God's Little Acre

God's Little Acre
Lord, make way for gold

the girlfriend experience

the girlfriend experience
chelsea's work

Trash Humpers

Trash Humpers
broken, faked, MADE

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Aborting the Alien---pt. 1-notes

Ridley Scott's Alien (1979) has been studied through the lens of genre ( sci fi + horror) theory, Feminism and Semiotics. These images of female sexuality are multiplied rather than singular, and they are tellingly surrounded by issues of the working class.
Scott's vision, of both Space and space, is clearly gendered. The haunting singularity of the production design is echoed in the heterogeneity of Feminine images. Many have described the dead spacecraft/alien ship as womb like, with vaginal and phallic shapes as shapes and spaces being negotiated by the human crew. In 1993, Barbara Creed's landmark book, The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis lent Scott's film a brilliant reading. Creed's perspective is unique for being the first major study of images of the Female Gender as monstrous in the Horror genre. Building upon some writings by other theorists, primarily Mulvey and Robin Wood, she traces this monstrous- feminine as coming from a series of collectively imagined nightmares, from "Archaic Mothers" to women just bearing the scar and castration threat of sexual difference. The scenes of horror in Alien clearly support this; the scene where Ash chokes Ripley plays as a violent attempt to obtain a Blow Job. Of course he is also trying to stop and to kill her, but the scene is clearly coded as a gendered crime. Ash is continually ignoring Ripley's stature and rank. The room he chokes her in is full of pornographic posters of women, and the sexual act of Blow Job is certainly the most demeaningly coded of all heterosexual sex acts. What better way to quiet the screams or ideas of a woman than to gag her with a penis. The representation of gender is clearly at war here: a reactionary view may've given us nothing but a feminine monster, but Scott's film has Ripley; sexy, self-possessed, liberated, feminine and strong. Visually at war with the stilled images of frozen passivity that are posted on the wall, Ripley is their contemporary, and her uniquely strong type of femaleness is a key sign in her struggle to survive and eventually dominate. Fears of blood ties and parasitic love , birth and infection are all female coded horrors. Subsequently, I view the chestbuster scene as a horrific delivery of someone unaware of being pregnant. Scott's film is unique for having characters fear a monster coded as Female while also having scenes of horror that appear to be nightmares of BEING Female.
Having just re-read a few chapters in MetaMorphing: Visual Transformation and the Culture of Quick-Change (ed. Vivian Sobchack), I realise that the multiple visual stages of Scott's Alien is something I can view through the concepts in Sobchack's collection. In the intro she wrote for the book she touches on the Uncanny, "....the photo-realisms of film and television, its effortless shape-shifting, its confusions of the animate and inanimate, its curiously static movement, its queerly hermetic liquidity, its homogenizing consumption of others and otherness, are uncanny -- uncanny not only in the sense of being strange and unfamiliar but also in the sense of being strangely familiar....its process and figuration seem less an illusionist practice than ...an allegory of late capitalist 'realism.'" (p. xi)
So this Alien is, like a child, both strange and foreign yet familiar and familial. Furthermore, it is politicised by its rapid change and visual alteration; culminating in a machine -like (due to metallic like head and skull) one that seems to directly compete with humanity. As Sobchack aptly notes, contemporary filmic morphing prefers alignments with imaginative evocations of Production over representations of the Fantastic. After the two initial live Alien scenes --the parasitic facial status of Kane , and Kane's subsequent live torsal birth of the baby alien, we have already seen two separate visual presentations of this creature. Denied exposition, it remains unclear if this is fully based on age or if the Alien is capable of multiple morphed identities. Does the Alien only appear increasingly familiar post torso delivery because it absorbed something from the human during it's facial hosting? Perhaps we are bearing witness to two distinct renderings of a single idea? The Alien is depicted in varying forms of nightmares. These modes are always genedered and increasingly engineered through technology.

As Sobchack points out, there is a Capitalist reflection and ethos to the digital age of mutation. Morphing is created by rapid movement towards change; in the digital age of Film it is conflated by its shared qualitites with conspicuous consumption. Visibly new technologies/products shine brightly as if production occurred seamlessly without the visible influence of its producer. The Alien can glean human attributes by trying to model itself as a better product to the humans. How can it be viewed as an enemy or as a foreign element if it suddenly manifests itself like a child? The baby alien becomes visibile as we give birth to it.
Alien has a Marxist bent on these morphing images. Countering the spectacle of techno dazzle and productionless product is the human crew that fights to kill the Alien. They are the wage- earners who are hired by a corporate enterprise to carry a mineral ore back to Earth. These blue collar regular joes speak to one another as if they were sitting at a diner counter, but as it happens they populate a spacecraft in the near future. But just how does one situate gender back into Scott's critique? We know SciFi depicts the Feminine figure as potentially monstrous. But Alien actually gives us a double identification in terms of Feminine viewpoints. We have both the feminine Alien, planting eggs and searching for hosts to breed its babies, and we have the primary human character (and antithesis) Ripley, a woman seen sans child/family, protecting her ship (Mother) and literally shooting the Alien out of it with air decompression. Creating what amounts to a massive vacuum to shoot out the Alien stands out as the single most intelligent, empowered tactic that any human has taken in the course of the film. As viewers we applaud her decision, her implementation and her humanity. How nice to watch a film where the hero aborts the baby and saves the world.

Lorna's Silence

Lorna's Silence
spirit interrupts

the girlfriend experience

the girlfriend experience
chelsea managing the business

l'Interieur

l'Interieur
cutting through the walls