Ripley: I can handle myself.
                                   Hicks: [chuckles] Yeah, I noticed.

 -Aliens; written and directed by James Cameron

As a child of the ’80s and young woman of the ’90s, I feel I was groomed to be strong. My mom was a headstrong undergraduate studying Political Science while taking care of two kids and my dad raised my sister and I to believe that we could do anything a man could do. In fact, I will go out on a limb and say that Dad was the biggest feminist I have ever met. So, it was fitting that he introduced me to one of my favorite female icons- Ellen Ripley of the Alien[s] movie franchise. I’m not sure how old I was when I saw the second movie of the series Aliens (1986), surely in my teens, but I recognized a strength in Ripley that I wanted to emulate. I knew I would never be fighting a deadly alien on a spaceship, but did know that when I faced life’s daily conflicts of the serious or small variety, I wanted to meet them with Ripley’s strength.

Surprisingly, my exposure to Ripley has always been limited to Aliens ; I have never seen the first film Alien (1979) by Ridley Scott. Sure, I have seen the chest-ripping scene many times, but in all these years, I have never sat down and watched the original! I remedied this on Thursday and was delighted to see Ripley in her earlier days. Before discussing Ellen Ripley further, here is the original 1979 trailer and a short synopsis of the film Alien, as provided by IMDB.com:

• Movie: 117 min
• Director: Ridley Scott
• 1979
• Genre: Science Fiction/Horror

Synopsis:  A mining ship, investigating a suspected SOS, lands on a distant planet. The crew discovers some strange creatures and investigates.

Ellen Ripley begins as the third in command of the mining ship Nostromo. She is already strong, but is definitely more soft and feminine before her first dealings with the horrors created by “the eighth passenger,” what we all know as the Alien. She jokes with the nearly all-male crew, loves the ship’s cat Jones, and has faith and trust in her mission. She is not yet skeptical of those around her and the company she works for. Yet, it is she who makes the hard decisions with logic- such as electing to quarantine Kane after he has been attacked by an unknown lifeform during a scouting mission on a desolate planet :

Dallas (attempting to board the ship after the mission): Something has attached itself to him[Kane]. We have to get him to the infirmary right away.
Ripley (inside the ship): What kind of thing? I need a clear definition.
Dallas: An organism. Open the hatch.
Ripley: Wait a minute. If we let it in, the ship could be
infected. You know the quarantine procedure. Twenty-four hours for decontamination.
Dallas: He could die in twenty-four hours. Open the hatch.
Ripley: Listen to me, if we break quarantine, we could all die.
Dallas: Look, could you open the god-damned hatch? We have to get him inside.
Ripley: No. I can’t do that and if you were in my position, you’d do the same.
Dallas: Ripley, this is an order. Open that hatch right now, do you hear me?
Ripley: Yes.
Dallas: Ripley. This is an order. Do you hear me?
Ripley: Yes. I read you. The answer is negative.

Despite her clear rationale, she is overruled and thus begins their alien-induced nighmare. She is smart and quick to decide; she doesn’t cower from danger but steps up to it without regard for any so-called female shortcomings. She goes on to suspect, investigate, and unveil the duplicity of a fellow crewmember and evolves into the well-known Ripley, the badass who trusts few and knows how to handle pretty much anything.

Here is my favorite Ripley moment from Aliens:

and here is Sigourney Weaver on Ellen Ripley:

I love Ellen Ripley and I love the Alien mythos, and despite the fact that Ellen Ripley won’t be a part of the film, I am eagerly awaiting Ridley Scott’s upcoming prequel Prometheus, scheduled to premiere sometime in 2012. It will star Michael Fassbender (of Inglourious Basterds, Jane Eyre, and X-Men: First Class) and Charlize Theron (of Monster, Hancock, and my personal favorite, Arrested Development season 3 ), and will be Ridley Scott’s first foray into Science Fiction since Blade Runner(1982). Prometheus had major buzz at this year’s ComicCon, particular an unveiled scene that showed a nude Charlize Theron doing pushups. There is not yet a trailer for the film, but from i09’s summary of the released footage at ComicCon, it sounds pretty good!

So, thank you Ridley Scott for creating my favorite cinematic female, Ellen Ripley! I can’t wait for your your return to space and the Alien mythology!

Note: my viewing of Alien satisfies the Peril on the Screen task for the R.I.P. challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings!

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