Tag Archives: science fiction

Shoo! Alien, shoo! Leave Prometheus alone!

Oh, Ridley Scott. There you are looking back on your career thinking: “Yeah, Alien rocked. And yeah, Blade Runner totally rocked, too!” And you know what, Ridley, you are actually right. They are both fantastic films. I would argue that Alien is far more fantastic than Blade Runner, but because Alien is so fucking out there mega-fantastic that is like saying “Blade Runner is better than 99.9 percent of all films ever made”. And then Ridley? Then you’re all like: “Yeah, let’s revisit this and make another epic Sci-Fi action flick!” Did I mention that you probably look back on films like Gladiator and think that it was equally as awesome? Now there is the problem. Sometimes your films fucking stink. So, let’s talk about Prometheus, shall we?

via thewertzone.blogspot.com

Nothing in Prometheus makes any sense. Whatsoever.
Yup, it’s all a big bag of bullshit. Oh, a nice and pretty bag of bullshit. So shiny you need to look at it. And amidst all the shit squishing and squashing in there we find ideas and performances that are brilliant. But what makes this movie such a bag of bullshit is the problem that many films have: They could be so fucking awesome but somewhere along the way people started to make mistakes and didn’t stop with them. Prometheus is such a case.

via prometheus-movie.com

Everyone and their grandmother has said it by now, but it is worth repeating: The idea that these characters on this ship are scientist is laughable at best. Offensive really, cause what it shows is that obviously no one involved with this project had any idea of scientific work whatsoever. Or they must have hit their heads really hard. From the dumbass boyfriend being all sulky cause he just discovered alien life-forms on another planet and cannot ask them why they made him (not to mention taking off his helmet, cause he just ‘felt’ that he could probably breathe the air) to the “biologist” whose first instinct upon meeting new and aggressive life forms is to touch them in the face. And dear Elizabeth, our supposed heroine, she is what exactly? An archeologist / medical doctor /biologist /geneticist /what the hell? Girl can do it all. Cause she probably studied science. And when you studied a term that encompasses all the sciences ever, you can, of course, do everything that all sciences ever found out and use as their scientific instruments. Cause you’re fucking scientist, duh!

edgy haircut – he must be a scientist! (via flicksandbits.com)

Ok, we could roll our eyes forever because of how hard these people are clearly not scientists. Shall we look at the supposed science then? There is no use averting our eyes, the crap will still get through. The operation super-capsule thingy. WTF? Can do whatever operation needs to be done if you just press a few buttons and hop in. But oh, damn, thing is gender-programmed. Only works on men… For whatever fucking reason. Cause the hard-drive was too small to fit in the program for women? Are you kidding me? And then of course it also works on women, cause wouldn’t you know, just a dramatic effect. So thing operates a squid alien out of Elizabeth Shaw (and boy will we get to how she is not Ellen Motherfucking Ripley) and stitches her belly so that girl can run and jump and crunch and do whatnot AFTER HAVING HER BELLY BEING OPENED BY A LASER-BEAM AND BARELY STITCHED TOGETHER!! She should collapse within 20 centimeters of that damn machine and bleed out is what she should if that movie had any idea of how human bodies work.
But oh, this film so doesn’t. Guess what: the god-alien-whatever-beings DNA matches 100 percent with human DNA! Whoa! Except for no human beings have DNA matching a hundred percent (ok, twins do) and then again every living being on this planet shares a pretty large percentage of their DNA with ours. So instead of being all like: they created us! And they even kinda somewhat look like us! We should really wonder how the hell these beings are related to chicken, and cheetahs and chimpanzees. There is your scientific question, movie, you can run as fast as you want into the other direction, you won’t escape it.
And please, film, Ridely, whoever, tell me: If these beings come to a planet, dissolve and by that create life on a planet – how do they end up being pictured by cavemen? Did they wait for a few million years to come back and say Hi, uh, by the way look at these stars, if you ever figure out what we mean come and visit us there? Oh yeah, that seems to make so much sense, EXCEPT FOR IT FUCKING DOESN’T. The inconsistencies of this movie are to frustrating, it’s almost painful. Just like having just had an operation and then having to …run? jump? fall? scream? Right, Elizabeth?

Ellen, ermh, Ellie? (via guardian.co.uk)

It’s frustrating because the movie plays this “uh, we’re asking the big and important questions” card but instead of attempting to answer them they fall short of answering even the simplest questions that just derive from the plot and the actions. How come the black liquid goo thing kills Elizabeths boyfriend but turns the other one into a killing monster? Why would it even? Makes no fucking sense. Completely unnecessary, strengthens my disbelief and makes me wonder: if the black goo thingy can turn people so easily into whatever fucking monster it wants them to be, why does it have to go to such great lengths to create super-complicated reproduction cycles like the one of the alien? Tell you why: cause black goo and monsters and alien aren’t really logically related and shouldn’t be related in a movie that has no idea of what it is doing.

via flicksandbits.com

What I hate hate hate in movies is the parents-complex thing. So many movies think they provide their protagoinists with motivation because they do what their parents said, or exactly the opposite or something to get their attention. It is there in the recently reviewed Snow White, it lies at the core of The Dark Knight Rises, which I intend to review next and we find it here with Elizabeth Shaw, David the Android, Charlize Theron’s character and oh, basically all mankind, cause we no have to think of those milky white muscle hunks as our daddies. I fucking hate this shit. Having no other motivation for things than you’re parents is the lamest story-telling device in the history of everything ever. Like Elizabeth Shaw is a scientist because of her father, but also religious, because of him, and neither is she a believable scientist nor does her faith have any effect on the plot whatsoever and is nothing but backstory we’re supposed to swallow to think that she is deep and shit, but really it’s just superficial nonsense. Meredith Vickers relationship with her father is so irrelevant, because we have no clue what is going on, we have no clue what her motivation is, and ultimately none of it plays any role in how these events unfold. It is just there and irritating. Granted, it could have been so much more interesting, if the film had focused on the sibling rivalry between Ms. Vickers and David, but we only get glimpses of that. Waste.

AAAAHHHH!! Why does this plot suck so hard?? (via lightsconnoraction.blogspot.com)

The biggest waste in this movie is David, who is also one of the redeeming qualities. Of course the movie looks fantastic, it is beautiful cinematography, the effects are neat. I like how the aliens look, and even though I find it totally absurd, I like how the aliens evolve throughout the movie. But what is really a saving grace and at the same time the major issue is Michael Fassbender as the android David. Because his performance is brilliant and because his character is actually interesting. All the questions that dumb scientist boyfriend mumbles about are just that same that he asks, but he really asks them and he acts on the impulse to want to find out. And along the way he does dubious things, in full knowledge of their dubiousness. Had the movie about him for 2 hours it would probably have been a better movie.

