Thursday, June 18, 2020

Believe Care Invest: Alien

Okay, that went well, so let’s continue alphabetically and go on to Alien. How does the movie get us to believe, care, and invest in Ripley?

Why she might be hard to care for:
  • Because they’re intentionally hiding the fact that she’s the hero! This movie wants to do a fake out and kill the person who seems to be the hero halfway through, so they’ve got to subtly build up Ripley to be a compelling back-up hero without us noticing. A very tricky proposition!
  • As sci-fi, the biggest trick is to get us believe in the existence of this weird world. They do this with how un-sci-fi it is: how dingy the ship is, the way the lights flicker on unsteadily, etc. There’s an odd little drinking-bird toy sitting out. The space traffic control base being in Antarctica is a good example of “Make the strange familiar and the familiar strange.”
  • As for Ripley, she’s the only one who pets the cat. She says, “That’s not our system” in a sing-song-y voice.  She tells Brett to fuck off.  She’s wearing Converse All-Stars, which is always a likeable shoe.  I’m stretching here.
  • The others complain about being woken up early, but she doesn’t. Eventually we feel for her when she has to choose between the life of her crewmember and the safety of the rest of the crew ...and when she gets overruled, possibly because she’s a woman (though the part was written for a man.)
  • She’s the only one who’s willing to go from upstairs to downstairs to visit Parker and Brett. She seems to be the most careful about her job.  She takes the initiative to decode the transmission and finds out it’s a warning, then asks to go warn the others. 
Five Es
  • Eat: They all eat breakfast together right away.
  • Exercise: None whatsoever. It’s a very still movie.
  • Economic Activity: We begin with an onscreen title: “Commercial towing vehicle, ‘The Nostromo’ Refinery processing: 20,000,000 tons of mineral ore.” All they talk about is the company, what they owe it, and what it owes them. They act because of “Penalty of total forfeiture of shares.”
  • Enjoy: They enjoy breakfast and joke around right away: “I feel dead.” “Anybody every tell you you look dead?” They all laugh, even Ripley just slightly
  • Emulate: Not that I can see, but maybe James will point out something I missed again.
Rise above:
  • Not right away, but eventually.  Ripley doesn’t rise above her economic circumstances until near the end of the movie, when she finally breaks with the company.
High five a black guy:
  • The first we see of her is when she laughs at the black guy’s joke. In this case, he’s a fully realized character, so it’s not an egregious example.

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