Analyzing Alien 3: The Mother of all Bitches!

Ripley is the ‘Bitch’, the Alien is the ‘Bitch.’ They both hold strategic, maternal positions within families or colonies of workers, they are linked genetically as Ripley is impregnated with the Alien Queen and both are aggressive by nature.

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Alien threatens Ellen Ripley the mother of the Queen
Alien 3: The Bitch is Back!



Introduction: Analyzing Alien 3: The Mother of all Bitches!

Following the finale of James Cameron’s Aliens, in which Ripley confronts the Queen with the infamous words ‘get away from her you BITCH,’ Fincher opted to use the tag-line ‘The Bitch is Back’ to advertise the release the third film in the series Alien 3. The purpose of this analysis is to consider the role of the minority or the other in the science-fiction genre. So, initially the focus will be on identifying who the word ‘bitch’ refers to within the context of this film. The second part of this article will examine how Alien 3 demonstrates that science-fiction is not only concerned with the differences between human and non-human, but also the differences in feminism, race, sexual orientation and family and work place structure. In doing so this article will take into account scientific advancement such as genetics, cybernetics and engineering.

Analyzing Alien 3: The Mother of all Bitches!

There are two points to be examined in this analysis, and they will be examined separately. Initially I shall approach the question of which character is the ‘Bitch’ in Alien 3. I shall argue that in Alien 3 both Ripley and the Alien Queen are the ‘Bitch.’ I will pursue this line of thought by discussing the denotative value of the two characters and connotative implications of gender and the mother figure in both personalities. The nature of the Alien’s host in this film will also be examined. I will summarize my ideas before proceeding to an examination of the social context and reflections of minorities as a re-defining of the other as suggested above. I will then move onto the second part of the analysis and work through this in steps; initially I will discuss difference in terms of the non-human, and then difference in terms of race and sex. The discussion will then turn to ideas of the nuclear family and changing workforce and departures from the nuclear family in Alien 3. I will briefly explain how biological engineering has affected the role of the other in the Alien series and summarize the role of the ‘Bitch’ and the structure of the two family or colony units in Alien 3. Throughout this article the two points to be examined will be related to one another and larger issues explored based on the idea of the other in a social context. Now we must begin the discussion by opening with an analysis of who is the ‘Bitch’ in Alien 3.

 Identifying the ‘Bitch’ in Alien 3

As explained in the introduction, I will argue that the term ‘Bitch’ describes both Ripley and the Alien Queen, to fully appreciate the significance of labeling both characters as bitches we must turn our attentions back to the first two films; Ridley Scott’s Alien and James Cameron’s Aliens, in order to put the third film in context. In Alien the Alien’s life cycle is presented as constituting three parts; embryo, young and adult. The embryo, which is seen attaching itself to Kane’s (John Hurt) face merges the parent and child demarcation. The face-hugging Alien, which resembles a mold of both vagina and penis, emanated from the eggs found on LB426, but is clearly a female entity as it is the vessel of reproduction placing the offspring into a surrogate host, who in turn becomes a giant detached womb. The phallus or egg tube protrudes from a giant set of labia lips and the overall purpose of the face-hugger is to reproduce. The offspring or egg is laid within the host and becomes an embryo. The hugger produces the egg, which turns into the embryo and after implantation has succeeded releases the host and dies.

Merging the Mother and Embryo

In death the creature assumes a spider-like appearance, and the spider, which devours its mate after intercourse is symbolic of the female. I would argue that the parent/embryo role is, in the first Alien film, at least merged. The lay viewer does not distinguish between the face-hugger, the chest-burster and the adult Alien as they are part of the same beast. The vessel of the face-hugger was found in the remains of a ship that contained secreted vaginal-like structures suggesting (at least in the first film) that the eggs lie safely within the womb of the monstrous, devouring, true mother before the displacement of the egg via the face-hugger into the false parent or host.