via cinemaforever.blog.de

BUT this movie wanted to hold on to the alien tradition of strong female character with the introduction of Elizabeth Shaw and FAILED. Now, mind you, I like Noomi Rapace and I think her performance was good. And even though I thought “girl, really?” practically every two seconds I still found her character engaging. But my oh my, does the writing on this character sabotage her. We’re supposed to be thinking of her as Ellen Ripley and then again not, cause she is caring, and crying, has a relationship, is compassionate, is religious, yadda yadda. Then we give her some monsters to run from, some gross beings to kill and everyone will think that she is just as badass as Ellen Ripley. Right? RIGHT?????
Hell to the no. Because that was the brilliance of Alien. For a long time it wasn’t even clear that Ellen Ripley was going to be our protagonist. First she is somewhat of a cold bitch and only after some time we find out that we are probably going to spend the rest of this movie – and the rest of the fight against the alien – with her. And she did kick ass with the weapons she found, with the information she gathered. She sweated and screamed and was terrified yet acted on her instinct to survive. In short: She acted like a human being. She felt like a human being. Like the other characters in Alien. In Prometheus we have none of that. They are all tools. Like characters from any CSI series out there we are meant to think of them as real and deep characters because they have a tattoo, or they like to scream out loud when happy or cry because they can’t have babies and nothing in the world is more terrible for the existence of a woman (and in case you don’t notice, I’m being sarcastic here). That is all bullshit. That is all just nonsense, covering up for the fact that none of these people act like real people would. They make stupid decisions because the plot requires them to and none of it stems from any sort of believable motivation. And if you’re characters are void of believable motivations then your film is, ermh, bordering irrelevance.

Looks and feels familiar? (via filmkritiker.com)

It is pretty to look at, it sounds nice. I can appreciate that there were good ideas, that some parts were written well (David spending his time alone on board of the ship). As an Alien mega-fan I appreciate going back to that story, to this being. Re-discovering the jockey on that planet. Seeing the alien again, connecting its birth with the terror that awaits Ellen Ripley in the future. But that is all just intellectual meta-level shit. That’s appreciation for what this movie accidentally got right. All in all it got pretty much everything it had going for it wrong. Nonetheless I don’t want to give up hope. The ending screams sequel and you never know, they might just end up making a better movie when we follow Elizabeth Shaw and David the android to the corners of the universe to find out where the creator-beings came from .
Until then we can imagine how other scientists would behave in a movie like this. Mathematicians probably wouldn’t know fractions. Egyptologist would probably never had heard of the pyramids – or would want to blow them up. Directors would make good movies with a coherent plot – oops, wait. That’s no science. Or is it now?

Bye David, see you in the sequel! (via pcgames.de)

Dun-dun-dun!

If you liked this, you can check out my Alien reviews in the directory HERE.

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Why music videos are great, or: Björk’s All is full of love

Björk is of course known as a pioneer when it comes to music videos. There is a huge variety to pick from, but of all her videos there is one that stands out and has probably single-handedly cemented her status as music video avant-garde, and that is of course All is full of love. Accompanying one of her Homogenic singles it was directed by none other than Chris Cunningham who thereby cemented his status as an avant-garde music video director.
My top 5 why this video rules after the clip.

#1 The Björk-Robots.
I mean, just look at them. This was when? 1999? And although theoretically I know that even earlier than that awesome CGI was possible, it is still stunning to see how well done the two Robots with their Björk faces are.

#2 Robot Love.
More fascinating than the Robots looking like Björk is of course the fact that these two robots make love. The brilliance of the concept of the video is that it takes the whole issue of love as a human emotion and applies it to machines, which (who) are usually not supposed to feel that way. And not only that, they are actually casually questioning all our human assumptions about what it takes to be in love and make love by presenting two robots that look alike, have no real distinguishable gender and are not supposed to have a procreative instinct. So, basically, the video slaps conservative assumptions about gender roles and why people should have sex in the face and says: haha, suckers, all is full of love. Deal with it. Other than that, it is also kinda funny to think of robots making love and then the whole thing looking like two humans doing it. Cause: why?

#3 The Hand.
Speaking of the sexy time in this video, just how cute is the hand of one robot going down to supposedly genital regions and adjusting things? Very.
Also: the porn-sequence preceding it. Would totally be x-rated if these were actual human beings.
And bodily fluids are exchanged, without these bodies actually producing fluids, of course.
Awww, the absurdity of it!

#4 The Outro.
I used to dislike the outro when I was younger, cause I wanted to see more robots, but I appreciate it now. Slowly moving away from “the action” all the while giving us Alienesque visuals that suggest that supposedly inorganic machines are actually very organically intertwined.

#5 Makes me love the song.
Music videos are really doing their job if they make you like the song they’re featuring. And granted, in itself, All is full of love is not that fascinating or mind blowing. It really is the video, that takes my appreciation of the song to a whole new level. Well done, video!
(admittedly, the video version is slightly different from the album version…)

Drooling over Mr. Shabba’s Classic Sci-Fi Film Posters

Oh, you wonder what plans I have for the weekend?
Go out and party? Hit the flea-markets? Relax and read a book?
There is only one concrete goal I know I’ll pursue these next two days: Get my hands on a print of the amazingly awesome Alien film-poster designed by Mr. Shabba. Why? Have a look for yourself:

L.O.V.E.
Seriously, I need this. Put it over my couch, my bed, frame it for the bathroom, you name it. This is so ridiculously rad, I’m gonna have to kill myself. Or basically really just order it online.
If Alien is not your thing (it certainly is mine and I profess my love HERE), but you’re still nurturing a little Sci-Fi geek inside your soul, you got a few more choices. 2001: A Space Odyssey, E.T., Terminator, and Blade Runner are also available from his re-design collection.

all posters (c) Mr. Shabba, you can visit his online Shop by clicking HERE

Out of the rest I like the Blade Runner movie poster the best, but that’s probably due to the fact that I also really enjoyed the movie. Though I liked E.T. as a kid, and I think the first Terminator is pretty neat. So basically, despite the undeniable favoritism regarding Alien, I love the Alien poster most because the design is so gorgeously wicked!
What’s your favorite?

My word for Word for World is Forest is not forest

I have already established elsewhere (well, HERE) that Ursula K. Le Guin is god, for a variety of reasons. Now, since she is not the Christian god or any of that shit she is not by definition infallible. Which is on the one hand a good thing, cause how could you argue against an author and one of her works if she’d be an infallible god? On the other hand it’s not such a good thing, because it means that UKLG’s works can also sometimes be less than stellarly awesome (gasp! I know…). And as of right now, I’d like to discuss one of those less than stellarly awesome works of hers: The Word for World is Forest.

via edisbooklighthouse.blogspot.com

So, long before that obscure Avatar rip-off Le Guin came up with the idea of a very forest-y planet herself, one that is inhabited by a humanoid species totally in tune with their environment and exploited by a humanoid species originating from our beloved planet Earth (sometimes also written Erth, at least in random Futurama episodes, but I digress (of course)). Those exploiting dudes are of course mainly the military types who do not favor communicating with the autochthonous population. respecting their wishes and livelihood. So yes, in principle, The Word for World is Forest presents the premise of the Avatar story, only that instead of some metal they need timber for Earth (cause there is none left) and the humanoids aren’t big blue cats, but little green-furred people who are absolutely non-violent. And there is no ridiculously unbelievable love-story. Ermh, well, not that kind, at least.

