Alien(1979) is a film that is view as a source of film discussion when it comes to genres. Interplanetary travel, artificial intelligence and extraterrestrial life makes it undeniably a si-fi flick. It has been argued that it can also be viewed as a slasher film.
That was the tagline this film was marketed. A group of people are stranded in a remote location. One by one they are hunted down in a gruesome fashion, and only one of them, a Final Girl survives and annihilates the attacker. On my previous post, An Unfamiliar face to a familiar monster, genre conventions were noted in the film ‘You’re Next’. Curiously, just like in ‘You’re Next’, the tragic events were plotted by a member of the group.
Other thing linking Alien and You’re Next as genre innovators, is the group. In both cases, the group is not a bunch of teenagers that transgress the moral codes. They are full grown adults. Something to note -as also mention in my previous post- is that in You’re Next all characters are sexualized, as they are paired. Another thing is that all of the characters are flawed in a way or another. It is also through a moral and psychological stand point were they are “judged”, yet their flawness takes root in the deconstruction of family, coming from the family itself. Alien toys with a similar aspect but simpler. The characters that died are also flawed in comparison to the protagonist. One of them is not even human, yet it(he)is also flawed. They lack the clarity to do what it takes now. The focus on their regard is on the elixir, the price. The characters that die are more focus on what they want, that they lose focus on what it's going on now. All of the crew wants to go home. That is the principal focus. Ash is also focused on a bigger picture, on the orders he’s got. Only Ripley is the one with enough clarity to perceive something wrong, and to outwit the killer. She outpoints the several irregularities all of the crew has accepted. She emphasizes the danger they face if things are not done the way they are supposed to in order to survive. Just like the archetypical Final Girl, Ripley is the righteous character and that is why she survives.
Erin could be viewed both as the Final Girl and as the violent threat in horror film. In opposed to the Final Girl, on my previous post I used the term ‘Final Woman’ to refer to the character Erin embodies. In the case of Ripley, she does not have to go through a transformational process either, she is already a ‘Final Woman’. Just like Erin, Ripley takes charge of the situation. By doing so, she becomes a protective and caring role, just like a literary mother to the characters. There is a mother figure in the spaceship. It is the computer of the spaceship, but this opposes to a caring and attentive mother. The computer(she) is distant and just like Ash, it is only following orders. When Ripley notices the irregularity in the computer named ‘Mother’, she takes this role.
The article Essay: Women in the Horror Film — Ripley, the Alien & the Monstrous Feminine, there are several cultural and psychoanalytical elements that question the view and role of female characters in films, specially in the horror genre. When it comes to Alien, the article discusses whether a female character has to attain male qualities in order to be empowered or if there is a facet that by itself overcomes adversity without losing the feminine. The idea of ‘Monstrous Feminine’ also comes into play to exemplify aspects of the Alien itself.
Barbara Creed closely analysed Alien using Freud as a basis, and using one of her arguments regarding what she deems the ‘archaic mother’. It is possible to examine Alien’s femininity from a totally different approach to that of Laura Mulvey and Carol Clover.
The discussion on the article reminded of my first formal. incursion into Tantric (Vajrayana) Buddhism, specifically the image, meaning and use of wrathful deities. In the book the Psychology of Buddhist Tantra by Robert Preece he mentions:
“Early encounters with Tibetan culture, with its ferocious and erotic deities, led its religion to be viewed with great suspicion. Those of missionary disposition even tried to convert the Tibetans.”
In that same book, Preece adds a comparison between a wrathful deity and Arnold Swarzenegger fighting injustice with his powerful weapons and skills, helping demonstrate the principle of fierce deities in Tantric Buddhism. When I got into it in an proactive way, I was explained that wrathful deities work like the compassion and fierceness of a living mother. When a mother sees her offspring crossing the street and the child is about to be hit by a car, she launches with all her love and strength to save her child. We’ve also heard of women lifting up cars just to save her child. The article Tantric Wrathful Deities: The Psychology and Extraordinary Power of Enlightened Beings in Their Fearsome Form opens with this paragraph:
Wrathful deities in Buddhism can be terrifying, monstrous, and demonic in appearance — but they are actually the “good guys.” People who might be casually interested in Buddhism are often puzzled, even horrified, by Tantric Buddhist Deities depicted as ferocious personas. At first exposure, they might seem almost demonic, sporting garlands of human heads, multiple terrifying faces, often stepping on human forms. In fact, these forms are deliberately more terrible than demons; they represent forces that help us transform these very demons — whether you see them as psychological shadows of the mind, or tangible entities.”
To make my point, is that in order to achieve strength and defeat the obstacles, the character most embody its more primordial sense of compassion. The love of a mother to a child, and who better to embody this than an actual woman. Coming from a freudian stand point, one can say that in that sense Ripley is sexualized, as all of us sexualize our mother at an unconscious level. At the same time, the argument that the lack of sexual visualization for her character can also be taken, as concisely most of us do not fantasies about having sex with our mother. We relate because most of us can relate to the love and compassion a mother embodies. It doesn’t matter if we are male or female. I believe that just like the tantric practices, movies can contain a tantric quality. The practice done in Tantra with non-wrathful and wrathful deities is to see in them a mirror of yourself, of ones potential. One projects oneself onto the qualities and aspects of the deity, just like a movie goer relates to character regardless of gender. If we see Ripley as the mother -which she literally becomes in the sequels- we relate to her, wether or not she is masculinized, wether she is sexualized or strip from it. Both points are valid as she is the mother, just like in ‘You’re Next’, Erin also becomes the mother of the group and the monster. Both movies play with aspects of slasher film, both have a peculiar protagonist and a gory killer. They move genre troupes around, creating distinctive beasts in the drowning sea of horror films.
The following essay is an accompanying piece to the following Top 10 Films Lists that feature Ridley Scott's Alien:…www.top10films.co.uk