Alien: The Second Stage and Frankenstein

The second stage of the Alien’s life-cycle is that of the Alien young and it springs and flows directly from the first stage, the implanted egg from the parent becomes the embryo and then the chest-bursting young. The creature, now a deformed phallus in appearance, rips through the host’s chest for a birth reminiscent of a violent Caesarian section. The host dies in the process, in the first film the host is a man. Science-fiction has always represented the male mother as an abomination, a monster existing contrary to God’s law, such as the monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Roy’s creator in Bladerunner (Scott, R). The offspring of the male mother is physically repulsive to reflect this abomination and the paternal mother dies or suffers for his creation. Frankenstein’s life is destroyed by the lonely, socially rejected monster forcing Frankenstein to travel to the ends of the Earth, away from civilization, to meet his death. Kane is eaten from the inside out by his unnatural offspring and that unnatural offspring then proceeds to destroy Kane’s peers just as the monster destroys Frankenstein’s family.

Alien: The Final Stage

The final stage in the Alien life-cycle is adulthood; the Alien resembles a slimy dragon with one set of jaws that sits within another set of jaws much like a toothed-vagina. This embodiment has strong masculine tendencies suggesting that in spite of its symbolic nature this example of the species is male, the suggested rape of Lambert reinforces this idea. The Alien is seen using its tail to menacingly caress Lambert’s leg before Lambert’s copulation-suggesting screams ring through the ship. Lambert is a passive victim of the Alien; she does not move out of its way when she has the chance, she is fixated by it. In this scene science-fiction borders on horror whereby the female victim is drawn into the sexual desires of the other, the monster.

Alien: Mother and ‘Papa’

The idea that this Alien (which I will refer to a ‘Papa’ Alien) is masculine is reinforced in Aliens whereby the Papa Aliens serve and guard the mother Alien or Queen. She is physically larger and different to the Papa Alien, much like the Queen in an ant colony. To summarize; the Alien’s gender in Alien is androgynous in its early face-hugging stage, but feminine in terms of its life-cycle and reproductive abilities, yet masculine in terms of the actual creature’s gender. In denotative terms, the first Alien is male, and is similar in appearance to the Alien that menaces Ripley in Alien 3.

Understanding the Term ‘Bitch!’

To further this debate we must consider the notion of the ‘Bitch.’ The ‘Bitch’ is the female dog, protecting and feeding its young through instinct. This is the denotative interpretation, but the term ‘Bitch’ is also used as a connotation for strong and defensive women in the English language of western societies. The term ‘Hard-nosed Bitch’ is often utilized in western societies to describe a particularly successful business woman who adopts the same approach to the business world as her male counterparts. When considering gender the word ‘Bitch’ is a term applied to the feminine and in Alien 3 Ripley is the only woman. The Alien in the earlier films denotes a male, but symbolizes the female through its reproductive capabilities. We will now examine further why each of the two characters connote a ‘Bitch’ in the third film, starting with a discussion of the Alien.

A New Alien

The Alien in Alien 3 departs in appearance from its predecessors. This Alien is faster, walks on four legs and physically looks different. Ripley herself notes its difference when discussing it with the ex-convicts. She has not see ‘one like this.’ To understand the Aliens new appearance we must consider how it was produced. This Alien comes from an animal; a dog in the theatrical edition and an ox in the special edition. Its birthing procedures are as unnatural as its predecessors, it explodes viciously from the host in the absence of usual sexual fertility, but still in the guise of a vicious C-section and grows at a faster rate than the minute young of its chest-bursting predecessors. This Alien comes from an animal, the child of a dog, literally the son of a bitch whose species represent the horrifying otherness of women.

Alien and The Thing

The Alien is not a single other, it is more of an enemy entity much like the creature that mimics its host and whose cells can exist separately in The Thing (John Carpenter, 1981). The mother Alien is the matriarch and part of a wider family of others, just as the monastic community of ex-convicts for an alternative family or rather colony. As a whole the Aliens symbolize the feminine other spawning, and re-spawning. As such the Alien is a bitch; a vicious reproductive system fighting for survival. The cruel nature of the Alien towards other species also symbolizes the notion of the hard-nosed bitch. The Aliens birth and life-force results in the death of the host. Science fiction creates a link between life and death as demonstrated in The Thing. Here the assimilated host dies so that the alien other can assume the space where the host existed particle by particle, as each individual cell dies an alternative alien cell replaces it. In Alien 3 the Alien’s birth results in the death of the entire prison colony (bar one) to ensure the survival of its own species.

