Ellen Ripley in Alien: A Complex Exploration of Feminist Empowerment and Gender Equality

15 March 2023
ellen ripley alien 1979
Éllen Ripley

Ellen Ripley, the protagonist of the Alien film franchise, is widely regarded as one of the first strong female action leads in cinema. Her character is complex, resilient, and resourceful, making her a feminist icon and a symbol of female empowerment. However, some critics argue that the film is more than just a feminist statement; it's also a response to feminism and a commentary on the patriarchal structures that underpin our 'society'.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Ripley's character in  Alien is her sexuality and how it relates to the men and women on board the Nostromo ship. Throughout the film, Ripley is portrayed as a strong, independent woman who refuses to be defined by traditional gender roles.

Her sexuality also puts her in a vulnerable position, and she is subjected to unwanted advances from some of the men on the ship.

In one scene, Ripley is shown changing out of her space suit, and Parker, one of the male crew members, watches her from behind a glass panel. This scene is significant because it highlights the tension between Ripley's obvious sexuality and her desire to be treated as an equal in the workplace. It also highlights the way that men often view women in the workplace, as objects of desire rather than as colleagues and equals.

Like, c'mon. the filmmakers knew what they were doing:

ellen ripley tit nipples

However, despite the challenges that Ripley faces as a woman in a male-dominated workplace, she remains resolute and determined to assert her authority. 

She refuses to be intimidated by the men on the ship, and she uses her intelligence and resourcefulness to outwit the alien and save herself.

Ripley's sexuality is also significant in the way that she interacts with other women on the ship. She is shown to be supportive of other women, particularly Lambert, another crew member who is also struggling to assert herself in the face of male dominance. The relationship between Ripley and Lambert is complex, and it is characterized by a mixture of mutual support and competition.

In one scene, Ripley and Lambert are shown discussing their options in the face of the alien threat. Lambert is visibly shaken and is struggling to maintain her composure, but Ripley is able to remain calm and focused. However, when Lambert suggests that they abandon the ship and flee in the escape pod, Ripley is quick to assert her authority and suggest a different plan of action.

If the men of Nostromo can be considered ''weak'' in the context of their 'workplace relations' with Ripley, Ash the A.I. robot is not weak, he is a man-made unit of terror.

A most disturbing scene in the film Alien is when Ash attempts to kill Ripley by shoving a rolled-up pornographic magazine down her throat. This scene can be interpreted as a metaphorical rape, with Ash representing the patriarchy and Ripley representing the subjugated woman. The scene is particularly significant in the context of the film's themes of sexuality and gender roles. 

It should be noted she is rescued by fine men in the scene...

The scene is also significant in the way that it highlights the tension between human and machine. 

Ash is an AI robot, and he is programmed to follow orders and carry out his mission, regardless of the human cost. He is acting completely contrary to Asimov's suggested law of Robots.  This tension is a recurring theme throughout the film, and it is most evident in the character of Ash, who represents the cold, calculating logic of the machine. 

Ripley's revenge in the scene where Ripley destroys Ash, smashing his head with a fire extinguisher should of course be viewed as a visceral reaction to this mindset. Ripley's act of violence to save herself can be seen as a symbolic resistance to the dominance of the machine, a rejection of the cold, unfeeling logic that threatens to consume humanity and by extension, the men (and woman?) that designed the robot. By contrast, consider the sexuality of the Borg Queen from Star Trek

It is quite interesting to make the following observation: 

In the early stages of development, Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett encountered a writing challenge when determining how to introduce the alien onto the ship. Shusett proposed the idea of "the alien impregnating one of the crew members," which later became the basis for the facehugger concept. The facehugger's method of reproduction involved implantation and was intentionally designed to evoke themes of male rape and impregnation. 

As a result, the writers were insistent that the victim of the facehugger be male. This decision was made to avoid the horror trope of women being portrayed as the easiest target, to avoid the inappropriate depiction of a female character as the victim of symbolic rape, and to subvert gender conventions, making male viewers feel uneasy.

Ellen Ripley is a complex character who embodies the feminist ideals of equality and empowerment. However, her character also challenges traditional gender roles and the sexual division of labor that is present in the workplace. The Alien franchise can be seen as a response to feminism as a collective force, challenging the idea that gender determines one's worth or capabilities and suggesting that in the face of a common enemy, we are all equal. 


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

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