It’s no secret that the suffering of women has often been a major theme of the horror genre since the birth of film. From scream queens to other girls, women are put in terror through wringers for the purpose of creating fear and distress. Although there have been many films throughout the century’s film history that explain and critique this representation, none have done so quite as well as the 1979 film. alien. Written by Dan O’Bannon and directed by Ridley Scott, alien It follows the Nostromo crew as they are picked off one by one by an eponymous extraterrestrial.

Much has been made over the decades about images and sexual content in alienAnd for good reason. This isn’t something fans have read, but it’s something O’Bannon and Scott have wanted in the movie from the start. In the 2002 TV documentary Alien sagaO’Bannon claimed that his goal with the film was to “attack [the audience] sexually. It was this desire that led O’Bannon and Scott to hire H.R. Giger to design the Xenomorph and other parts of the alien world, including the iconic “Space Jockey.” Giger’s sexually charged designs work in conjunction with O’Bannon’s script and Scott’s direction to produce the film. Turn traditional horror roles on their heads.

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Sexual images in aliens

Twentieth Century Fox

To say that there are a lot of sexual images in alien And subsequent films in the franchise would be an understatement: She’s in just about every scene. Most obvious is the design of the Xenomorph itself, which recalls the male anatomy with its phallic head and penetrating second mouth. When first born, the Xenomorph looks a lot like a penis thanks to its fleshy colouring. The derelict ship the Xenomorph comes from is sexually charged.

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Psychoanalytic film theorist Dr. R. H. Greenberg identifies many of these images in his article Reimagining the Gargoyle: Psychoanalytic Observations on alien and a “tough, contemporary” horror film. The derelict ship that Dallas, Kane and Lambert discover “resembles an enormous uterine and fallopian system” made that all the more apparent with the “unmistakable vaginal openings” through which the crew members enter. Then, Kane is lowered into a dark, uterus-like cavity filled with hundreds of eggs. He watches one of the eggs crack open, revealing a fleshy, pulsating evocative inside.

Xenomorphs reproduce through abuse

Alien (1979) - Chestburster
Twentieth Century Fox

At this point Kane’s fate was sealed. As he looks inside the egg, the monstrous alien blasts forward and attaches itself to Kane’s face. Upon returning Kane to Nostromo, the crew discover they have no way to remove him. The facehugger places its egg inside Kane, and in one of the film’s most iconic scenes, the alien explodes from its chest in a horribly violent delivery. The process by which Xenomorphs reproduce is intentional in mirroring sexual violence, as explicitly stated by O’Bannon himself. In an interview with The Washington Post Just two months later alien hitting theatres, O’Bannon describes it this way: “[The alien] He uses his victims as a host. He rapes them. Then they give birth. That’s what makes it so annoying.”

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Film critic Mark Kermode explains O’Bannon’s intentions with the chest-bombing scene, claiming that “O’Bannon argues that it also functions as a metaphor for male fear of penetration. He says that the verbal invasion of Hurt’s character was “revenge” for all those horror films in which sexually vulnerable women were terrorized by the rampages of male monsters”.

While the sexual violence is centered here in Kane’s experience, we can see the theme of trauma reverberated throughout all subsequent deaths in alien. Dallas and Brett, as revealed in the Director’s Report, are being used as hosts to create more alien eggs in a grotesque reversal that threatens to continue the cycle of violence. Parker’s death continues the theme as the Xenomorph uses his phallic inner jaws to penetrate his body. Even Lambert, the only other woman aboard the Nostromo, is subjected to implied sexual violence; When the alien creature slips its tail between its legs, we can only imagine what comes next.

What does the Xenomorph in Alien represent?

Don a space suit as it ejects a xenomorph from an escape pod in Alien
Twentieth Century Fox

Xenomorph is not the only perpetrator of sexual violence in the world alien, althoug. Think of the “mother” ship’s computer, and thus the company it serves. Both view the alien’s attack as an opportunity and choose to protect the perpetrator of the violence rather than the victims. Then there’s Ash, the company’s second extension, who not only protects the alien but also self-perpetuates its violence. In the scene when Ripley confronts Ash, he attacks her and tries to strangle her with a pornographic magazine, mirroring the oral penetration the facehugger delivers on Kane.

What alien Its violent, sexually charged monster suggests that not only do men fear more which symbolically weakens them, but also that said violence resonates through the trauma it causes. The Xenomorph is the product of sexual abuse, and is a physical manifestation of the trauma caused by that violence. When it rips through the Nostromo’s staff, it marks a permanent blot that attack everyone in its orbit. To escape, Ripley must perform a similar act of sexual violence by piercing the Xenomorph’s body with a grappling hook. Ripley has, for the time being, survived the physical representation of her trauma, but by the end alienAnd Obviously, that trauma is permanently etched into his psyche.


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