The Hybrid

Similarly, in Aliens the Aliens abduct humans to provide their young with hosts and ensure the survival of the species. In Alien 3 there are no eggs and the Alien kills to ensure its own survival as in The Thing whereby the creature kills to remove any threat to its own mortality. The Alien does recognize that Ripley is carrying a Queen and refuses to harm her, however, and in doing so protects its own species. It is concerned by the presence of the Alien embryo inside of Ripley. Ripley must survive in order to ensure the survival of the Alien species, and as both Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection tell us Ripley is carrying the Queen. The composition of the Alien community, as explained above, resembles that of an insect colony moving the Aliens closer to the animal kingdom than civilized human society. Its basic instinct is for survival, like a child it seeks to fulfil the basic needs as represented by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The Aliens are not lacking in reason though, in Aliens the Aliens cut the electricity to which Hudson (Bill Paxton) screams,

How can they cut the power…They’re animals!

This indicates that it is only compassion, not reason, that the Aliens lack. The humans are deemed to be cattle, nothing more. The Alien in Alien 3 is a self-serving surrogate, a child of a dog, driven to protect its own species at any cost, it is in short a ‘Bitch,’ but it is not the only bitch in the film.

Counterparts and Maternal Instincts

Ripley can also be deemed a ‘Bitch’ both physiologically and socially like her Alien counterpart. In Aliens a new aspect of Ripley’s personality, her maternal instinct, enhances her agile new form and feisty personality. Her tough demeanor is softened by her attachment to Newt, and in the special edition we learn that Ripley left her own child on Earth when she went to work on the Nostromo. Newt replaces the child that Ripley lost, and she is unwilling to lose Newt. Her maternal instincts are transferred onto Newt and Newt becomes her surrogate child. The battle between the mother Alien and Ripley is one of Mother vs. Mother. Ripley saves Newt by threatening to burn the Alien’s eggs, Mother Alien uses the eggs to betray Ripley and in turn Ripley destroys the eggs and the Mother Alien torments Newt on the drop ship with the intent of killing her and by doing so she would make Ripley suffer. Alien 3 extends and distorts Ripley’s role as a mother. Newt dies at the beginning of the film, and although her tears at Newt and Hicks’ funeral at the beginning of the film demonstrate Ripley’s maternal grief, her first instinct is to fight the tears and ensure that Newt was not a host to the Alien.

Speciesism

Ripley insists that an autopsy is carried out on Newt to protect her own species, her new found convict family, from the Alien in the same way as the Alien community fights for its own survival. This is Ripley’s basic instinct for survival showing as she does not personally know the convicts and has limited attachment after many years in space with other humans. Newt is gone and Ripley is forced to adopt a new maternal role in this film, she is host to an Alien having been impregnated in her sleep. In Alien Resurrection we learn that the Alien inside of her is a Queen making Ripley mother to a mother. She is an unwilling part of the Alien community, immune to the Alien’s destructive tendencies. She reminds the Alien that she is ‘part of the family.’ Ripley is worn out by her ongoing fight and willing to die to stop the unnatural birth of her Alien offspring, she finally hurls herself into the molten fire of the leadworks and clings desperately to her Alien offspring as they fall together to their respective deaths.

The Feminine Hero

Ripley not only denotes a ‘Bitch’ but symbolizes a hard woman in ‘Snow White’ (Vasquez in Aliens) form. She is no marine, she is a naturally strong woman forced to fight to survive, and gaining survival skills throughout her fight. Physically Ripley is over 6 foot tall, but she does not have the butch physique of Vasquez, indeed her appearance is somewhat androgynous. This fact is emphasized in Alien 3 when Ripley is obliged to have her head shaved and provided with masculine clothes in order to fit in with the male community and to prevent her femininity from destroying the chaste virtues of the monastic community of violent ex-convicts. Her presence, however masculine, does attract a rape attempt and although she is saved by Dillon she is no passive victim. Ripley beats the perpetrator with an aggression normally associated with men.

The Leading Mother!

She also reprises her leadership role by directing the capture of the Alien. The audience is reminded of her female vulnerability only when Dillon physically moves her after refusing to kill her but even then she is not afraid of Dillon, nor of the Alien. Perhaps she knows instinctively that the Alien will not kill her and her attempt to seek out the Alien is only done to confirm that fact. Her fear of death is modest, unlike Hudson in Aliens and unlike the rough, masculine ex-offenders in Alien 3. Ripley is as masculine as her male associates in both films. She is a hard-nosed warrior, the ‘Bitch’ in a man’s world, but she is also a mother, and the mother of the mother other. She is a ‘Bitch’ in the fullest sense of the word and this ‘Bitch’ is as much an other as the dog-spawned Alien is. Her presence upsets the spiritual quietude of the prison community.

