Saturday, February 19, 2011

Man vs. Woman/ Phalluses?

So before I begin my post, I will state that I did not watch Alien, thinking, oh yeah, I can totally see the phallic imagery used throughout the film. No. My oh-so-tactful boyfriend began discussing the phallic imagery of the film while we were eating dinner. Needless to say, I lost my appetite. Yet I was shocked to find myself agreeing with a lot of details/scenes he brought up. I became interested in the production art and came upon articles and videos about Swiss artist H.R. Giger, one video of which I have posted below. Please watch the video; I think we might all agree that the paintings/sculptures he creates are at once disturbing, yet hauntingly beautiful. I wonder at humans; we are often fascinated by what scares and disturbs us. Forgive me that tangent.

Back on topic- Alien. When watching the film I was struck by the art, the design of the aliens, and the design of the two ships of the film. Before discussing phalluses, I wanted to briefly discuss the spinal imagery in the movie. I was struck by the walls of the alien spaceship and by the "space jockey" alien. There appeared to be spinal-like outlines on the floor and walls of the ship. Giger’s designs seem to play upon a manipulation of the skeleton and the spine. The video I posted just shows how Giger uses a spinal design in his artwork- how interesting that a most human characteristic- the vertebrae- human backbone- is what Giger comes to associate with alien life forms. Hmm. What could Giger be indicating about humanity/aliens through this art?

And now back to a Freudian topic- a look at phalluses and phallic imagery in the film. I was taken aback by the notion that the alien’s eyeless, great long head looked like a penis. Actually, yeah, it kind of does, right? I’m not the kind of person obsessed with putting everything in terms of sex and latent sexual desires, but I think one might comment on the remarkable way the film depicts men versus women. The women of the film seem to have the better intuitions. And as Ripley demonstrates, she has the strongest character and determination; she is a survivor. While Lambert dies and is arguably not made of the stuff Ripley is, throughout the film she is constantly suggesting that taking in the alien egg and doing certain things is not a good idea. Though Dallas and the android (android Bilbo) obstinately push to keep the alien aboard, Ripley and Lambert want to follow procedure (quarantine) and feel suspicious of the facehugger/alien. So, I might argue that the heroine’s defeat of a penis-shaped alien suggests female strength, resilience, and spirit. Ripley is independent, she is alone; but she uses her bravery and mind to outwit the alien.

This post turned out to be more a description of a man vs. woman theme than a discussion of phallic imagery, but I think a mention of phallic imagery can get the ball rolling on everyone’s imagination. In addition, I wanted to note that Ridley Scott wanted in the final sequence of the movie for the Alien to kill Ripley but the studio determined that Alien had to die and Ripley survive. As a result of this film, Sigourney Weaver shot to stardom and is listed as one of the greatest, most “bad-ass” women in film history. What a different kind of film we would have had if this had happened- would it have been as iconic?

1 comment:

  1. I think that's interesting that you should bring up the man vs women aspect because I was also struck by how much the men were the ones tormented in the movie in general. I thought it was an original choice by Scott to have a man be the one attacked by the "facehugger." He was essentially raped by the alien and then forced to give birth to its offspring. It seems as if Scott was using the over the top violence as a sort of payback for all of the movies in which it is the women who are raped and tormented.