176: Woman, Mother, Space Marine

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Ray Huling:

SamLowry:
To me, Alien is a fascinating, yet awfully illogical film. The whole problem starts with the ill-guided decision to step onto an infected planet.

It wasn't ill-advised for the corporate executives who sent the crew of the Nostromo to LV-426 to find the alien, because those executives were not to be exposed to the alien. Only the crew, who had no knowledge of what they were getting into, were at risk.

Are you seriously saying that it's implausible for a corporation to put its employees at risk without their knowledge in order to make a profit? Seems like a logical scenario to me, given, well, the entire history of industrialization.

Right now we have the problem that we have more than 1 alien film up for discussion.
As everyone knows, the Space Marines are not included in the first part.
There's a lot of mixing up (in the original article, too)

I was referring to the 2nd film Aliens, where it is - in all due fact - a stupid idea to land on the alien's homeplanet.

SamLowry:

I was referring to the 2nd film Aliens, where it is - in all due fact - a stupid idea to land on the alien's homeplanet.

Well! Don't forget that 's' then!

There are two problems here. 1) Why are the colonists there? 2) Why does Ripley go back?

The Marines go in to save the colonists, and Burke is out to capture an alien--that makes sense.

Cameron has spoken at length about why Ripley would go back; her motivation ties directly to the Viet Nam theme. Cameron wanted to convey a sense of traumatized soldiers who kept signing up for tours in Nam. Ripley wakes up screaming every night, because of what happened to her in the first film. Cameron explains that she goes back in order to confront the source of this trauma, much as U.S. soldiers did in real life.

As for the colonists, who the hell knows? After 37 years, the company might have forgotten about LV-426 and the colonists showed up by coincidence. Or maybe the whole colony's a company experiment waiting to happen.

Setting down on the planet seemed reasonable enough to me.

Oh, and it's not their home planet.

Company Experiment seems most likly to me, especially since no one but Ripley would know and she was incapacitated for 37 years.

Great column.

I love the comment about losing, and how important it is in games.

The technology of gaming is just finally maturing now, and as it does so it seems that the first and most strong urge is to use the new technology for its extremes; The major trend in game design is to make these supremely powerful characters that allow the players to indulge, which has been good fun for a couple years, but it is time for game design to mature along with the technology.

Storylines that make a player attached to the world they are playing in are very rare indeed, but I look forward to the day when they are much more common. I'm waiting anxiously for the day the maternal storyline emerges into the video game canon.

I'm not sure if someone mentioned this earlier, but Starcraft also ripped a lot of material from Aliens; even direct quotes uttered by the units come straight from dialogue or quips in the movie.

Ray Huling:
As for the colonists, who the hell knows? After 37 years, the company might have forgotten about LV-426 and the colonists showed up by coincidence. Or maybe the whole colony's a company experiment waiting to happen.

I think the thing is that no one at the company had been "notified" about the discovery at LV-426. The Nostromo's computer recognized the distress signal the ancient ship sent out, but before the first Alien movie no one actually knew that there was a ship there. "Mother" and Ash simply followed procedure as they had been programmed to.

At some point after the Nostromo left orbit, volcanic activity destroyed parts of the ship's systems, effectively disabling the distress beacon. That's why no one found it until Hadley's Hope started sending out people at Burke's orders after Weyland-Yutani had debriefed Ripley in Aliens.

So, yeah, it was just bad luck that they ended up there.

hamster mk 4:
I have been doing more thaught on the Maternal game protaginist and I still don't think it is a good idea. A child is not an abstract concept like a princess and thus should not be used in the same way. However the protective guardian instinct which is at the core of the "Fighting Mom" can be harnesed in other ways. Homeworld for example made me feel very maternal to my ships. I felt this to the point where no losses were acceptable and I would go back to a save at the moment one of my ships was lost.

I feel the same, hearing "destroyer heavily damaged request-" then seeing the explosion tugged at my heartstrings for some reason, even though it could quickly and easily be replaced. perhaps it had something to do with the last of their kind a longway from home thing that lurked at the back of my mind throughout.