Social differences

This brings us to the second point in this article; science-fiction as a genre is concerned with difference and now we shall examine the idea of the other in the context of Alien 3. The first difference in the science-fiction genre is the discrimination between human and non-human. The difference here is denotative and an obvious visual difference in most science-fiction films. In Star Wars: A New Hope the non-humans are very different to the humans from the hairy giant Chewbacca to the slimy reptile like figure of Jabba the Hut. In the Alien films the creature resembles a dark dragon with teeth and slime. This is what humans would consider hideous and in nature the Alien is unable or unwilling to communicate or negotiate with the human cattle. Its failure to utilize language sets it apart from human beings just as the same inability of animals to communicate sets them apart from the human world. Some alien others, such as that of the Predator in The Predator (John McTiernan, 1987) can use basic language skills, but are still classed as non-human by their ‘Ugly Motherfucker’ appearance. Modern science-fiction travels beyond discriminating between human and non-human and reflects social differences in terms of the social other through race, gender, changing family structure and alterations to the work force. I will now proceed to show how these social minorities and changing social structures are reflected in the narrative of Alien 3.

An Intolerable Woman

The first and most notable outsider other than the Alien is Ripley. She is an ‘intolerable’ (Dillon) woman whose presence not only attracts the Alien to the isolated colony, but also attracts the suppressed desires of the inhabitants of Fiorina. The inhabitants are all men, but in comparison to the approachable male marines in Aliens these men are true alpha males, convicts who have all served time for rape or murder, humans evolved with a double Y chromosome. Throughout their time on the prison planet these convicts discovered God and renounced their early lives, but chose to remain on Fiorina away from the rest of humanity because they do not wish to test the strength of their testimony in a world of temptation. The prisoners themselves are outcasts. Ripley brings temptation to the convicts on Fiorina, the inmates are instantly appalled on hearing of her presence arguing that she poses a threat to the vow of celibacy that every ex-convict took.

Femininity and the Victim

Ripley’s femininity is highlighted during her rescue when her curvaceous and attractive figure is lifted from the drop ship Sulaco, however to blend into the existing society Ripley is forced to play down her femininity and womanliness; she has to shave her head to prevent an alleged infestation of head lice and wear masculine clothing, she has to adopt a masculine appearance, but even this does not ward off the rape attempt. It is Dillon who rescues her from this rape attempt, which is ironic since he was the spokesperson for the community when debating the ills of a woman’s presence with the superintendent. It was also Dillon who warned Ripley that,

You don’t want to know me lady! I’m a rapist and murderer of women!

Sympathizing as the Outsider

It is significant that Dillon saves Ripley as she is not offended by his dark admission. She understands that her presence would make him uncomfortable and instead of ostracizing him for his past opts to sit with him, at which point he offers tolerance towards her even though she is ‘intolerable.’ Ripley does not condemn him for his treatment of her social group, her gender. After she sits with him the pair form a bond throughout the film, an acceptance of each other, which plays a large part in his inability to kill her to save her from the impending death by chest-burster. Dillon is a black man, another minority, and he is a spiritual man and often religious beliefs have been identified as having a minority/majority divide. By the end of the film Ripley is accepted fully by Dillon, she is part of the team and he calls her ‘sister’ as they combine their efforts to defeat the Alien. Ripley is not only part of the Alien family, but she is part of the Fiorina family because like the ex-convicts she is set apart from humanity.

The Alien Community

The most successful and united of the alternative family or working units in the Alien series is that of the Alien. The basic instinct of the Alien is to protect the colony, the species as a whole. They are never seen, ‘Fucking each other over for a God damn percentage.’ They are inhuman and their basic family set-up is insect-like, but unlike the Weyland group they are not seen to destroy one another for material gain. The Alien does not, however, exhibit emotion and in a human family the emotion of love is essential, much like Ripley’s love for Newt. In the original Alien film Ripley’s love for Jones the cat makes her human colleagues’ lives somewhat expendable as she returns for the cat, but not to the screaming Lambert. For his own protection Jones does not go on the mission in the sequel.