via sfmistressworks.wordpress.com

So, to get the shiz right out of the way, I should clarify why I think that this novella (novel, novelette, you choose it…though this story set in her Hainish universe won the HUGO Award for best novella in 1974) is sub-par compared to Le Guin’s other works. The primary reason being: it’s heavy-handed. It is well written, beautiful prose, there are interesting ideas, it is a fairly complex set-up, but it is nevertheless heavy-handed. And what makes Le Guin so awesome to read usually is her general un-heavy-handed-ness. So, there.
Every moral tale could of course be accused of heavy-handed-ness. But if your main antagonist (Davidson in this case) is so clearly a dumb-ass villain who does not listen to others and therefore wreaks havoc upon everyone’s heads and asses and ultimately upon himself, the moral tale becomes a little stale. The military dudes are asses, those who work with them might not be, but are corrupted by the structures, and the autochthonous population living in harmony with their environment (comprised mainly of forest, which is why their word for their world is the same as the word for forest) is totally super-awesome. That doesn’t read like complex characterisations and innovative storytelling precisely because it isn’t. And even though I wasn’t born in 1972 when the thing was published my guess is that even then a plot-progression of that kind felt like old news (despite then being a very current comment on the war in Vietnam). Oh, Ursula.

via goodreads.com

Well, mostly “Oh, Ursula” because Le Guin is such a terrific writer. And since she is, she can’t help but bring glimpses of awesome even in moments of mediocrity.
The biggest piece of awesome in this novel is of course the Athsheanean society. Not only because they look distinctly different from humanoids such as us since they are smaller and have green fur all over, but also because Le Guin, with a few well placed strokes, creates the impression of a fully formed society with very distinct patterns of human interaction. Not only are they non-violent in the sense of they don’t kill each other, but they have established a social system that channels anger, envy, and the like into singing contests and permits a maximum of physical interaction that is not sexually charged and thus not avoided but embraced as a means of communication. Furthermore Le Guin tries to establish interesting ideas on gender roles without hammering home a female utopia void of realistic inequalities and imbalances. She writes about a political system that is highly decentralized and offers most of the organizational power within the social structures to the women in society. However, Athshean men still have their Men’s Lodges, and since it’s them who claim to be the great philosophers (and Dreamers) of Athsheanean society, androcentric structures that favour male dominance are still discernible, even if decidedly less pronounced than in our society, but therefore still relatable to readers of our day and age who encounter androcentric structures and sexist practices on a daily basis.

(c) Eileen Gunn, via ursulakleguin.com

Then there is another thing I think is awesome about The Word for World is Forest, even though this is precisely why I am conflicted about it. Captain Davidson and his portrayal are on the one hand extremely stereotypical and his single-mindedness and unwillingness to question himself are a tad too convenient for getting across The Message. On the other it is an interesting instance of an author trying to create a character and his mindset in a way that helps us (who do not think like that) to understand or at least get and idea of why he does the things he does.
And she draws the character well. The more time we spend in his head, the more we realise how little his own inconsistencies and incongruence can become apparent to himself, since he subscribed to such an extreme method of compartmentalization, that basically everything relates back to him accepting things because he thinks of them as god-given (or rather genetetically pre-set) and therefore unchangeable. That he changes his own rules set up for others all the time cannot bother him, because he cannot see it. Athsheans are horrible because they do not adhere to Terra human rules, and Terra human rules are awesome because they are so functional, but he has to break Terra human rules in order to work for the greater good, otherwise Athsheans would break Terra human rules… etc. It’s a fascinating read to follow the circular (non-) logic of Captain Davidson and a successful undertaking in my opinion, however, I’m just not sure that that’s the way it is. As with the general plot heavy-handed-ness, this characterisation works well in terms of making it easier for me as a liberal (in the socio-political sense) reader to get an idea of why he does what he does and it resonates with stuff I’ve read and heard about extremists and terrorists and dictators and other shitheads in how they structure their worldview and justify what they do by applying standards they deny others. But exactly because it reads so well and seems a reasonable enough explanation it feels a little false, because if another liberal writes a character like that and liberal me reads it and finds it plausible, the real conservative wacko-mindset is totally out of the picture and only an imagined feature that bends to “our” liberal will. It’s kinda like saying “all homophobes are just closeted homosexuals” which seems to makes sense and sounds reassuring but which ultimately isn’t true (I think) and just picks out the general idea of homophobes having issues with sexuality (either other people’s and/or their own) and exaggerates that point. It makes for a neat little explanation from an outside point of view, but it nevertheless is just that, it never really amounts to the inside point of view.

via plodit.com

But there is the dilemma: I probably wouldn’t read and love Le Guin if she was some conservative dumbfuck (and if you are a conservative reading this, please reconsider your political stance before asking me to reconsider my statement) and actually thought like that. It might still just be the same. But because she is exactly not that I recognize that she sets out to make sense of the actions of people whose actions actually don’t make much sense. I applaud that, but at the same time it creates this disbelief-gap for me, cause I know she doesn’t think like that, and reading the thought of such a character knowing she doesn’t think like that makes me question the overall plausibility of that characterisation. And all of that is of course true for basically ever yother character in every other novel, however, since we are struggling with the issue of heavy-handed-ness of this highly moralistic tale this conservative-wacko-inside-view feels forced and cheap (and too convenient), despite its efforts and even despite is actual probability.

In conclusion I can just repeat that this is definitely not Ursula K. Le Guin’s strongest work. However, it is Le Guin, so it is still strong work compared to basically everything else. Ergo: Go read it!

Ursula K. Le Guin kills another revolutionary – literally

The level of lameness I reach when trying to come up with pun-y headlines… You’re welcome! Of course the above statement is just to lure you in to another Le Guin centered review on this blog, but this time we won’t go for a novel, instead we’ll have a look at her short story The Day Before the Revolution, which is connected to her novel The Dispossessed which was published in the same year (1974) and is set in part on the same planet, cause both of the stories are connected to her larger Hainish-Universe. In case you have no clue what I am talking about: shame on you! So much for not alienating readers. (But really, it’s just a short short story. Go pick it up, read it real quick, and come back here for the review! See you in a sec!)

via goodreads.com

In The Day Before The Revolution (which won a Nebula Award in 74 for Best Short Story) we meet up with Laia Asieo Odo, an elderly woman that we previously encountered as a historical figure in The Dispossessed. Odonians, as they call themselves, derive their ideological foundation from the writings of Odo, who is referred to here in this story – unsurprisingly if you think about it, which we of course did not – as Laia, since it is her given name. And good old Ms Odo has a history of writing influential works on anarchism and anarchist society, since she’s been fighting for ending the oppression of those belonging to the working class (and underclass) on the planet of Urras. Her ideas and ideals, written down partially in prison where she spent years of her life have a distinctively communist touch to me (and I guess others), but it is anarchism, because it is an ideology that rejects any form of state, rule, authority, and hierarchies. In The Dispossessed we see that the ideal and the reality may very well clash, but in this story there she is: the woman who thought it all through, wrote it down, started revolutions and became an icon. She lives in a community-organized house (which used to be a bank, something that gives her satisfaction) and deals with age – remarking also, that the older she gets the less easy she finds it to adhere to all the principles and ideals she’s written about so famously.

