In Defense of Ripley

Nerve’s blog Screen Grab did a Top 10 list called Chicks With Guns. I’ll post about it tomorrow, but check out what they had to say about Ripley in Alien and Aliens:

Don’t get us wrong — Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley was a pretty tough cookie in Ridley Scott’s masterful Alien, but that toughness was mostly mental, an ability to maintain a cool head amidst the chaos and carnage. Bearing that in mind, it was more than a little shocking to see Ripley re-made as a stone-faced warrior in James Cameron’s second installment in the horror sci-fi series.

Grace reviewed Alien at the end of January and she was less than impressed. I think the Screen Grab folks are on to one of the reasons. Alien is not an action movie, it’s a horror movie, and Ripley’s basic challenge is simply to survive. This may sound strange, but the science fiction setting of Alien is more like reality than most action movies that are set in the here and now. Ripley is betrayed by her crewmates, betrayed by the mega-corporation she works for, and fighting for her life against a vicious predator. She also chooses to accept the burden of protecting humanity by eliminating the predator before it can get to Earth. That makes her a heroine in my book, but there are definitely no “right hook and sassy quip” combos.

It’s better to see Alien as an origin story, to let us know where the Ellen Ripley who achieved icon status was born. It’s a whole different story in Aliens, so I hope Grace gives it a chance.

Revena had this to say on Hathor Legacy in response to Grace’s post:

I’m a little bit more enthusiastic about Ripley than Grace is, but I think she’s absolutely right that it’s kind’ve sad that Ripley seems to be “at least 50% of the population’s example of a female action hero.” I think most people could name quite a few male characters or actors when asked to provide good examples of action heroes. We should have more than just Ripley to fall back on when trying to talk about action heroines.

The ScreenGrab team isn’t falling down on that job:

But we would be remiss if we were to overlook the film’s other tough woman — Private Vasquez, played by Jenette Goldstein. […] In retrospect, it strikes us that Vasquez may be the most badass character of any gender in any of James Cameron’s films — and when you consider the films he’s made, that’s saying something.


This post was originally published on Heroine Content, a feminist and anti-racist movie blog that ran from July 2006 to May 2012.

4 thoughts on “In Defense of Ripley

  1. Revena

    Vasquez is one of my all-time favorite characters. Bad-ass, and with the biceps to back it up. ;-)

    The only fly in the ointment for me there is that she’s not a lead character.

  2. Grace

    I will be giving the next installment a chance in the near future, possibly this week.

    In the meantime, I have some things to say about that list…

  3. Revena

    Maybe we should start a list of characters who should have had their own movies?

    Sounds like it could be fun! Or, possibly, a little depressing. ;-)

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