Surrogacy

In Aliens Newt loses her nuclear family, and it is the epitome of the nuclear family; mother, father, brother and sister, and together they form an effective working team. Once the Aliens destroy Newt’s family she becomes the surrogate daughter of Ripley and the man Ripley likes, Hicks. Ripley loses her surrogate daughter and would-be husband in the third film. Here instead she sits on the fringes of two potential families; she is Dillon’s ‘sister’ and the Aliens future mother, mother to the Queen. Her link to the Alien family forms the basis of the narrative for Alien Resurrection. Here Ripley is part of the Alien and the Alien is part of her. She develops highly attuned senses and a mental, almost loving bond to her Alien offspring. Ripley also feels the contractions of the Alien Queen and is devastated by the necessary death of her deformed and dangerous Alien-Human hybrid child; a futuristic Frankenstein’s monster conceived through the travesty of bio-engineering and genetics.

Love and Lust

Before closing the discussion on the family we must consider briefly Ripley’s relationship with Clemens. Ripley does not love Clemens in the way that she loved Hicks, he is a different type of man and her affections are based on lust. Hicks was an ideal partner, an equal with military skill and a caring soft-spot for both Ripley and Newt. Clemens is an ex-addict and a killer, she is attracted to Clemens in ‘that way.’ They have a sexual partnership, she is not a submissive female she is a forthright woman who instigates their sexual encounter partly because it has been a ‘long time’ and partly to evade discussing the Alien with him. They both have their secrets, he tells her about his past and her past returns violently in the form of the Alien who kills her new love interest Clemens. The sexual nature of Clemens and Ripley’s relationship is connoted through the penetration of the intravenous cocktails that Clemens provides Ripley with to escape her suffering.

A Society of Outsiders

The first time Clemens attempts to inject Ripley she physically resists by gripping his arm tightly. The second injection is given after intercourse and his confession regarding his past crimes and Ripley conveys her trust by allowing Clemens to penetrate her in such a way. The medical penetration, like the rape of Lambert, blurs the lines between the horror and science-fiction genre and is suggestive of the vampire and victim dynamic. Clemens himself is an outsider and is often seen as apart from the group and disliked by the superintendent and Aaron (85) as he is both a bright academic and a criminal. Indeed, the entire monastic family is made up of outcasts, minorities, others. Golic is mad, Dillon is black, Aaron has a low IQ and Clemens exists, like Ripley, between two worlds. This monastic community forms an alternative family base, and the work distribution reflects this. The superintendent’s assistance has a substantially low IQ and the spokesperson for the group is a black man. It is therefore quite conceivable that Ripley, the mother who lost her families, the ‘Bitch’ who beat the monster and the hardy survivor joins Dillon in leading the double Y chromosome males against the Alien.

And in Conclusion

Ripley is the ‘Bitch’, the Alien is the ‘Bitch.’ They both hold strategic, maternal positions within families or colonies of workers, they are linked genetically as Ripley is impregnated with the Alien Queen and both are aggressive by nature. The Alien exists within a functional community, where as Ripley leads dysfunctional communities of outsiders. Her strength makes her ‘tolerable’ and once the narrative progresses Ripley proves that the ‘Bitch’ is truly back!

 

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'Valkyrie' Kerry is a multi-graduate with degrees in the fields of law, psychology, English, creative industries (including journalism and the arts) and the humanities. Her post-graduate work covered film and media, writing and the social sciences. Kerry has traveled to over 42 countries and engaged in a multitude of extreme sports. Although Kerry had a few articles published in her youth as an amateur her professional career in writing really took off in 2015 after she completed the poetry marathon. In 24 hours Kerry wrote 100 poems in 15 styles and 6 different languages. Subsequently her work was published by numerous magazines including; 'Tiger Shark,' 'Short Break Fiction,' the 'Some Poets' anthologies, 'Soft Cartel,' 'Peeking Cat,' 'Plum Tree Tavern,' 'Grotesque,' 'Eskimo Pi' and 'Entropy Squared.' Kerry then branched into the production of non-fiction articles and her writing was published by 'Soul Searchers Magazine,' 'Moods Magazine,' 'Voices Ireland' and 'Our Irish Heritage.' Kerry is a huge fan of horror fiction and social journalism. Compilations of her work are available on Amazon and her editorial debut 'Stan and Ellen's Grand Opus' reached number one in the UK Chapbook Chart in 2016.