via wikipedia.org

We follow her through one day. She wakes up and gets up, dresses, has breakfast, reads, remembers, contemplates, meets guests and goes out in the streets on a sudden urge, and ultimately returns, exhausted.
Because The Dispossessed is such a thoroughly political and also theoretical novel in many ways, it is fascinating to witness this other take on Urras and anarchism (I read it before The Dispossessed which didn’t diminish neither novel nor story, it rather enriched my reading of the novel), where we meet the principal thinker of the movement and encounter a brief narrative about old age. How Laia struggles with her own body, its faltering functionality, and also its ugliness, because she does not find herself pretty or attractive anymore. But she is no fool: Her appetite for sex is nothing she denies. In fact she’d love to have her young and attractive secretary look at her the way he’d look at an attractive woman these days, and finds her wishes to be in vain.
Living where she lives and meeting whom she meets she also sees the discrepancy between her writings, the celebration of her principles, and how reality plays out differently. Even though she spoke out against hierarchies and authority, people see her as an icon and treat her as one. And even though she perceives of this ideological gap she is also quite happy with the comfort it provides her with in her old age.

via amazon.com

The Day Before The Revolution is first and foremost a story about old age and the end of one’s own life. Laia/Odo has lived her life fully, we could say. She has known oppression and a precarious existence, but she has also known resistance, protest, further repression and the strength to survive it. And she has known love. And loss, and grief. In between the events of the day we witness  there are brief flashes of memory, when she remembers her time in prison and her deceased husband Taviri. And even though these glimpses are short, they are profound, bittersweet and melancholic, but also realistic. What is over is over, so what can you do? Le Guin is a supberb writer in many ways. Big shocking confession right here: I read it in German, not in English, translated by Gisela Stege. While I love Le Guin’s prose in the original, this translation reads beautifully and doesn’t diminish the effect. Le Guin’s art shines through: she is able to draw a character with a few lines and strokes, but round and full, because Laia here is believable in her insecurity and confidence, in her longing and acceptance, in her stubbornness and open mind.
Having made it back to the house she walks up to her room, slowly, dead tired, feeling the stroke coming. She will not survive this night. But we already know that the next day all hell will break lose, the revolution based on her influential thoughts will take off and lead to the settlement of another planet. But you don’t need to know about your own future glory to be a grand person.

Still haven’t read it? You gotta be kiddin’ me! Do so now!

Ursula K. Le Guin sends you empty-handed into your own revolution

Let’s just say it all together: Ursula K. Le Guin is god.
Damn, girl can’t help it, but when she writes Science Fiction she fucking writes masterpiece-top-notch-blow-your-mind literature. So thanks to you Ursula, cause your SF novels are awesome. Oh, and your Fantasy novels of course. And your short stories. And the way you handle issues of “race” and gender in your writing (most of the time). You totally deserve your own religion. Or something.

Anyhow, the tangled title of this very post is my lame attempt at cleverness, because I am about to review The Dispossessed, a SF novel by Le Guin that was published in 1974.

via harpercollins.com

For many people SF seems to be all about spaceships and aliens and questions of “is it not only escapism, because it has nothing to do with the real world?” That’s when my eyes glaze over and I wanna shoot the person uttering this abomination before god (who is Le Guin, of course). Cause in how far is any sort of fiction closer to reality? To whose reality anyway? And what does reality even mean in the context of SF? I’m ever so puzzled when people feel disconnected to characters and events in SF stories because the surroundings and the technology are not what they expect – since they obviously expect to find their world in a novel or story, or at least the idea they have of the world and the things they’d like to see in it. And it makes me wonder: isn’t that even a graver form of escapism? That characters and actions become so very irrelevant because the whole attraction boils down to only the physical surroundings?

Because great SF comes up with characters and developments that we in our conditio humana can relate to: Characters who are presented with dilemmas that inform our own existence and their ways to deal with said dilemmas.
In the case of The Dispossessed we are presented with a political dilemma of our times: what sort of society do we want to live in? Is capitalism a road to go down or does anarchism and its communal structure present a valid alternative? The narrative takes us on a journey that alternates between chapters set in the now, on Urras, a planet full of nations, many of which are capitalist, some democratic, others socialist and repressive. That is not to say that A-Io, the nation that protagonist Shevek finds himself in, and that is apparently democratic, would not be repressive. There are mass-demonstrations and the government shooting the demonstrators out of helicopters. There are privileged people and an angry underclass. And Shevek, brought up in a distinctly non-capitalist mindset, realizes that despite all the beauty and lushness of A-Io, capitalism does indeed produce a dichotomy: within society, but also within the personality. You need to think of yourself in terms of market value, and at the same time, perversely, your performance in the market determines your value as a person. And yes, this sounds all too familiar for a reason. People do demeaning jobs and accept humiliation and abuse, because the system produces positions that can only survive by putting up with the ugly side of things.

Anarres, the planet that Shevek originates from, is the antithesis to that. It is the moon to Urras (or Urras the moon to Anarres), and while Urras is rich in water, history, nature, cultures and people, Anarres is not, it is more like one huge desert with little vegetation and a constant challenge to those 20 million people who came to Anarres some 150+ years ago, because that way leaders on Urras removed the threat of an anarchist revolution. Those who adhered to the principles and teachings of Odo, an anarchist writer, were able to set up a society from scratch on Anarres, based on their anarchist thinking. That means that everything is organized communally, people do the job that they would like to do and unpleasant tasks are done by everyone on a rotational basis. There is no possession. The things you need are there for you to take, if you need a room or an apartment you ask if there is something free and you get to use it. You eat in dining halls where food is rationed for everyone.
But the wonderful thing about Le Guin is the ability to be critical about one’s preferences. There is no question that she sympathizes with the Odonian society where people share and have a responsibility towards one another, grounded in neither religion nor nationality, but in the simple acknowledgement that as a society, every human is part of it and profits from it, but also has to contribute. And while Shevek in the flashback chapters where we learn about his life’s story on Anarres sets out with an uncritical appraisal of Odonian society he comes to learn that much of the unity and civility comes from having to work together to sustain the people on the bleak planet of Anarres. He encounters hierarchies in his field of physics and in the society in general, even though the first rule of Odonian thinking is that there are no hierarchies, that everyone is the same, that there are no nations, states, and that all administrative bodies are open to anyone and are not to be understood as authorities. But as structures tend to do, they take root and habits and hierarchies develop, and over time Shevek learns that many people might claim that they are Odonians, that they carry the revolution in their hearts, but that in reality they are fundamentally opposed to having their conveniences and habits questioned and thus seek to protect their petty interests, masking it with anarchist rhetoric. And of course all of that too sounds familiar for a reason.

(c) Eileen Gunn, via usulakleguin.com

Late in the novel Shevek has an encounter with the Terran ambassador to Urras (yeah, she is from our Earth, y’all, only far in the future). By then humanity has pretty much overpopulated and destroyed beloved planet Earth and being impressed by the anarchist (or as she’d probably put it: communist) mindset of Shevek she remarks about Urras:

“To me, and to all my fellow Terrans who have seen the planet, Urras is the kindliest, most various, most beautiful of all the inhabited worlds. It is the world that comes as close as any could to Paradise. … Now, you man from a world I cannot even imagine, you who see my Paradise as Hell, will you ask what my world must be like?”

