Ridley Scott's 'Alien' Movie Series

The pervasiveness of monsters in today’s popular culture and social media cannot be disputed when considering the multi-billion dollar horror movie industry. As such, one must question the significance of a society’s embracing or even romanticizing what would be regarded as repulsive. By narrowing the premises of the research to a horror film franchise, one can attempt to discern a pattern that creates an appropriately repulsive yet indisputably popular monster and further analyze its cultural implications. Aliens have mostly been depicted as vicious creatures irrespective of the nature of the movie in which they have been features.

By analyzing the relevant sociopolitical and cultural attitudes or anxieties at the time of its conception one will find a correlation in how the monster of the film is portrayed, and attempt to explain its horrifying, albeit hardly deterring, effect on the audience. This research paper will be appropriate for this course because it will focus less on the physically horrifying aspects of the monster and more on what the monster reveals about the society that created it, which may be horrifying in its own aspects. 

‘Alien’ is a science fiction horror film under the directorship of Ridley Scott. The title of the film draws reference to an aggressive extraterrestrial creature that stalks and eventually kills a crew of men aboard of a spaceship. After the release, the film received very contradictory evaluation from the critics. The movie was a monumental success; some of the stars gained fame and attained awards, while the movie was incorporated into the Library of Congress’s National Film registry in 2002. ‘Alien is ranked amongst the best horror films of all time. The release of this movie sparked a collection of media franchise that included comic books, novels, toys and video games. It was so successful that there were two prequel and three sequel films. The role of the alien developed the plot of the story because he was the protagonist and the lead character’ (David, 2011).

The role of the alien in different movies is clear and concise. The grotesque creature has to have a certain look to achieve the factor of instilling fear in the audience. The alien film franchise has numerous distinctive references to roles played by different genders in any given society, for example, women are perceived to be wives and mothers by the society. All alien movies have a bad ending. The alien unleashes its power and destroys the world of the heroes or kills them. The original director of the ‘Alien’ franchise, Walter Hill, intended for it to be much darker, but Riley made it less disturbing to the audience (IMDB). The director made an attempt to make the alien’s character more translucent during the filming. There was the creation and modification of the body suits to ensure that the alien had the desired effect on the audience. The alien was truly grotesque and instilled fear in the characters and audiences alike.

An effective horror film makes the audience engaged in the movie as it continues creating a feeling of direct involvment in the creation of the movie. To make a successful movie, the director has to bring the storyline and the plot to life. He has to bring the alien to life and ensure that it instills awe and extreme veneration in the audience. The experience of watching a horror movie has to be titillating as it is horrifying. This is the main purpose of the alien in any horror film franchise. The alien in Riley Scotts franchise was successful in evoking emotion from the audience. It was the aim of directors to produce a movie that would echo through generation due to the manner in which the story of the protagonists was outlined.

Traditionally aliens were masculine, because of society’s perceived roles. The audience did not perceive a woman alien. Up until the production of the Alien film franchise, grotesque and terrifying creatures were played by men. This was due to gender roles tradition in the society which perceived masculine creatures as warriors and predator. However, Riley Scott used a woman as the alien, and the audience was content with his choice. The movie was a success, and it redefined the gender roles. He showed the audience a different view on relations between the members of the society and extraterrestrial creatures which was completely revolutionary. It was acclaimed by the audience, and the director  gained tremendous respect for trying out and venturing into areas never explored by the previous directors (Alien Host). Despite daring and risky, it turned out to be the change the audience wanted, though, not aware they needed it.

The character of the Alien in the film franchise is controversial, yet understandable. It is depicted as a terrifying creature that the director uses to instill horror in viewers that the film promises. In as much as the movie  promises to deliver the best performance by a woman as an alien, there are some shortcomings delivered by the protagonist in ‘Alien’., According to tradition in all horror movies, grotesque creatures are known to be free of emotion, instincts and intuition. The female alien displayed emotion and might have been less convincing than a male alien. When a male alien is depicted in the movie, the audience assumes and perceives masculinity and absence of emotion. When the audience watches a film and the the grotesque alien is female, there are reservations about the outcomes of the film.

There are reservations about whether the reaction will be of the same magnitude, had a man played the leading role. The success of a woman playing the role of the alien was monumental, and the director was acclaimed for it. There were reservations about the film doe to the switch up. Critics might have been skeptical about the roles and the different characters, but the audience perceived the film better than expected. In an era when men dominated alien roles and the protagonistswere of the same gender, Riley took a risk in casting a woman as the lead character in his science fiction and lead character. This was a risk worth of the financial returns and the reputation that preceded its release.

The ‘Alien’ film franchise sets up the conflict between the protagonist and the alien, who are both female. The alien challenges sexual distinction and the male dichotomy. There is no exception when it comes to the wrath of the monster; men and women are subjected to torture and destruction by the face-hugger. They are all subject to penetration by the monster and consequently become impregnated. Males and females alike are penetrated, and after the viability of the egg, they give birth. This shows that men are feminized. This brought about different cultural anxieties because the director portrayed the subversion of the male power (University of Leicester). This was an unorthodox move because, in a society dominated by men  and in which women are fighting for changing gender roles, Riley lets the audience understand that the female generation is a lot more powerful than the society perceives it to be. Sexual distinction comes into play when the audience gets a different screenplay from what they expected. Critics were enraged by this act of rebellion by Riley Scott.