There was very much potential for this with the game, Starcraft: Ghost. Which seems to have put us in the shoes of a female ghost with some kind of obvious militaristic views which would swing into more maternal motives. Alas, we'll never know.

I never liked Ridley so I am in no hurry to play as her or a character who resembles her but Margret Thatcher was a good prime minister.

Sewblon:
...but Margret Thatcher was a good prime minister.

Not if you were living in the UK in the 1980s and trying to get a job. Sure, she was a great PM for the extremely wealthy and she put forward a great fantasy for the naive people who thought that she'd help them to become wealthy.

I know this article was written way back in November, but since I'm just now discovering this site it's new to me!

And I just wanted to say thank you to Ray. As a mother of two small children, it would be nice to have a mission objective beyond "Kill x number of bad guys. You win!" I'm not saying I don't enjoy a mindless romp through the FPS landscape, because I do, but what a thrill it would be to experience the same emotion felt when Ripley tells the Queen, "Get away from her, you bitch."

Takeda Shingen:
I'm not sure if someone mentioned this earlier, but Starcraft also ripped a lot of material from Aliens; even direct quotes uttered by the units come straight from dialogue or quips in the movie.

Starcraft ripped the majority of it's material from the Warhammer 40,000 universe, which got it's basis on Starship Troopers. It's safe to say that Alien borrowed the same concepts in terms of threatening force from Starship Troopers (Which WH40K puts as the Tyranids and Starcraft as the Zerg).

Great article, although a female femanist character similiar to Ripley won't really appeal to a male-dominated video-game nation.

Don't get me wrong, Ripley is one of my favourite female movie characters, and I'd preffer to play a character like her, than meat-head like Marcus Phenix, or bland douche-bag like Master Chief.

Curious, what about the PS3 game Heavenly Sword? Nariko is a female trying to protect her fellows specifically her father and adopted sister/daughter Kai. The relationship is as close to kick butt mom in a videogame as I've been able to think of. I'd say the Nariko-Kai relastionship is completly equal to the Ripley-Newt relationship as neither is a blood realation, but Nariko is dead set on defending Kia and her future as Ripley is Newt.

"All societies are based on rules to protect pregnant women and young children. All else is surplusage, excrescence, adornment, luxury, or folly, which can-- and must-- be dumped in emergency to preserve this prime function. As racial survival is the only universal morality, no other basic is possible. Attempts to formulate a "perfect society" on any foundation other than "Women and children first!" is not only witless, it is automatically genocidal. Nevertheless, starry-eyed idealists (all of them male) have tried endlessly - and no doubt will keep on trying."

--Robert A. Heinlein

Starship Troopers is about the necessity of military and the uselessness of pacifism and ideals in the face of undeterrable hostility. The idea that a military forms the backbone of a nation's sovereignty is taken for granted by political scientists. The book is less about touting military force than it is about how it must exist. There is no military-industrial complex in Starship Troopers.

If you don't believe in responsibility or of civic duty to your own nation, then you are flippant and astonishingly selfish. There's nothing masculine about it, in Starship Troopers, women serve too.

Maternal motivations are interesting and unique, and they should crop up more often than they do, but there is absolutely zero wrong with ingraining male ideals into a game like Gears of War, which is explicitly about infantrymen, a job dominated by the male sex. If you want to make a game about war and about soldiers, it is without doubt that that game will feature a paternalistic group structure. Authoritarianism works on the battlefield, chain of command exists for a reason.

As much as Aliens was an attempt to show the 'fruitlessness' of military paternalism in the face of a technologically inferior, more numerous enemy, its root allegory-- Vietnam-- doesn't fit so swimmingly. The Vietcong AND the North Vietnamese both operated under similar chains of command, making the comparison more or less bunk.

Never fails to entertain how many people miss the point of Starship Troopers.

A great book with a Fighting Mom protagonist is ''The Better Part Of Darkness'' By Kelly Gay. Bad-ass cop, single mother, fighting extradimensional beings with a combination of guns and magic. It's beautifully written and has some good humour as well.

I guess what I fail to see is how the paternalism of Lieutenant Gorman or the maternalism of Ripley led to their success or failure. Why would an officer who sees him (or her) self as a father to his (or her) men be any less successful than an officer who sees him (or her) self as a mother of abandoned orphans? Gorman didn't lose because he was paternal, he lost because he was a bad officer in a gory movie.