Just to remind you once more: Le Guin is god. And here’s why: Cause right and wrong is nothing set in stone, but is for 99.9 percent of the time a matter of perspective. And perspectives change and are pre-conditioned by how we are socialized and thus the rights seem very wrong to others while the wrongs might seem very right to others and all it boils down to is that it’s probably a little more complicated than we think and at the same time not, cause why not work with our differences, we’re all just human after all. Granted, there is a catch though, cause obviously despite all its flaws, Anarresti society based on Odonian principles of solidarity is much closer to take the individual as a being to be treated and met with respect and is therefore a pretty spot-on comment about what many people in our day and age (and before that and probably after us too) find wrong with capitalism and the permeation of society and state with capitalist thinking and pseudo-reasoning. However, a constant revolution does not mean invoking revolution through words, but make revolution happen in actions. When they are needed. And they are needed often, and going through a revolution is never easy. Especially not when you meet fierce resistance from those who claim to be living the constant revolution, when really, they’re not.

via blographia-literia.com

Ursula K. Le Guin has time and again proven her ability to create and construct believable political entities and situations, remarkably so in her novel The Left Hand of Darkness. But what she is also famous for, especially with the latter publication, is her ability to comment on gender issues and come up with thought-provoking takes on the whole thing.
In the case of The Dispossessed she does so too. The society in A-Io is divided strictly along gender lines. Women are not in politics and many of them are not supposed to be working at all (though in reality, they do, especially in the working class), and they do not attend universities. They carve out their own spaces nevertheless, though the worth of this remains questionable. Once more, this situation represents a heightened version of what we encounter in our Terran societies these days (and probably even more so back in the 70s when the novel was published). And again Anarresti society based on Odonian anarchist principles functions as a comment on the situation. Shevek falls in love, deeply and thoroughly, with a woman who is of her own mind, who, like all other women on Anarres, is equal to men in every respect. And the profound attraction stems from the fact that he can see her as an individual, as the character she is, rather than the societal position that she inhabits or the gender role she performs. Which is really a marvellous concept in terms of attraction and true affection.
Another interesting gender-subversion is Sheveks short-lived gay relationship with Bedap. The text clearly states that Shevek is heterosexual and that Bedap is homo, but Shevek, because he values the friendship moves in with him and even has sex, even though it doesn’t particularly excite him, but because he feels it to be a natural part of their friendship that is kind of a duty he meets, cause he knows that it is important for Bedap. It’s a peculiar construction within the novel, cause on the one hand I find it to be touching, this concept of deep affection within a friendship that leads one to perform sexual acts that don’t correspond to one’s orientation. However, it is also questionable to the extent that we may of course ask why even go there and have sex, when there is no real sexual attraction. And if there is, why not stick with the bisexual label instead of creating restrictive hetero and homo categories. I admit, the thing kinda puzzles me, because although I see the potential issues, I still think it is kinda heart-warming. Which probably has a lot to do with me not having any problem whatsoever with friendships that involve sex but are not romantic relationships, while, I guess, that does not meet a lot of understanding from other people.

Ah, ‘nuff said. The Dispossessed is a veritable classic, and IMHO anyone should have read it. Just like anyone should have read something by Le Guin (and praise her as god). There is a short story connected to this novel called The Day Before The Revolution, which is about Odo, the principle figure shaping the anarchist movement and society we encounter here, but it is less about her theoretical works and rather about her in old age and how she deals with it. All in one day and all right before the revolution that starts the settlement on Anarres. I’ll review it these next days. Until then: Go pick up your copy of The Dispossessed.

Didn’t you hear me? Go and read it!

Final verdict on the sole survivor: Ellen Ripley, feminist heroine?

I cheat a little, I admit. I’m just gonna pretend today is the 29th of February, so I can get away with posting my last Alien entry today. If you click HERE you get to the Alien master index, linking to all Alien posts of my “February is Alien month series.” Since the issue of feminism has popped up several times throughout my discussions of the various Alien movies I decided to close this series with talking about Ellen Ripley and her status as a feminist icon. Is it justified, and if so, why?

via 4players.de

Looking at the various Alien movies one thing becomes very obvious: the miniscule presence of female characters, crowned by the major Bechdel-test fail in Alien³ where the only female character is Miss Ellen Ripley herself. However, I’ve said it before, I consider it to be an advantage for the overall plot structure and forgive it on the premise that it was a deliberate decision to create a specific dynamic. And that it does in my opinion, so, okay. In Alien we only have one other woman aboard the Nostromo and she gets killed, and I’d argue that part of the reason why she is on there anyways is to provide a sort of anti-thesis to Ripley. She is afraid, indecisive, and ultimately unable to defeat the Alien, while Ripley is all of this sort of not (yay, grammar!).
In Aliens we have two other female characters and they provide some interesting insights too. There is tough Rambo-woman Vasquez who not only saves GI asses several times but also blows herself up heroically in the end, and who serves as a backdrop to what Ripley once was while she becomes something else: a mother. Cause the other female in the movie is a girl and she primarily serves to awake the nurturing instincts in tough cookie Ripley. She still kicks ass, but she does so, cause she has a quasi-daughter now. Which is about to change radically with the beginning of Alien³.
Alien Resurrection is the first film to present a wider cast of female characters. Among them are scientists (who are stupid and afraid of what they’re actually doing), androids who wonder what it is about being human, and captain’s girlfriend who enjoys foot-massages and breaks down badly once her sweetheart is gone. (I will grace the AvP films only with a bracketed comment: those female characters –tough or not – existed only cause they felt they had to provide Ripley substitutes, and we all know it)

via virginmedia.com

So what about Ellen Ripley herself?
She is the sole survivor, multiple times, and she is because she does not bow down to alpha-male-ish nonsense. She is pretty spot on about what is right and what should be done and about what defo should not be done, like e.g. getting quarantined crew members on board, rescuing the cat, blow a colony up, and kill herself. Ripley, just as the Alien, is a metaphor besides being character, and as such she passes through several stages of female experiences. There is the factor of proving one’s own position and qualifications in a sexist hierarchy, there is the issue of becoming a mother, struggling with the feelings this entails, and also the rejection of motherhood (if we consider her to be pregnant with an alien and deciding to, well, abort the “child”). Questions of female solidarity are touched upon, as is the dealing with sexist remarks and objectification by men. And of course Ripley is more than her gender: the issues she deals with are the acceptance of one’s life story, one’s destiny so to speak, embrace it or reject it, and she remains a self-confident and independent spirit til her very end: she ends her own life, cause it is the only solution she deems acceptable concerning to overall situation and developments. Even as a new and “improved” Alien-hybrid clone Ripley stays true to these traits: she remains in charge of her sexuality (even if it means we have to suffer through abysmal one-liners), she is level-headed in situations of massive crisis, she feels empathy with people even if she does not know them and has no immediate profit in caring about them, and she learns what being human means. The hard way. I guess killing your clone-sister isn’t the easiest thing to do. And well, accepting that the being you fought against the last years of your life is now an inextricable part of you, in the literal sense, even. She once more becomes a mother figure, albeit to an alien this time, and once more she rejects the role, with yeah, terribly racist undertones.
I feel I have to point it out once more: I am not against motherhood, no effin way, mothers rule. But I am against the depiction of female journeys as being complete and meaningful only when they are topped off with becoming a mom. Cause ultimately it means that society tells you that you as an individual are pretty worthless, you only gain worth when having kids. And if we follow the thought through it basically means only being a man really counts, cause a as a daughter the same destiny of having to become a mother awaits you. That is why the glorification of motherhood (meaning that all other conceptions of femininity are rejected or deemed of less value) is often ultimately anti-feminist, or let’s just say it: downright sexist. For all the flaws of the Alien Saga in not only the gender department I truly applaud the series for getting the basic conception of a female and truly feminist heroine right. So: Yay! Feel free to disagree with me tough, but then I challenge you to comment! Muahaha.