The film industry in the 1970s and 1980s was dominated by men, and it was the norm that main characters in different films were played by a man. The Alien film franchise entirely changed the dynamics of the film industry and the manner with which future directors choose their lead roles. Ripley, the only survivor of the wrath of the alien, was a woman. She employed trickery and cunning means to escape its grasp. These are typical male attributes, but Riley incorporated them in a woman to let the audience and society understand the changing dynamics of different societal roles. The protagonists in the Alien film franchise have male attributes. At the time of creating the movie, critics were skeptical of the success of the movie due to the director’s deviation from the norm.

In the second film, Lt Ripley is a redeemed American who has been accorded a second chance for work to survive in a patriarchal society. There is a political bias of good versus bad, and wrong versus right. There is a political struggle, and the franchise embodies all aspects of this struggle. Ripley is stronger than Alien, but she is lonely and lacks friends. This is a depiction of the struggles which people become engaged in the society at the time the movie was shoot (Kearns, 2012). There was a power struggle in the society and women sought to be viewed and appreciated for roles other than being submissive mothers and wives. Her battle with the alien predator depicts the power struggle present in the society. In the film, Ripley and the alien are both women, but they possess masculine features and symbols in society. This was the status in the society at the time of shooting the movie (Film School).

There was a struggle in which women acknowledged their subtle mother roles in the society, but wished they could be viewed differently by the male dominant members. Self-confidence and strength are some of the attributes that women of the time sought to portray to the society, and seek acceptance as equals. In the first two movies of the franchise, the aliens tried to kill Ripley, but they were unsuccessful. This portrays the determination of some women to advocate for equality in the society. However,  the end of the second movie is more positive than the first one. It invokes a lot of emotion in the audience.

It is safe to note that the Alien movie franchise is a vivid depiction of the society of the time the movies were cut. There is a struggle between the gender roles and perception of women by different parts of the society. Whereas the era of filming the Alien franchise was dominated by the man, Ridley Scott chooses to empower women by producing a movie with male protagonists. The franchise was received well by the audience, but the critics were quick to point out the errors of the films. Society perceived men to have the more dominant roles. However, the Alien franchise casts women to play more masculine roles and have masculine characters. During Ripley’s incarnation, the company for which she worked notices that she has changed into an alien. She is more sinister than they ever expected and has grown to possess monstrous and dark post human superpower.

The clone and the resurrected queen alien are a threat to the patriarchal order and society. This is because they combine the power of a human being and an alien. This brings forth a new race into existence. This race, being a reproduction from of two females, is an indication that women no longer need men for reproduction. This is a threat to society and an indication of the rate at which men are being replaced by the dominantly growing female society. Male and female genders are opposite (University of Leicester). There are many differences in the way men and women work, communicate, achieve success and the needs they have. Aliens are reflection of the society and the constant struggle for identity and approval that continues among the members of it.

According to fundamental principles prevailing in the society during the 1970s and the 1980s, men were dominant over the women.. Ridley Scott, in casting the protagonist and the grotesque creature using female characters, went against the norm and indicated the ease with which society could change and have different forms of leadership. The death and resurrection of Ripley could be an indication of the manner and ease with which the society could change. There are different aspects of the society that need to be changed, and unless the citizens agree to steer change in the direction they would like it to proceed, there is bound to friction between the commanding authorities.

The bravado with which Ridley Scott cast and produces the movie is admirable and is a subject to studies by other directors. This was an unexpected move that portrayed the events in the society and women’s desire to change the dynamics of the male dominated society. It was a time when society perceived women to be the weaker gender, and did not associate them with strong roles such as that of the alien protagonist. As witnessed in all the movies in the franchise, there is a reversal of the roles, not only in the world but also in the film. The society’s view of women has altered over the years to represent individuals who rule and take dominant positions.

There are many women in leadership roles which is interconnected with the Alien’s director view on women in the movies.  The actions of the grotesque creature responded to the expectations of the society. Whereas the audience expects the alien to have a man character, Ridley Scott casts a woman in the lead role. Another protagonist, Ripley is also a woman. They have strong masculine qualities that they use as survival tactics throughout the development of the franchise. The development of the plot is an eerie depiction of the events that were taking place in the society at that time. There is role reversal where the once gentle caregiver, the woman is depicted as a vicious grotesque and masculine creature whereas a man is depicted as a weak creature that is easily abused and has the power to give birth (Dietle, 2012).

This is compounded with the fact that, in the first film of the franchise, the survivor was a woman who used her wit and masculine character to outwit the alien and earn another chance of survival. The Alien film franchise described and depicts, in detail, the manner with which roles in the society have reversed. Society is unforgiving at times, and Ripley Scott portrayed this nature through his movies. The alien franchise follows different contentions; women when men are giving birth to alien babies, and men when women are reproducing without interaction. Although the movie contains many gender stereotypes,  the revolutionary ideas on women emancipation are represented through featuring women as the main characters (Ripley and female Alien), depicting reproduction without involvement of the both sexes, making both women and men bodies incubators for the alien embrions. (University of Leicester)

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