I watched Aliens (1986) last semester for my FMS 220 class. For those who haven’t watched the film yet, here’s a short summary: Ripley, the heroine who has lost her daughter, and a group of marines travel to a distant planet to find human survivors from an Alien invasion.
This film is relevant to our recent readings for two reasons:
- The boundary between motherhood and technology are challenged in the film.
- Science Fiction, as a film genre, is based off of society’s anxieties about technology.
The film starts off with Ripley mourning about the loss of her child. As a mother who has been safely asleep for 57 years, she has missed the childhood, adulthood, and death of her only child. This scene set the tone for Ripley’s journey for the rest of the film – as mother who is trying to regain her status as a mother. She is later asked to join the Marines on a trip to the lost colony, where they are looking for human survivors and risk destruction by the Aliens. As much as she fights for them not to embark on this trip, knowing they have little chance of surviving, the film sets her up as the “mother” of the group, who is asked to guide the group for her knowledge about the Aliens.
The Marines are the perfect example of the hard, military leadership style (Edwards, 116) due to their heavy-duty guns and machinery. Although Ripley is meant to be their guide, it is clear that they already have “preconceived plans and specific goals” (Edwards, 104) to kill all Aliens that they encounter. In contrast to the equipped Marines, Ripley has little to protect her and is instead portrayed as the “protected,” where she is excluded from any front line action (Edwards, 118). Automatically, the Marines have alienated Ripley – she is placed as an outsider and is assumed to be “unprepared, alien, or [an] unwilling participant” (Edwards, 103).
The Aliens can be interpreted as a representative for technology. The aliens are given birth in two manners: either they host inside a human body or the fertile Queen Alien hatches eggs. The parasitic larvae resemble a hand that aggressively covers the face and violently gestates a baby in the human body. The boundary between human and animal, mantioned by Harraway, no longer exists in this gory example (119). Turkel talks about the challenge of identity through technology, and this larvae and can be seen a technology masking away our identity, while challenging who is responsible for giving birth – human mothers or technology.
Aliens (1986) is only one of many other science fiction films, who try to bring society’s anxieties about technology into the comfort of the movie screen. A few other films include Frankenstein (1910), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), The Day After Tomorrow (2004), and many more. I’d be curious to see how in the future, films change as a technology themselves. Films are a great medium to look at because they can relate to a much wider audience than a blog, vlog, website, or app can.
I would encourage anyone who is interested in sci fi, feminism, action, uncanny thoughts, or biology to give Aliens a viewing. Besides all the academic analysis, its a darn good movie.
For the curious ones:
Film Scholar Bill Nichols