via sherdog.net

Admittedly the headline is somewhat misleading, cause this post is more about the overall feminist message of the Alien Saga than just the character of Ellen Ripley. And one super-important yet thus far undiscussed issue is of course the alien.
The depiction of the aliens is highly interesting from a gender-issues-perspective. For once, the alien society is strictly matriarchal. No matter how many the host to a queen might take down, she is still host to a queen, killing her is not an option for the regular alien, since it of course endangers the survival of its species. The whole imagery of having an alien queen, together with her laying eggs (and the complicated mode of reproduction), serves to remind us of some mutant insect rather than an intelligent being or even something resembling human. But this premise is subverted, because in the course of Aliens we witness the alien queen becoming protective of her descendants and finally furious with those who killed them (and yeah, wouldn’t you be?). Alien Resurrection picks up on this, the alien queen literally becomes a mother when she gives birth to an alien hybrid (that is fucked-up-edly white *headdesk*) and experiences what it means to be rejected by your offspring.
While the AvP movies retreat to picturing the aliens as mere killing machines, the overall Alien Saga hints at there being more. They are social beings, and while their whole existence differs considerably from the human experience they are not entirely dissimilar. I’ve talked about the inherent racist implications HERE, but it is less obvious what the message concerning feminism is. In contrast to what the overall series does with the character of Ripley, the alien as a female queen is only valuable because of her function as a mother. However, we never really know about the gender of the other aliens or facehuggers. Do they even have one? Aren’t the facehuggers some sort of omni-gender in that no matter what gender the host, they still always succeed to implant little baby-aliens? Interesting, methinks.

via movieguys.org

Okay, I’ll wrap it up! The short version of this post could have been: Yup, Ellen Ripley is a feminist heroine for a variety of reasons. I just went out of my way to come to a point about the series as a whole, kinda.

And yeah folks, that’s it for Alien month. I guess we got it covered, huh? Maybe, with future films…. and the comics….. ah, never say never.

Kill me now, please: Alien vs. Predator

Hokay, we’re close. Let’s have one more review and then some discussion, and then Alien month on Me, all over the place will be over. Don’t cry just now, we’re not done yet. For all Alien Goodness on this blog please click HERE to get to the Alien master index.

via wikipedia.com

Soooo, Alien vs. Predator and Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. I should just say it right away: I think that both of them kinda suck. The first one less than the second, but still, you know, they suck.
Alien for me is all about the movies. I know that there is a whole army of comic fans out there that will cry in agony (oh and hey, yeah, the gamers, at least I played the alien video game too, back in the 90s…) but somehow the medium of comic never convinced me when it comes to Alien. I think that somewhere out there is the perfect comic, cause I know they exist for Batman, but what I need is darkness, grit and alla that, and comics are often just too shiny and flashy to convince me of the inherent Alien darkness. So, when I judge Alien vs. Predator, I judge the movies. Just like they deserve it.

via wikipedia.org

The whole idea of having Alien prequels and having Alien without Ripley caused a massive outcry, and I guess producers and everyone else involved noticed, that is why they tried to give us a first AvP that held up some of the tradition. Seclusion, Alien, Weyland industries, and a Bishop prototype. And of coursely: a female hero kicking Alien butt.
This all kind of reconciles me with the overall concept, plus the fact that I just don’t consider it to be canonical. So AvP is kind of ok. Granted, the cast is practically forgettable except for Ms. Superheroine Woods, who is really just memorable because she survives and gets some Predator-loving. But then again it is aptly named Alien versus Predator, since it is really all just about the Alien fighting the Predator. It is all about action, the whole premise is based on fanboys wanting to see Predators killing the Alien, while the Alien takes down some Predators along the way.
It is sort of cute how they try to introduce some depth and mythology by making the Earth a playground for Predators who are basically bringing Aliens to other planets so that they can travel there and kill them, some sort of initiation ritual for Predator adolescents to come of age I guess. I say it is cute, but of course it is really just ridiculous, because really? That is what it has come down to? There is of course an inherent problem with the whole meeting of Aliens and Predators: Predator is kind of this hunting shoot-them-all-down being that primarily exists to provide some testosterone-ridden action. Alien on the other hand is the ultimate creep, lingering around in dark corners, waiting for us humans, being more of a menace than a real opponent. Of course it is also a killing machine, but when it is reduced to that…well, it just loses the implications that it comes with, and I find that to be sad.
Hey, at least we have a female heroine and she is black. As Alien movies go, black characters usually die somewhere along the way (and that actually holds true for many of those action flicks) so that is actually one really big plus, and a surprising one at that. Admittedly, she too sucks as a character, because she is so obviously the oh-so-independent Ellen Ripley rip-off that it hurts, but still. Focus on the positive, right?

via avp.ugo.com

And then there is Alien vs. Predator Requiem. What the fuck, right? The first one was bad enough, but they still manage to deliver even worse. The most tragic aspect of the whole movie is that it is actually a zombie movie, they just substituted the zombies with aliens and Predators and it does not work. At all. I say zombie movie cause it is the good old “monsters invade suburban American neighbourhood” plot with a cookie-cutter ensemble cast that I really don’t care about the slightest fuck (seriously, before writing this and researching some I couldn’t remember in the slightest if there were any human characters continuously present in the movie, I just had some vague memories of dumb jocks lusting after dumb cheerleaders), and they have to hold together, flee into a building and defend their pathetic asses. Just like in zombie movies the people who survive are usually the worst jackasses that you would never want to meet in real life (and yeah, protective mom belongs in the same category this time), and they basically only survive by chance. And usually because the zombies are slow and stupid, but this is the fucking Alien. To reduce it even further (not just Predator prey anymore) to zombie status is an insult to what it potentially stands for, and it doesn’t even work, cause it’s kind of a no-brainer that zombies are stupid, while the alien really is not. The whole move felt like another Resident Evil instalment too me, with just the mistake that they cast the alien instead of zombies. And I probably wouldn’t get so worked up if it didn’t shit so thoroughly on the Alien Saga legacy. I’m really just being overly dramatic, is what I’m trying to say.
However, even in AvP Requiem some interesting things happen, like the Predators having a little mishap, which sets the whole plot in motion, but even more importantly they just nuke out the city (mmmh, or was is the military?) and everybody dies. BUT! But there is this little leftover Predator weapon that they present to a Ms. Yutani – and again my little fan-geek-heart rejoices in the nod, cause as we all know. Ms. Yutani rules a corporate empire that will eventually fuse with the Weyland corporation and create the evil company that we encounter in the first Alien movies. Plus, nice prequel-ly twist, having her have Predator technology to imply this is how it is all coming to space-travel and world domination and stuff. And nice that Yutani is a female company president, cause we really need more of these in real life.

via filme-welt.com

There is really not that much to say about the AvP movies IMHO. That’s probably because the story is just there to justify the whole shoot-em-up scenario and it shows. One interesting thought, stimulated by my dear flatmate, is the idea that the whole fighting has S&M overtones, with the alien and the Predator being both these dark leathery creatures that are all about torturing each other. And then there is the “Predalien,” the Predator/Alien hybrid from AvP Requiem that is basically their child. Ha, nice thought. Don’t ask about the genetic underpinnings, cause you’ll run against a wall, but we already saw in Alien Resurrection that having Alien hybrids is less of a good idea than some people might think.

