Un-apologetically female: An analysis of Alien

Arguments about what amounts to a feminist character have always been up for debate. Does a feminine character mean a character who portrays male attributes or a character who supports the traditional female attributes, or is it a female character who is un-apologetically feminine? Although feminist characters do not always have to be women in most cases they are. Ridley Scott’s Alien features two women with almost opposite personality types. On one end you have Lambert, who cries hysterically throughout most of the film. Then you have Ripley, who only has one moment of hysterical crying and spends the rest of the film being the hero. In a way both of these women can be feminist characters, where we have one who is not afraid to reveal her emotions when need be and embrace the expected roles of women. Then we have the other who goes against the typical role women often play in films (especially action based films). In my opinion both of these women embody feminist roles where neither of them are viewed as sexual objects(for the most part) yet are not represented as having predominantly male qualities.

However there is one scene that worries me. This is a scene that features Ripley, who after thinking she has successfully destroyed and escaped from the aliens decides to take not only her armor off but also most of her clothes and walked around in white underpants and a tank top on. The importance of her taking her clothes off brings up many questions for me. Being that there were not many outright sexual events in the film, was this done to satisfy the male gaze? Did this scene disrupt her strong feminist attributes? Did it make these attributes stronger? I will be discussing these questions in this analysis.

According to most people, the film Alien has a lot of sexual undertones and references. For example, the phallic shape of the alien’s head, the vaginal shaped face hugger, the overall reference to rape throughout the film etc. Unless you are watching the film to critically analyze it, it may be difficult to pick up on any of them. On top of that none of these sexual references can generally be viewed as pleasurable. So the scene where Ripley takes her clothes off can be said to satisfy the need to sexually fulfill the male viewers of the film. It is possible that this may undo the feminist character that Ripley is portrayed as; but at the same time it may not. If we base this undoing on the fact that after saving the day she is shown walking around in her underwear with her buttcrack visibly showing, it can easily be argued that it demeans her as a woman. But by saying this, are we policing her body? Her walking around in her underwear reveals her as feminine in the typical way that films often do, and is it not okay for her to be recognized as feminine and female? Although this is not the only way women can be recognized as women in film, it was an interesting choice to make. At first, watching the scene may be upsetting as you wonder why this strong female character has now become an object for the male gaze but on second thought you may understand that it is possible for a woman to be sexual and still the hero.

Throughout the film you have both female characters who cry and are never scrutinized for it. In this scene you have a female character who undresses, but not for sexual reason. The film featured scenes where woman are doing things that they would normally be looked down on for in both filmic and real life societies. Not only were they not demeaned for having these qualities but they did not demean themselves either. Lambert never apologized for crying, Ripley did not apologize for crying, and Ripley had no problem taking her clothes off in the end.

Being able to see this character as a human, a sexual being, and a hero all at once made her feminist attributes stronger. After seeing everyone in her crew die, being attacked by giant aliens, blowing up a spaceship, and barely escaping, Ripley decided that she wanted to take her clothes off, and she did. There should be no problem with the fact that she did this, she should not be denied her body in order to avoid the male gaze. In a way policing a woman’s body in order to avoid the male gaze would have made the scene less feminist. I believe the writers made a good choice by incorporating this scene.

In most action films we have male leading characters, and we have the female characters who are often only put there to satisfy the male gaze. This film did not follow this guideline at all. They had a female leading character who did not seem to care for the male gaze at all. Maybe this was also a reason why she took her clothes off, maybe it was to remind the audience that although she broke the role of the traditional female, she was still human. The fact there is a chance that this scene can be seen as debasing to women shows that sexuality in women is often viewed as shameful. This film did a good job at normalizing not only traditional female traits but also the female body.

 

Cognitive dissonance of humanity: An analysis of Sedmikrasky

Chytilova’s 1966 Daises or Sedmikrasky is often recognized as a feminist film for reasons that are very easy to notice. It features two carefree women, running around their town with reckless abandon, doing whatever they please. It can also be said to feature feminist topics mainly pertaining to the role of the woman in society; but to say that the film is solely based on feminist theory would be to undermine its brilliance. Daisies is a film not only about gender roles but also about gaining and losing humanity at the same time. It is about the decision to hold onto humanity in a society that is bent on turning people like clockwork, and it is about if it is worse to become clockwork or rebel against it. This dissonance of humanity is exemplified in all scenes throughout the film with the director’s use of montage. The juxtaposition of mise-en-scene and story in the film is what makes it easy to find its meaning. We follow the characters from black and white scenes to colorful and psychedelic like scenes, from solitary spaces, to a club full of people. The film constantly takes viewers from one end of the spectrum (being mechanical) to the other (being human).

The film begins with images of explosions cut in-between images of turning gears. From the very start of the film we not only see the comparison between humanity and mechanisms but also how humanity in a mechanical system leads to destruction. These beginning scenes foreshadow the last scenes of the film. The first time we see the two main characters they are sitting stiffly against a wall next to each other, talking about how the world is going bad and how they should go bad with it. This conversation is accompanied by their bodies moving in a mechanical like manner with sounds to match. After they decide to go bad with the world the very next scene shows them in a bright green meadow, where one of them takes and eats an apple from a tree. Chytilova contrasts mechanics and nature. Where the two women who at first seemed to be stiff robots and placed in an unsaturated environment are turned organic.

The two women take going bad as a game, where they play with the emotions of men, steal from a singing lady in the bathroom, and in one comedic scene they go to a club and distract both the audience and performers by getting drunk and playing pranks on the patrons and waiter. Throughout their pranks and escapades they often mention whether or not they’ve gone bad or rotten as if they are comparing themselves to food, which they eat plenty of.

Throughout the film the two comically consumes large amounts of food in a way doing whatever they can to stay human, they get old men to buy them meals, their room always has some type of food in it, and in one scene they bathe in what seems like milk. Towards the end of the film they have a food fight and waste food, in a way revealing that they no longer need it because they have finally gone bad and lost their humanity. Immediately after the fight they are drowning and calling for help, but they are now bad and no one is helping them. Chytilova created the film in a way that although they are likeable characters we do not care for them, we do not relate to them, or feel sadness for them; not even when they are in the end crushed by a chandelier.

The goal of the two women in the film was to go bad like the rest of the world. They started off as robots, gained human qualities such as deceit, theft, and hunger, and used those qualities to destroy anything around them. They again became robots going through the same motions of deceive, steal, and eat over and over again until they were destroyed. It is unclear whether going bad meant to become like the typical human or become like a robot in society because the two succeeded by doing both.