‘Why ALIENS is the Mother of All Action Movies’ Video Commentary

The Video Essay “Why ALIENS is the Mother of All Action Movies” created by Leigh Singer discusses the various feminist aspects of Ridley Scott’s Aliens (1986), which not only rectified the use of strong, intelligent and self-reliant female leads in action films, a genre that had been dominated by ultra masculine male leads such as Sylvester Stallone in Rambo (1982) or Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator (1984), but also produced a female character very much in touch with her femininity and therefore depicts a more realistic approach to sexuality than other action films of the 1980s.

Unlike the other adult female character in the film, Private Vasquez (Janette Goldstein), who is a heavily armed and well-trained yet hypermasculinized Marine, the lead of the film Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) takes on a more feminine role. The creator of this video essay makes it clear, however, that Ripley’s femininity is very advantageous for her character and in the end allows her to overcome the Alien Queen, another motherly figure Singer points out, in order to save Newt (Carrie Henn), who becomes the adopted daughter of Ripley over the course of the film. Ripley is extremely resourceful and brave while at the same time is not masculinized with overwhelming boldness and a with a willingness to die, like other characters in the film, rather empowered by her own self-sufficiency and goal of saving her child and herself from an almost certain death. It is fair to say that the idea that in order for her to have success requires her motherly instincts is a conservative one, which it may be, however the fact that she is aggressive and proactive in facing an alien that bleeds acid is a very noteworthy aspect of her character that contradicts the many norms of action and horror film’s male dominated casts, where female characters rarely have an effect on the outcome of the film and instead are made to seem entirely useless and vulnerable.

Singer depicts the differences between Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and other female characters, who play the role of  ‘The Final Girl’ in other films through a use of a split screen, therefore accentuating the difference between the screaming and helpless woman being chased by a villain with a chainsaw like Leatherface and the can-do attitude of Ripley in her fight for survival against a much more menacing monster. Singer also successfully draws from the media ,itself, her views of certain themes of the film, such as Motherhood, by choosing and editing scenes in a way so that they directly correlate to the points she is making in her captions. For example, Singer explains how the motherly values of Ripley’s character are exemplified by the Alien Queen, who is also trying to protect her young from destruction and meanwhile shows the scene where the two face off.

Although Aliens is not free of the misogyny of hollywood, it appears to me, after watching this video essay, that Ripley set a precedent for female lead characters in action and horror movies and evolved the environment of the film-making industry enough to allow for more empowered and capable female leads such as Uma Thurman in Kill Bill (2003) and Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman (2017).


1 Comment

  1. Jason Mittell

    Nice discussion of the ideas that Singer raises about the films. Think more about his strategies as a videographic critic, and what elements he uses to explore and convey his ideas.

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