You really don’t have to watch them, is all I’m saying. Just to think of all the wasted money they could have channelled into a good Alien sequel…. Too late, I guess.

On the runway no one can hear you scream – xenomorph dressing

After a wordy Alien entry (click HERE to get the to all Alien master index) I felt it was time for another round of photo-heavy Alien goodness, and what better way is there to celebrate Alien and visuals than: Alien Fashion!

That’s right folks, you are so immersed in your love of Alien, you just wanna display it on your body. (No copyright infringement intenden, if you own the right to any pictures displayed here and want them taken down, please contact me. For further info on all the pieces just click the links provided or the images themselves) Now, there are several ways to get there. You can of course always opt for the occasional fan-shirt, be it the iconic chestbuster (found here) or a full body Alien representation (found here) to show your allegiance.

Ok, so T-shirts are not your thing? You wanna go for something more fancy? Don’t you worry, there is always the option to choose an Alien costume. Granted, it is slightly less ready-to-wear-y than a T-Shirt, but you’ll feel much more like you’re on Fiorina161 than ever before, and people will look at you like you just stepped off of the Nostromo (which is a good thing of course). You’re options range from a simple, yet elaborate Alien headpiece (found here), to the DIY version that your kids will hug you for endlessly (found here), but you can also get a little more geeky and channel your inner Kane with yet another chestbuster-themed piece of clothing that requires you to learn how to manage to do things with only one hand (made by geeksix’s Josh, found here), or the Ripley inspired, now slightly Avatar-y, robot costume that might just land you another job (made by alexthemoviegeek, found here).

But the fashion-victim that you are, you of course know that an outfit relies on the details – you need Alien accessories, ASAP! You can keep it classy (read: splatter and sex) by simply have the chestbuster complete your cleavage (found here), or store your stuff in you new favorite backpack (found here). There is always the option to take it up a notch though by going high fashion (Hi, Tyra!) and go with the designs of the late Alexander McQueen: ditch your sneakers and opt for the McQueen Alien-heels (also available in other colors, found here), or screw that ponytail and get your hair did true Alien fashion (as seen on McQueens spring 2010 runway show, found here).

Hey Alex, you’re asking, what are you going to wear? Friends, I just wanted the right mix of high fashion, Alien, costume and yellow, so my pick for tonights outfit would definitely be Blackstore’s latex dress (found here). Cause it’s just too pretty to not wear it to the party!

Alien and the world of fashion, what a nice topic! Too gimmicky, you say? Bah, you can still just put on a white tank top, some olive army-pants, put a grey overall over it and say you’re just copying Ripley’s style. But she’ll know (and she’ll kick your ass for it).

Are you afraid of the Other? A color-conscious reading of Alien

I am a white German man and I enjoy the movies of the Alien-Saga helluva lot. That’s problematic. It might not be for many people, it might not seem so for many people, it might be the unthinkable to many people. But when I watch the Alien movies and find myself thinking: “they’re way cool!” I observe myself wondering: “aren’t you just being a privileged prick?”

Instead of reviewing the remains of the filmic Alien-Saga today (there are still the two Alien vs. Predator instalments) I opt for the editorial-style discussion of issues of racism and color in the Alien movies. Since I haven’t reviewed the two vs. Predator movies yet, and since I think they’re kinda shitty and non-canonical, I will mostly ignore them in this discussion. But then again, I cannot really, cause there we encounter some interesting aspects of the whole issue. For more Alien-related posts, please click HERE to get to the Alien master index.

this looks cute, but our discussion won't be, via fanboy.com

Shall I ease our way into this discussion? The question alone should make clear where I am coming from (talking bout my position within larger human society here): I address somebody who is white, western, thinks of her_himself as colorblind and does not think every other thing should be examined in relation to the issue of racism. If you are a person like that, kudos for being so interested to getting this far, please stay with me. To everyone else: Apologies. Wouldn’t it be awesome if I wouldn’t have that default audience in mind when I start to write? A truly diverse and non-me kind of audience? It would, but I don’t. I started to write and I wanted to write the question of “easing into the discussion” just when I noticed what I’m doing. But I am doing it anyhow, this time around making visible though where my own personal starting point is positioned.

this is what an alien usually looks like, via thefilmstage.com

This wordy entrance provides me with a good starting point to go on about the “easing into” anyways, cause for the beginning, let’s not focus on the alien, nor on the human cast. Let us just look at the actions that inform, more as a subtext than really out in the open, the overall narrative of the Alien movies.
Human beings, originally from our beloved Earth colonize other planets. They have mining colonies, they have prison colonies (hey Fury!), they have colonies on planets where they need to install huge, gritty machines that need to convert the atmosphere to make it inhabitable for humans. Now, you might remember, somewhere in the back of your head, or really just right away: Human beings from planet Earth have quite the history with colonialism. And it ain’t a cute one. It is a history of racial oppression that was desperately in need of racist ideology to justify what was happening in the name of whatnot else. Colonizing space seems to be different at first glance for many people, cause it’s about the future and the explorer-spirit, yadda yadda, but ultimately it is colonialism. And we never see or hear about the colonial struggles that the Earthlings might fight (well, we see one, kinda…). This whole notion of colonialism is further reinforced by presenting us with one huge corporation in charge, Weyland-Yutani, very reminiscent of the various colonisation societies and companies that existed during the days of European and Japanese colonialism not too long ago.
A company is a company, and when we expect it to follow principles and values we usually mean human ones. While that might be helpful when addressing the people in charge of running or employed by companies, a company in itself is not a human being, and in a capitalist world order it has interests that have little to do with being human. That is where the whole corporate craziness from the Alien movies stem from: Humanity meets an alien life form, and the corporate plan is to domesticate it, dissect it, study it and ultimately market it. It is potential profit, that is why it’s interesting and even more so than any of the human staff are. And a lot of the vocabulary should already make it clear, there was a perverted little system called “slavery” that humankind once thought to be a pretty neat thing. It was all about domesticating people (of color, usually), of studying them (people of color, usually), tear them out of their environment (consistent of people of color, usually) and market them (to white people, usually). The Alien, even if we don’t touch upon the issue of looking at it as reminiscent of human or regard its color, is basically being treated and approached like an enslaved subject. My point here? Colonialism and slavery, two terrible things, closely intertwined with the issue of racism and color and we encounter them in the context of Alien, thus this whole discussion is totally worth having, based on that alone. Eased into it already? Good.