This what you happens when you get an emasculated male to weigh-in on a subject he knows nothing about, strength.

Re: The Margaret Thatcher model of females in politics, as described by an earlier poster.

Speaking as a woman with a little bit of military experience, it seems to me that rather than bringing out extreme versions of "male" characteristics in otherwise very ordinary women, systems that are traditionally geared towards men will only allow women with those extreme characteristics to make it to prominence. Thatcher won because she was perceived to be stronger, tougher, more ruthless than her male counterparts to an extent that outweighed the electoral liability posed by her being-a-woman'ness.

In this regard, politics and the military are similar - Women don't just have to be "as good as" their male counterparts - they have to be better, and to many people, that seems to mean being more male. Palin, for her part, succeeds at being... whatever the hell she is... by managing to simultaneously balance a glam lipsticky media darling veneer with elements of absurdly overblown machismo. Aw shucks, pass me another beer while I hunt wolves from my snowmobile and enjoy some televised sporting events.

Such figures only made it through the glass ceiling by climbing over their fellow women - the long term damage Thatcher did for women in British politics is incalculable, and I'm pretty sure Palin probably thinks "feminist" is just a fancy word for "lesbian".

As for Vasquez, she may not be a typical female, but she is a very typical female soldier. She has to be more of a dude than the dudes are, because it is the only way she will be taken seriously in the military.

And then Metroid: Other M came and ruined this idea forever.

neither men or women have a lock on being good or bad leaders. good leaders are damn rare period.

men can be horrible leaders and monsters as can women, men can be great leaders and visionaries as can women, problem is you have to get through about 50 leaders to get one good one and maybe 100 to get one great one and pray you do not get a facist dictator along the way. and the countless number of mediocre politicians that care more about their power and legacy than the people they are supposed to be serving, and any nation is absolutely nothing without its people.

only nitpick i have with the article is that men can be every bit as paternal as women can be maternal, again women do not have any automatic lock on being great mothers nor do men have any automatic lock on being great fathers. but it can go either way.

most soldiers have families, wives, mother, fathers, brothers and sisters maybe even children aback home. when you are fighting for your country in a war that you cannot fathom why you are there it is the family you have back home keeps you going. soldiers do not fight out some some blind devotion to their lt or country, tho the vast majority are professional enough to keep and doubts to themselves and do the job they are sent to do no matter what they think of the job or the place they are stationed at.

ripley was an excellent take on the tough girl, one of the greatest female characters written, she was human and believeable in how she acted and reacted to events around her.

sara conner in t2 was the worst written female character, she was little more than a robot with no human foundation left. it though the whole character was god awful.

japan has some great female roles, but it also has a over abundance of submissive bimbos to fill out the ranks. japan has no automatic lock on writing good female characters, tho there are some awesome ones if you look around for them.

aliens was a damn fine film tho i can see if someone does not like it but it got great reviews from critics and the public i do not think it is much of a debate if it was a good film or not. it took the first movie and instead of trying to rehash it it went its own direction and it worked following up a intense horror flick with a action one was fairly daring and creative.

Dogstar060763:

PS: Oh yes, as another example of a strong woman in a position of power, how about Captain Janeaway in ST: Voyager? During her tenure she presided over wholesale genocide, countless violations of the Prime Directive and appalling lapses of professional military conduct...

That's a tricky one. Also a bit difficult considering Janeway, while having the most authority of any of the captains, also had the least strength to call upon.

To put it differently, Janeway was responsible for her crew, and stuck far from home without any allies. Sometimes, you end up making very messy decisions just to try and survive.
A repeated theme, in fact of Janeway's situation in voyager is the conflict between trying to keep her crew alive and get them home safely and quickly, and sticking to her morals and ethical principles.
Basically, morality VS basic survival.

Clearly, something's going to give one way or another. (And while there were many ethically questionable decisions, there were also many demonstrated cases of her putting everyone on voyager in serious risk for the sake of a moral principle)

Captain Sisko on the other hand... Seemed to genuinely follow the notion that 'the ends justify the means' on more occasions than I care to think about.

