Aliens Vs. Preadator 2: Requiem really left an afterimage on my retina for me to have written so many posts on that movie in the past week. Here are all the posts collected for your reading pleasure:
Last night I went to an excellent party hosted by Kolter in nearby Akron. As the evening went on, I was talking with Professor Raja’s wife, Jenny (she’s a Renaissance Studies PhD candidate at Florida State, and she has a healthy appreciation of SF) about AVP2 Requiem and my thoughts about the Alien-Predator hybrid as previously discussed on Dynamic Subspace.
Jenny hasn’t seen AVP2 Requiem, but based on my description of the scenes I was most struck by, she gave me another reading that’s more feminist than queer. Thinking back to the scene where the Alien-Predator hybrid forces itself on a pregnant woman to impregnate her with its monstrous offspring, this image can be reduced to the enforcement of male patriarchy on women. Men (as signified by the Alien-Predator) are incapable of creating new life. This is the one thing that women can do that men cannot. The image of the pregnant women reinforces this signification through her role as creator and progenitor of new human life. However, the Alien-Predator hybrid takes away her chance to give birth by impregnating her with its voracious and violent spawn that devour her and her child from the inside-out, and erupt from her belly/uterus in an explosion of blood and tissue.
If you think about this, AVP2 Requiem, through this scene, continues to promote the problematic at the heart of SF that goes back to its founding as a genre. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus is about this very issue–man attempts to usurp woman’s ability to give birth. There are many examples of this throughout the history of SF, and its clearly an issue that continues to challenge the feminist project (as I read it: the elimination of patriarchy in order to establish equality regardless of sex or gender).
Another interesting aspect of AVP2 Requiem is the appearance of the Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files. Okay, so the character is called Colonel Stevens, and he’s played by Robert Joy and not William B. Davis. However, he serves a similarly shady function within the AVP2 narrative. This American government/military official donning a black suit instead of uniform, orders the nuclear strike on the small town Alien infestation. Additionally, after the survivors make it out of the blast zone, they are intercepted by Special Forces members, who disarm them of the Predator energy weapon. This weapon in turn is then given by Col. Stevens to Ms. Yutani (Françoise Yip). This is an interesting development, because it serves to strengthen the bonds between government and corporate bodies. As you may know, Yutani is the other half of Weyland-Yutani, the mega-corporation from the original Alien and Aliens films (the Weyland aspect of the corporate puzzle is explained in AVP with the appearance of Charles Bishop Weyland played by Lance Henriksen). AVP2 does not go into the reasons why a government official would give otherworldly technology to a corporation, and my assumption is that this is a retelling and continuation of Cold War tropes embedded in Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex. Perhaps this signifies the hard currency payback by the government for its wholesale purchase by corporate interests in the here-and-now.
There’s one point that I didn’t make that clear in my last posting on Aliens Vs. Predator Requiem and that is the underlying problematic nature of the hybrid Alien-Predator. It signifies the ambiguous sex of transsexuals. Its body contains the Predator’s vagina-like mouth, which in turn houses the Alien’s phallus-like mouth extension. Through this imagery of design, the Alien-Predator hybrid represents both the female and male sexes. Which leads me to wonder if the Alien-Predator hybrid’s forcing a pregnant woman to have unnaturally impregnating fellatio represents a culturally derived fear of transsexuals and the intersexed? Is the Alien-Predator hybrid the new barbarian at the gates? Intersexed persons are most definitely individuals and human subjects, so how do these SF images of the marauding/barbaric/primitive/animal Alien-Predator hybrid Other challenge cultural progress in regards to sex and gender? It’s time to reread Sandy Stone’s “The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto.”
On Christmas Day, 2007, I went to see Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem with Ryan, Jarret, Bert, and Stacey. Considering the poor quality of the first Aliens Vs. Predator film, and the general decline of the franchise in general (Aliens is clearly the high-water mark), I wasn’t expecting much from this film. Despite the dreadful story and horror film hijinks, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was something worth discussing embedded within the film. However, I don’t say that flippantly, because it involves serious subject matter in need of reflection away from the glare of the big screen.