how about a different color-scheme?, via artasty.com

Cause the domestication and subjugation of the alien happens on the basis of the argument that it is hostile. And oh, it happens to be black. Granted, not human skin kind of black, but black, as in very visibly not white (ha, not just yet, we’ll get there!), and a kind of black that is reminiscent of human skin color.
Ok, clearly, the alien is not a human being. It reminds us – or at least me – of some sort of reptile/spider-like being that creeps around dark corners, has a body that is set up so very differently from the human form that this alone inserts a factor of insecurity (after all, what can it do? We wouldn’t know) and does not communicate with us in any other way than attacking us. The point I’m getting at, why not just say it now?, is that in light of the history of colonialism, slavery and racist ideas many white people considered people of color to be non-human, to have bodies that differ fundamentally from theirs, to be menacing and violent and ultimately fear-inducing, based alone on the appearance. Don’t go batshit-crazy here, cause I am in no effin way saying “oho, the Alien is like a person of color,” that is not, I repeat: NOT, the point. What I mean is: “aha, interesting, the alien fulfils a vision of fear and menace in white minds that’s been formerly (or still?) occupied by people of color in white mindsets.” And that, I argue, is a racist construction. It was then, it is now, and while white people and people of color do not belong to different races, human beings and the aliens very well do, making the word racism just as appropriate, though somewhat different in overall meaning.

One of the central aspects as to why it is ok to hunt and kill the aliens is that (besides them attacking and killing us) they are constantly dehumanized within the context of the movie. Dehumanizing the being you’re dealing with is the general modus operandi when it comes to white people enslaving and discriminating people of color, it is also firmly in place when it comes to killing animals for fur or skin or meat (but I won’t go there now).
However, there is a paradox inherent in the whole construction of the Alien narrative. If the alien only were an animal that we deem a menace but not really a worthy opponent, the movies would be far less interesting. Therefore, we’ve been introduced to fairly human reactions and interactions, with somewhat of a social system, instincts that lead to the protection of their children, and an intelligence that is en par with that of human beings. They need to remind us of ourselves, in order to make for a worthy opponent, and please don’t go “but their social system, that’s like ants!, or bees!”, cause we as human beings set their social systems in human context, use human vocabulary and thereby think of them as somewhat remotely human, before denying it again on other grounds.
We do a lot of the same with the aliens. Their curious and complicated mode of reproduction, including eggs and parasitic development, rapid growth and an interesting lack of sexual interaction between the queen and any other alien, it is there to remind us that they are not human, that their reproduction cycles do not consist of warmth and familiar gestures. Which kind of reminds me how white “scientists” displayed the genitalia of black women in Europe, cause they were deemed strange and only remotely human. Not to forget white western discourses about how people of color threaten to overpopulate the world, cause they have too much sex, with too many children and too little sense of responsibility (yeah, white people – not all, mind you – think that).
Another popular white discourse has been and still is in some corners of white minds the discourse on how people of color, especially black people are not rational beings but are being led by their instincts that are considered to be primal and void of civilization. Colonial discourses were grounded in that kind of shit, and here in Alien we encounter a being that is defined (even explicitly so) by what it does, and what it does is interpreted as following its own primal instincts, without conscience and without rational thinking. Ermh, similar much?

human/alien hybrid, via cyberpunkreview.com

And then, in Alien 4, Alien Resurrection, there it comes: the alien that is closer to humanity than ever before, cause it reeks of Ripley’s DNA, shows feelings, has eyes, a pink tongue, snarls, and is MOTHERFUCKING white. Umh, the less white you are the less human you are? Is that the message you wanted to send there, stupid producers/everyone else involved? While everyone was probably like “whoa, cool visuals!” (and white) it is really just a horrid subtext displayed there. Cause all of a sudden, even if we were somehow able to ignore all the issues I presented until now, and didn’t connect the color of the aliens and its representation with the issue of racism, all of a fucking sudden Alien Resurrection conveniently links the parts together for us, saying: look, we can think of them as human, and hey, the closer they are to real humans, the whiter they get! Beatings and shootings for everyone on the fucking film set, sez I, but only in the vile places of my personality.
Then there is even the mind-boggling issue of an interracial family (which is still up to this day, unfortunately, a whole issue in itself, cause of the reactions of white society) since Ripley and the aliens are now somehow related, and Mr. Whiterson McWhite aka new kinda alien clearly considers her to be his mother. Let us just briefly think about what happens in Alien Resurrection then: the kid of that interracial relationship that is born with white skin turns against his black mother (even killing her) and family and is ultimately rejected by his white mother (and her family) cause it is still related to the other race. Yes, you may hit your head hard and repeatedly now on the table, to make the pain go away. Not only is it an extremely racist message, but it is even an extremely racist message that doesn’t even try to say it’s not. Whoa, in a not good way, I say to that.

My Little Alien by Mari Kasurinen, via thejunction.de

Having talked a lot about the aliens themselves I still want to discuss the presence of people of color in Alien movies. We all know, Ellen Motherfucking Ripley kicks ass in all the right ways, but she is not a woman of color. Ok, some people are just not (curiously basically every other Hollywood hero though), and hey, at least it is not Erik Ripley, so, yay, female presence! So, how many people of color (who, let me remind you, account for the way larger part of humankind) do we find in the main casts of Alien movies? One in the original movie, he dies. None, really, in Aliens. One in Alien³, and yeah, he dies. And one in Alien Resurrection, wanna guess?, he dies. Yay, diversity…? Obviously, with only one character of color whose name we’re aware of none of the Alien movies pass the Bechdel test adjusted to color. L.A.M.E. In about every way conceivable. At least some Latin descent is hinted at, but let’s not even ask for an Asian presence, shall we? L.A.M.E. Let’s say it together next time!
Curiously, this is where I have to start discussing the Alien vs. Predator movies, cause the first of them, and yeah, just hold your breath and sit down, comes up with one human hero – and she is a black woman. Supposedly she is the new Ripley (without ever being seen in the other AvP movie, though) and that alone makes me even kind of forget how she still needs to be acknowledged by the Predator. As for AvP 2- Requiem, I only saw it once and thought it was abysmal. I don’t even remember – are there any human characters we’re supposed to care about (except for dumb college jocks and their ladies)?
The introduction of the Predators into the Alien Universe just reinforces what I stated earlier though: the aliens become prey, they are beings in themselves, but not respected. Their existence is only permissible to the extent that the Predators can enslave them, play with them, hunt them and kill them. The predators just take over the torch. They become the mightier colonizers and masters, their every racist whim is what is to structure the universe.

Sanaa Lathan as Alexa Woods, via moviesmeter.com

On a final note I should maybe explain why I can bitch about how racist Alien movies are and still like them. Part of it is probably nostalgia, I watched and loved the Alien movies long before I ever contemplated racism and white privilege. Another part is white privilege, I guess I am white enough to not be confronted with the negative end of racist action every other moment, so that I can ignore many implications, even though I am aware that they are there. And then there is of course that part of me that hopes that some of the story and imagery is really not just that bad, tells us something about the human condition that transcends the mere medium of film
Oh and, why should be critical with something mean you have to dislike it? Hm, what do you think?