We encounter many types of monsters in this class. Whether or not they are monsters at the end of the day is one’s own opinion. I feel that the creatures in Alien and Alien: Resurrection are monsters. I grew up in the 80’s unable to watch the films because they were much too scary for a kid with an overactive imagination. Watching them now I see that the films are monstrous for reasons other than the fright factor. The Alien Quadrilogy is all about sex. Violent penetration, phallic objects, bizarre births, abortions, misconstrued forms of lineage; it has it all. Throughout this entire four-film-long sexual exploit, one thing is apparent, that perversions of sex are the scariest things of all.
The first and most obvious example to look at is the Alien. The Alien itself is a creature that wears sexual symbolism on its sleeve. From the smooth phallus shaped head to the erection shaped projection that kills its victims by penetrating them. Its mouth is highly reminiscent of a giant, slimy, toothed vagina, which is undoubtedly every man’s worst fear. From the very start we are presented with a creature that undoubtedly perverts sex in at least physical appearance.
Even earlier forms of the alien contain sexually suggestive characteristics. The egg that the face hugger hatches from is shaped very much like a labia. The face hugger itself inserts a long tube into the victim’s mouth and deposits an egg. This is a prime example of how sexual perversion serves as a monster. The rapid gestation of the creature also serves as a horror. Pregnant women are said to have nightmares at the beginning of their pregnancy in which they are already at full term. Certainly the development of the alien embryo is playing off this fear. The fact that either a male or female can give birth to the Alien baby is also an example of sexual perversion. The sanctity of childbirth is perverted by the face hugger’s ability to impregnate whomever is around. Could it be said then that these Aliens are bisexual? It is possible.
The birth of the Alien, which comes shortly thereafter, isn’t a pretty site. The Alien bursts violently through the individual’s chest and then scampers off like a sixteen-year-old girl with daddy’s credit card. This works off of maternal fears that childbirth is violent and painful and also the fear that when a child is born it will leave the mother before any affection can be given, the sort of reverse of Peter Pan syndrome where the child grows up far too quick.
The human characters of both Alien and Alien Resurrection also demonstrate signs of sexual perversion. Ripley is the most prime example of this. In the original Alien movie, Ripley was a by-the-book employee in a world controlled by men (the crew members of the ship). Ripley is the only human in the first movie not to be penetrated by the Alien. It certainly could be alluded that strong female archetypes cannot be penetrated and that this movie was riding on the strong feminist wave of the late 70’s-early 80’s. Ripley even makes it through the first movie wielding a large, phallic shaped weapon that shoots fire. Could this be penis envy? Again, possibly. I feel that it is a metaphor that women can wield “weapons” just as well, if not better than men.
The non-human characters of both films, Ash and Call do not fall prey to the Alien. They are cyborgs, which while it is certainly a perversion of humanity, in reality they are only tools of the humans. The other human characters though, especially in Alien, meet their fates. Almost the entire cast from the first film is penetrated by the Alien’s acid spewing mouth erection, which speaks volumes about homophobia and sexual fear.
The spaceships of each movie can also be seen as perversions of sex. In Alien, the cast is trapped inside a ship that is full of small tunnels with dilating doors. Dallas’ search for the Alien in the air vents of the ship can literally be taken as a journey into the womb in search for a monstrous baby that needs aborting.
The first film climaxes with Ripley trapped on the ship with one of the creatures. She manages to shoot it with a harpoon type weapon and then suck it out the door into space. The Alien is then being dragged behind the ship, attached only be a single cord. This couldn’t be a more obvious analogy for abortion, especially when Ripley fires the thrusters on the ship and finishes it off. Ripley’s exasperated breathing over the course of a minute and a half concluded by an agonizing scream also adds to this symbolism.
Even the Alien lineage and lines of parentage in the two films are the result of perverse forms of ancestry. The family tree in Alien is one strange shape and it certainly doesn’t resemble any tree on earth. In the first Alien film, the eggs give birth to the face huggers, which in turn produce an Alien which then gestates inside a human body until it violently forces its way in to the world, killing the individual. Even the face hugger, after it has served its purpose, dies. In essence, the Alien is born twice, first out of the egg and secondly out of the human. This idea of a double birth certainly goes against the norm and likely represents the perverse nature of the Alien, placing it well outside what humanity. As we’ve discussed before, in most scenarios, that which isn’t human is monstrous.
In Alien: Resurrection, the lineage is even more perverse. At the end of the third Alien movie, Ripley is “pregnant” with the Alien and kills herself (which could be taken as her way of dealing with an unwanted pregnancy). In the fourth film, Ripley has been cloned and the Alien that was gestating inside her is removed. In this sense, Ripley is the mother because she gives birth to this Alien in the operating room. It is interesting to note that the Alien does not undergo a natural birth but must be removed by a more perverse form of a cesarean section in which Ripley’s chest is cut open. The Alien baby that was inside Ripley then develops into the Alien queen, which produces eggs full of face huggers. The ship that Vriess, Johner, Christie, and the others is one then delivers to the facility a shipment of bodies which will be impregnated by the face huggers. The Captain of the ship is almost serving as a pimp by delivering bodies to a client who pays him quite well. These bodies are in turn give birth to the Aliens, which break loose and wreak havoc on the ship. At the end of the film we finally learn that the Alien queen is pregnant. She gives birth to a gross Alien-human hybrid that is composed of both Alien and Ripley’s DNA. The first action this creature takes is to break the face of the Alien queen subsequently killing her. It then proceeds to follow Ripley back to the escape vehicle. All things considered, the Alien baby sees Ripley as the alpha female, which is why it kills its birth mother, and instead follows its grandmother, Ripley.
The abortion that takes place in Resurrection is much more violent. Ripley, determined to rid herself of the gross Alien baby, shoots a hole in the window of the ship and the Alien baby is sucked out of that hole. This violent abortion is reminiscent of early abortions in which the baby was removed using a suction method. This subsequently puts an end to the unwanted child that Ripley inadvertently brought into this world.
In conclusion, Alien and Alien Resurrection demonstrate several ways in which perversions of sex, the gross distortion of one of life’s pleasures, can serve as a monstrous entity. The Aliens in the film look and act in ways that distort sex and this aids in their fright factor. Ripley, a symbol of female empowerment uses sexual techniques (phallus shaped weapons, abortion techniques) to preserve herself and avoid Alien penetration. Surely if the FCC had screened this movie a little better, they would have realized the pornographic subtexts of the film.