This latest installment of the Aliens vs. Predator films is extremely troubling regarding gender, sex, and sexuality. As has been commented elsewhere, Giger’s Aliens are phallocentric with mouths extending beneath the foreskin of the upper cranial case. The crab-like parasites that implant/impregnate potential hosts with the alien egg/embryo are traditionally the means by which the Alien life cycle is completed (Queen lays egg > crab-like parasite implants host > an Alien emerges from the host, developing in part based on the genetic material of the host). Also, the crab-like parasites have a long tail for strangulating the host/victim and thereby forcing the host to accept the implantation from the parasite via a long penis-like extension from beneath its body that enters the mouth and throat of the host to implant the egg/embryo.
Predators on the other hand have never been shown to reproduce on film, but it’s unavoidable to note the terrible resemblance between a Predator’s mouth and the myth of the vagina dentata. It’s only due to an assumption that I first considered Predators male. In the films, their sex and reproduction systems are not explored. They could be a species involving male/female sexing, or considering the fact that these are aliens, they could have a multiplicity of sexes involved in reproduction. In any event, what’s important to consider is the chosen appearance of Predators to have the male anxiety producing (disfigured) vagina dentata.
Aliens Vs. Predator Requiem begins where AVP left off. The fallen Predator warrior initiate is brought onboard the Predator starship, and a new, before unseen Alien potential bursts from the Predator’s chest: an Alien-Predator hybrid. This hybrid wreaks havoc onboard the Predator ship, which subsequently crash-lands in the woodland area near small town America. In this environ, the Alien-Predator hybrid matures into a formidable creature combining Predator strength and Alien voraciousness. Crab-like parasites onboard the Predator spacecraft escape and impregnate human hosts, which begins an epidemic in small town America.
It’s assumed that through some biological process, an Alien hive produces a Queen much like with ants or bees. However, the Alien-Predator hybrid of Requiem is unlike any previously presented Alien Queen. In the other films, an Alien Queen is very large and (initially) stationary in a warm place to lay eggs containing the crab-like parasite. The Alien-Predator hybrid of Requiem develops into a new kind of Queen. Instead of having an ovipositor (using ant terminology) at the rear of its body, the Alien-Predator hybrid is an evolutionary leap that does away with the need for the crab-like parasite.
The Alien-Predator hybrid has a unique delivery system for implanting hosts with an egg/embryo. As shown in the hospital scene toward the end of Requiem, the Alien-Predator hybrid leans over a pregnant woman, opens its Predator mouth folds (think: labia with claws), and forces the Alien-derived mouth extension down her throat. This represents an unavoidable image of forced deep throat, gagging, and swallowing. This already pregnant woman is made to swallow the “seed” of this hybrid sexed creature that in this juxtaposition fills a male role, but an unnatural one of oral impregnation. The result of this impregnation is graphically revealed when multiple Aliens burst forth from the woman’s belly (possibly having devoured the uterus and the unborn human fetus).
What does the Alien-Predator hybrid mean in a wider cultural context? Is this the extreme SF retelling of Knocked Up? Is this an example of male anxiety over childbirth and childrearing? Or, is this new film image a reflection of the backlash against women’s rights following Third Wave Feminism? What about modes of production and reproduction? Each of these are possibilities, as are others, and they should be considered further in regard to this latest film in the popular and on-going Alien and Predator series.
It would be interesting to learn more about the films written, produced, and directed by the team behind Requiem. Is this film part of a trend, or is this a one-off produced to titillate and gross-out the audience (building on the overt horror theme of the film)? Just glancing at the work of The Brothers Strause, they come from a visual effects background, so this could be nothing more than originating from a geek impulse to push the effects envelop. Nevertheless, this image is projected for many people to see, so it has significance beyond the intentions of the films creators and that’s the aspect in need of exploration.
For my friends not familiar with my work as an academic–this is the kind of research that I do. I look at the significance of cultural works in order to interpret and discover meaning. The intentions of the creators, perhaps compelling or interesting, are nonetheless unimportant and generally disregarded in terms of the way the work figures into a wider cultural sense. How can a work be read? How was a work produced (not necessarily literally by hands, but out of a cultural milieu or historical epoch)? How might a work reflect some aspect of culture, and what does that mean?