But then again, arguing about which captain is the least ethical is really a different kind of discussion.

Ripley, meanwhile, has at times been described as a character who could be called 'a man in drag'. I suppose that implies that there are people who don't consider her a very well thought out character, if you actually want to see a situation from a female perspective.

EDIT: Yes, I've fallen for it again. Sorry for digging up a thread related to a 2-year old article.

cerebus23:
neither men or women have a lock on being good or bad leaders. good leaders are damn rare period.

men can be horrible leaders and monsters as can women, men can be great leaders and visionaries as can women, problem is you have to get through about 50 leaders to get one good one and maybe 100 to get one great one and pray you do not get a facist dictator along the way. and the countless number of mediocre politicians that care more about their power and legacy than the people they are supposed to be serving, and any nation is absolutely nothing without its people.

only nitpick i have with the article is that men can be every bit as paternal as women can be maternal, again women do not have any automatic lock on being great mothers nor do men have any automatic lock on being great fathers. but it can go either way.

most soldiers have families, wives, mother, fathers, brothers and sisters maybe even children aback home. when you are fighting for your country in a war that you cannot fathom why you are there it is the family you have back home keeps you going. soldiers do not fight out some some blind devotion to their lt or country, tho the vast majority are professional enough to keep and doubts to themselves and do the job they are sent to do no matter what they think of the job or the place they are stationed at.

ripley was an excellent take on the tough girl, one of the greatest female characters written, she was human and believeable in how she acted and reacted to events around her.

sara conner in t2 was the worst written female character, she was little more than a robot with no human foundation left. it though the whole character was god awful.

japan has some great female roles, but it also has a over abundance of submissive bimbos to fill out the ranks. japan has no automatic lock on writing good female characters, tho there are some awesome ones if you look around for them.

aliens was a damn fine film tho i can see if someone does not like it but it got great reviews from critics and the public i do not think it is much of a debate if it was a good film or not. it took the first movie and instead of trying to rehash it it went its own direction and it worked following up a intense horror flick with a action one was fairly daring and creative.

I only just noticed what you're saying here... And it makes some sense, but it shows that to a degree it's a numbers game.

If a good leader is 1 in a 100, then history is going to be severely skewed, for the simple fact that male leaders outnumber female ones by an extremely wide margin.

As to Ripley being a good character, some would disagree. They don't find her a believable character at all (Generally accused of being 'a man in drag' - IE. not well written from the perspective of her actually being a woman). But then, I can't decide personally. It kind of comes down to what expectations you have about how a person is supposed to act to make them believable.

And Japan's female characters? Yes, there's a lot of bimbos. It seems because Japan has a lot of forms of sexism that we no longer accept in the west.
It also seems to have an unfair share of strong female characters though. But again this simply seems to be a numbers game.
Think about how many female characters you can come up with that even have more than a tangential role in western media...
Now contrast this to Japanese media, and it should be obvious why it seems like there are more strong female characters. - There are simply way more female characters in general. Strong or not.

EDIT: I apologise for not noticing how old this post, thread and related article are. It seems to happen to me a lot when links to old articles crop up.

Dogstar060763:

PS: Oh yes, as another example of a strong woman in a position of power, how about Captain Janeaway in ST: Voyager? During her tenure she presided over wholesale genocide, countless violations of the Prime Directive and appalling lapses of professional military conduct...

Wholesale Genocide?
Appalling lapses of professional military conduct?

I don't remember any of that in Voyager, granted the countless violations of the Prime Directive is fairly accurate though hardly ever on purpose ('hey we cant interfere.. oh wait we caused the problem.. well better interfere then'). I remember her getting pretty damn preachy about the prime directive even when it was painfully obvious that it was the best option, e.g. destroying the caretaker array in the very beginning to save the stupid pointless ocampa who probably would end up getting picked off by the kazon when the energy ran out anyway lol.

Point out where the genocide happened and all the 'appalling lapses' in professionalism or it didn't happen lol :P to be fair its been a while since i watched it and i might not remember everything, but i think its just a little over the top to call Janeway a genocidal unprofessional captain.

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