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FINAL GIRL PROFILE: Ellen Ripley, Alien series

by Gina Freitag

Make way for robotics-drivin’, swear-mouthed, flame-thrower-totin’ Warrant Officer Lt. Ellen Ripley. Actually, make that just “Ripley.” There’s no need for first names where we’re headed in this series of Final Girl profiles. That’s right, up next is Sigourney Weaver’s brazen, ass-kickin’ protagonist in the sci-fi-action-horror film Alien (1979) and its ensuing sequels, Aliens (1986), Alien ³ (1992) and Alien: Resurrection (1997).

Against a backdrop rampant with imagery and thematic emphasis on motherhood, Ripley beautifully obliterates previous cinematic female stereotypes, serving up a legit claim to crowned queen of Final Girls. In the first film, she breaks the mould on the “damsel-in-distress” trope: she’s tough, capable, strategic. After a surprise visit from an alien life force that has impregnated one of the crew members aboard her space merchant vessel, Ripley battles against what quickly grows into an extremely toothsome Xenomorph. By the film’s end, she is the only one left standing (unless you count Jonesy the cat).

In the second film, set 57 years later, she is rescued from space slumber only to face recurring nightmares, to get a new, androgynous haircut, and to find that she has not yet escaped her history with the nasty alien creature. Ripley is hired on by a team of rowdy marines to investigate a distressed terraforming colony on a familiar planet, recruited for her experience, caution, and insight. Predictably, the mission quickly goes to hell. In between bursts of frantic, whiney panic, Private Hudson (Bill Paxton) inadvertently captures Ripley essence when pointing out that there must be “one female that runs the whole show” among the aliens. Ripley certainly does that, from leading clever survival stratagems, to steadfastly protecting little colony orphan “Newt,” to standing up to the strangely phallic-shaped alien queen with a fierce “Get away from her, you bitch!” She is a Final Girl you do not want to mess with, and she has two sequels more to back that up.

Black Museum Debate Club’s FINAL GIRL FACE-OFF is on December 12, 2017.

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