunts, the scientists were portrayed as the voice of reason in a trigger-happy,
paranoid world. [Barnhardt] Would you be willing to meet with a group of scientists I'm calling together?
Perhaps you could explain your mission to them, and they in turn can present it to their various peoples.
[Klaatu] That's why I came to see you.
[Barnhardt] It is not enough to have men of science. We scientists are too often ignored or misunderstood.
We must get leaders from every field. The finest minds in the world.
[Rafa] In conservative science fiction, concerned with the infiltration and sabotage of the American
way of life by outside communist forces, scientists were often portrayed as allegorical communist
sympathizers, sometimes to the point of caricature.
[Carrington] They think you mean to harm us all. But I want to know you, to help you, believe that!
You're wiser than anything on Earth. Use that intelligence, look at me and know what I'm
trying to tell you, I'm not your enemy, I'm a scientist! I'm a scientist who's trying to --
[Rafa] They were so enamored of and blinded by scientific
progress that they looked upon these monsters as either potential benefits to society or
more worthy than humanity. [Carrington] On the planet from which our visitor came, vegetable life underwent an
evolution similar to that of our own animal life. Which would account for the superiority of its brain.
Its development was not handicapped by emotional or sexual factors.
[Rafa] Ash's ties to that tradition are pretty clear. [Ash] A perfect organism.
Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.
[Lambert] You admire it.
[Ash] I admire its purity.
A survivor.
Unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.
[Rafa] Conservative sci-fi also had a tendency to portray the government as out of touch, meddling,
or incompetent. [Jim] Let me tell you what happened, kid. You and whoever else was in on this thought you'd
put one over on the police. So you break in here when the Doc is not around, you mess the place up a little --
[Dave] Now wait a minute, Jim! The kids couldn't have done this! You saw for yourself, the window was locked
from the inside, and so was the door.
[Jim] They rigged it with a piece of string, it's part of their plan to make us look silly.
[Jane] I think you're doing that pretty well by yourself, Sergeant.
[Rafa] Forcing the heroes to ignore its authority in order to do what is right.
[Steve] Alright. We tried to do it the right way. Now we're gonna wake this town up ourselves.
[Teen] Yeah yeah, but how? [Teen] Yeah, how? [Steve] Any way we can think of. [Rafa] But Alien
modifies this trope in a few significant ways: for one, the role of the government
has been replaced with that of the Company, and secondly the Company actively betrays
our protagonists by rendering their lives expendable in the pursuit of material gain. This
theme of betrayal and abandonment by an institution of authority was quite common in the 70s,
as pervasive disillusionment with the Vietnam War defined the cultural zeitgeist.
[Joseph] What are you doing?
What's the secret worth murdering everybody at the ALHS house? [Atwood] There's no secret.
[Rafa] It was a time when both conservatives and liberals could at least agree that the war went horribly
wrong. They disagreed on the how and the why, but they both placed the blame on America's leadership.
[Rambo] It wasn't my war! You asked me, I didn't ask you! And I did what I had to do to win, but somebody wouldn't
let us win! And I come back to the world, and I see all those maggots at the airport, protesting me, spitting!
Calling me babykiller and all kinds of vile crap!
[Rafa] The conservative complaint that the military was never allowed to properly
annihilate the enemy and the liberal conviction that the war effort had been unethical from
the beginning are both echoed here in one scene. [Ash] Bring back life form. Priority one.
All other priorities rescinded.
[Parker] It's the damn company. What about our lives you son of a bitch?
[Ash] I repeat: all other priorities are rescinded.
[Rafa] So, is Alien more of a left-leaning film taking aim at the patriarchy and, to a lesser extent,
capitalism, or is it more of a right-leaning film tapping into repulsion towards sexual
deviance and feelings of post-Vietnam helplessness? Well, the honest answer is probably a bit
of both. Alien is a happy merger of a variety of strong and wildly different creative voices
that each contributed a significant piece of the puzzle, and the end result has a peculiar
accidental anarchism to it. Nothing in the film is fully validated, no particular answer
offered. None of the skepticism toward corporatism, science, or authority of any kind ever leads
to a vision of a functional alternative. The clear economic inequalities between the members
of the crew is never given a cause nor a solution, and the same could be said of the Alien's
sexual threat -- after all, there's still a whole ship full of eggs out there,
and who knows how many more lurk in the infinite depths of space?
Even the film's vision of Ripley as a single woman without any romantic attachments and
unprecedented agency as a leader never strays into progressive utopianism; for all her liberated
qualities, she still lives in a world where it takes a complete catastrophe for anyone
to start taking her seriously. It's not until this moment right here… [Ripley] Well let's talk about killing it.
We know it's using the air shafts -- will you listen to me Parker?! Shut up!
[Parker] Let's here it. Let's hear it.
[Rafa ] ...when Ripley finally gains some measure of respect, an hour and 17 minutes into the film. Her opposition
Her opposition to the Alien doesn't give us an indisputable victory for women, either; confronted at her
most vulnerable, nearly naked and with nowhere to go, she knows that her exposed femininity
is no match for the monster's murderous lust. It's only after she dons a suit of
armor that she defeats the dragon.
Ripley is not a symbol of what needs to be done to fix society, she's
merely a survivor, running as far away as she can because it's the only option she
has. Maybe it's the only option any of us has.
[Ripley] I should reach the frontier in about six weeks. With a little luck, the network will pick me up.
This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.
[Rafa] The film ends with her sending off a message in a bottle, a faint hope of a life after
her ordeal, but hope nonetheless. The last image is one of her asleep, yet more awake
than she's ever been, drifting into an uncertain future; still alive, still vulnerable.
If you liked this video, please subscribe and check out my other essays. And for those of you who cared,
I'm really sorry for the delay. It turns out making these once a month is really hard.
So I can't guarantee punctuality, but I can definitely promise more videos down the line.


An Analysis: Alien

240 タグ追加 保存
Wong Tom 2019 年 5 月 19 日 に公開
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