“Get away from her, you bitch!” — Ellen Ripley, Aliens

RipleyI haven’t written about Ripley yet because, well, the Alien has always freaked me out, big time. That monster scared the crap out of me for years. Still, Ellen Ripley certainly deserves her spot as a Danger Gal.

I think Marlee MacLeod in her article She’s All Man: Ripley, Feminism and Gender over at Dual Lens makes some salient points.

So I should explain how she opened the door for heroines who followed, right? No Ellen Ripley=no Lara Croft, no Xena, no other ass-kicking fantasy heroines (although maybe that “no Xena” thing wouldn’t be so bad). Easy.

Except, it’s just the first Alien film I’m talking about here, and try as I might, I can’t find a positive feminist message anywhere in it.

MacLeod goes on to say that there’s no room for any feminine sensibilities in the Alien movies and she’s right. This saga is about defense and protection and infiltration from within. I do think that by seeing a woman in this kind of role, even if she didn’t have a nurturing side, opened the minds of Hollywood and audiences to seeing women in roles other than maiden, wife, mother and harlot. For once we saw a woman angry, and she wasn’t scorned and she wasn’t insane or hysterical. She was righteous and dangerous.

Todd Gilchrist in his article Boxed In: Feminism in Flux at FilmStew, sees a very different Ripley:

Ellen Ripley was neither “a man with boobs” nor a simpering mass of post-period hormones. Alternately maternal and authoritative, rugged and vulnerable, distant and alluring, Weaver set the standard by which all action heroines should be judged.

Certainly Ripley’s motherly relationship with Newt has to count for something toward a feminine aspect. My take on Ripley is that in the first film she was indeed mostly androgynous. The film was subversive in that the alien procreated by impregnating anyone, including men. As far as being a feminist heroine, I think Ripley is an example of a culture processing the pendulum swing of how to define female characters. Previous to Ripley we were mostly offered women defined by their sex (or their attitude toward it), whereas Ripley is in many ways defined by her lack of it.

It’s easier in a TV series to show the depth of a character, to round her out with scenes of many aspects of her life. Movies, on the other hand, are more akin to a short story rather than a novel, and we get to see only a moment of time in character’s life. Ripley did pave the way for future feminist heroines by not being seen first as a woman, but as simply someone trying to survive and eliminate a dangerous threat to humankind.

[Just for you my bud, Wassup B.]



6 Responses to “Danger Gal Friday: Ellen Ripley”

  1. 😀

    Now I’ll smile. Ripley rocks. She most certainly has a maternal side. In the Director’s cut of Aliens, she is visited by Carter Burke (Paul Reiser) who informs her that her daugter Amanda died just 2 years previous—at the ripe old age of 66.

    Ripley mentions she’d promised Amanda she’d be home for her 11th birthday.

    She then loses Newt in Alien 3, along with her new almost BF, Dwayne Hicks. Alien 3 was so hard to watch.

    Check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellen_Ripley

    Lisa, you so rock.

  2. I thought that I read this bit about Amanda somewhere, but when I sat down to write the article I couldn’t find it. Thanks for filling in the blanks. I knew that you would know all about it. 😉

  3. When making Alien, Ridley Scott found inspiration in the dragonfly, which opens its large outer jaws so that the retractable inner set of jaws can protrude from the mouth and capture prey at a distance.

    This all happens too quickly for the human eye to register – within milliseconds. It’s is a true wonder of nature; it has been captured with slow-mo time lapse photography by David Attenborough. Unfortunately, I’ve searched the web high and low but can’t find the clip anywhere.

    Regarding the scene where the alien bursts out of John Hurt’s chest, check out the manipulative parasites:
    http://neurophilosophy.wordpress.com/2006/11/20/brainwashed-by-a-parasite/

    PS. Thanks for thinking of me as a thinker!

  4. Actually, it was the Swiss surrealist H. R. Giger who originally designed the aliens.

    http://www.hrgiger.com/

  5. I’ll try to think of the Alien as a dragonfly and then maybe she won’t freak me out so much. 🙂 I can’t even look at the carpenter ant thing without getting the heebie jeebies. I’ve seen some of Griger’s drawings. He’s amazing.

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