We open on an eerie black canvas of space, the eternal abyss - an image possibly alluding to the Jungian fear of the unknown. It’s this fear of the unknown which Alien uses to exploit aspects of the male subconscious.
We have penetration
The Nostromo freighter - its craft full of no-hopers stumbles across an alien planetoid.
It’s not long before ship executive officer Kane is attacked.
After discovering a chamber of alien eggs, a recently hatched embryonic object emerges, attaching itself to Kane’s face. The creature’s spiderlike appearance suggests that the face-hugger is representative of repulsion – the instincts and irrational distaste towards a part of oneself, in this case Kane’s fear of being raped has become manifest.
We soon learn that this creature’s means of reproduction involve locating a host to bear its offspring.
As Kane lies sprawled on the ships gurney, the face-hugger eventually releases him having successful impregnated its host. What Alien possibly does here is make a play on the male fear of pregnancy. Men have little awareness of the pain of child birth so when Kane’s character finally gives violent birth to his own hideous entity, the male audience is left utterly shocked. The unconsented impregnation of Kane is the beginning of a barrage of sexual trauma for male characters in the franchise, most of which ultimately end in child birth.
So does Alien carry an anti-abortionist sentiment?
We have sexual trauma and a merciless pursuer
Alien blatantly develops Freudian imagery to its advantage.
The alien itself possesses a unique androgyny. The skull is phallic in shape, smooth and translucent in texture and gleaming with K-Y jelly - a penis ready to penetrate. But this extra-terrestrial antagonist has several female qualities also. The lubricated orifice of its mouth owes more to the female anatomy than to the male. One must reflect on the feminist Latin mythology Vagina Dentate and the implications that come with it. Alien seems to be an amalgamation of sexual deterrents.
The architects of the crew’s demise are none other than their own faceless corporate employers.
So when the alien stalks the crew, it’s a threat to everyone. The sight of each Nostromo crew-member sends the creature into a terrifying display of salivation. The notion of a sexually motivated being absent of gender is the embodiment of most people’s worst nightmares – the unknown pervert in the shadows.
The fact the creature has no eyes - no windows to the soul - also intimate that it is without mercy or consideration for its victims.
We have a womb
The Nostromo itself is symbolic. The dimly lit craft is a prison of shadowy compartments and murky hallways. When Ripley jettisons herself from the Nostromo airlock in the movies harrowing fourth act, the accompanying sense of catharsis and escape is akin to a new-borns emergence from the womb.
Ripley is never appreciated on the ship until the creatures attack. Throughout the first film, Ripley dismisses advances by Dallas, Brett and Parker giving her a virginal purity. This purity is repaid through her survival.
Alien also explores certain male prototypes. One example of this takes place in the form of Ash - a genial and affable scientist on the surface, but who is later revealed to be a megalomaniacal artificial android. His demise ends in a distinctly masculine climax. Once his true intentions are discovered, he is decapitated and shoots a spray of milky fluid over the female protagonist.
We have God
The architects of the crew’s demise are none other than their own faceless corporate employers. The sinister Weyland Yutani Corporation plays puppeteer for the majority of the human fatalities. They have a god-like quality in this respect. The alien itself could be perceived as almost god-like in its evolutionary dominance. It plucks off each crew member with effortless efficiency and imposes its sexual will at any given opportunity – masculine in impulse, female in execution.
Only Ripley and her cat survive (we all know what felines represent). In the end only the women will be able to survive.
In the sequels, the alien’s pursuit of Ripley takes on a new complexion. Instead of a simple conflict of the sexes, it’s suggested that the continual resurgence of the creature is actually a manifestation of her own intrinsic desires which she is keen to run away from but cannot.
Alien is a movie of female cynicism and existentialism.
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