“Return of the Repressed”: The Monstrous and the Horrible in
Alien Resurrection 1
- Author: Song Ho Rim
- Publish: Feminist Studies in English Literature Volume 21, Issue3, p37~59, Dec 2013
Alien Resurrection, the fourth and final installment of the Alienfranchise, illustrates updated discourses about monster. While the first three installments of the franchise tended to focus on the surface horror caused by the monstrous appearance and enormous power of the Aliens, the final one explores the structural horror that the alien monster embodies. Re-examining the definition of monster, the essay investigates how the notion of monster and the feminine are associated and how the feminine monster can serve to challenge the patriarchal social system based on heterosexual normativity. Also, the essay points out how the film produces horror in presenting the cross-species monsters and the non-heterosexual relationship. The protagonist Ripley, who returns as a monster in Alien Resurrectionafter killing herself to eradicate the Alien queen in her body in the third installment, represents the claim that the monster is a cultural construct by ideological normativity, and at the same time, it can be a threat to that normativity. Alien Resurrectionargues that horror in horror films is not from the monster per se, but what makes the monster—that is, the violence of normativity.
Alien Resurrection , the Alien , monster , monstrosity , heterosexual normativity , horror film
The fourth and final film of the
Alienfranchise, Alien Resurrection(1997, Dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet), begins with the heroine Ellen Ripley’s monologue, in which she repeats the words of the little girl Newt in Aliens(1986, Dir. James Cameron): “My mommy always said there were no monsters. No real ones. But there are.” This monologue does not just reconfirm the consistent concern of the franchise—a direct confrontation of human beings with alien monsters, but it seems to reveal something different from the previous installments by saying that the film now talks about realmonsters, ones that are of course different from what Newt meant. Indeed, Alien Resurrectionattempts to provide a new understanding of monster, which does not count the horrible Aliens as “real” monsters. In that understanding, monsters are not related to such superficial conditions as their appearance, pugnacity, or origin, but rather their ability to evoke horror in human beings/the audience: the film foregrounds the very monstrosity that has been represented through the Aliens in the first three films. Alien Resurrectiondoes not create new monsters, but discusses what makes things/people monsters. Therefore, the monsters newly presented by the film are real ones unlike the fictional Aliens. The audience should now be ready to meet the real monsters and treat the real horror caused by them.
Alienfranchise gained both public popularity and— albeit not much deeply and expansively studied—academic attention. The fans of the SF horror film frenetically responded to the new type of alien monsters and surface horror caused by them, and the academic attention was mainly put on the alien-ness that the monsters symbolized and its horror. In fact, the previous three installments— Alien(1979, Dir. Ridley Scott), Aliens(1986, Dir. James Cameron), and Alien 3(1992, Dir. David Fincher)—emphasized such alien-ness by setting up their background in space and by foregrounding the confrontation between the alien monsters and the human characters. The sense of alien-ness has an ambivalent meaning in the franchise: one is for creating alien horror in a novel setting and the other is for providing a sense of safety with the audience on Earth. The audience would not confront the alien monsters because Ripley, the powerful and smart female protagonist of the Alienfranchise, defeats them. In this sense, as Ripley states in her monologue, it seemed that “there were no monsters.” However, in Alien Resurrection, Ripley and the audience face the real monsters, which newly emerge, or now come to our realization.
Ripley turned out the only survivor in the first three installments. Yet, at the end of
Alien 3, when she found a baby (queen) Alien inside her, she dove into lava so as not to leave any trace of herself and the monster. The last scene of the third installment demonstrated the end of the monster that was not a real monster. However, Ripley returns in Alien Resurrection. She is cloned some 200 years later in order to harvest the queen embryo that was incubating inside of her by the United Systems Military, which wants to breed Aliens for military and economic benefits. The Aliens bred and grown by scientists in the spaceship Auriga escape the containment cell, killing human beings. Ripley (Ripley 8) and the mercenaries of the spaceship The Betty fight against the Aliens to escape the Auriga: the mercenaries are the leader Elgyn, his partner Hillard, the first mate Christie, the mercenary Johner, the disabled mechanic Vriess, and the newly hired crew Call. The mercenaries of The Betty kidnapped and sold human beings, who would be used as the hosts of Aliens babies, to General Perez of the Auriga. In this way, Alien Resurrectiondepicts how monstrously human beings produce monsters to keep their power.
The cloned Ripley 8 is no longer the human Ripley of the first three installments though she retains all the memories of the dead Ripley: Ripley 8 is a hybrid between the human Ripley and the Alien, possessing superhuman capabilities as a result of the hybridization with Alien DNA. From the moment she utters the opening monologue, the sure difference of the fourth installment from the previous ones is only Ripley herself. Although the mother in
Alienswho denied the existence of monsters was initially Newt’s mother, the mother who told Ripley 8 that “there are no monsters” must now be the original Ripley. As a hybrid, Ripley 8 acknowledges her monstrosity, and the whole film, which foregrounds the monster protagonist, proposes the meaning of monster at a deeper level than the previous installments. This article examines the codes of monstrosity in Alien Resurrectionand how horror is engendered with the codes, reassessing the relationship between monstrosity and horror. The following section investigates the meanings of monster and horror and their relationship in order to show how the film sets up its understanding of monstrosity.
Rapidly developed science and technology and unique environments brought by the advanced technoscience culture let horror films imagine new types of monster, such as genetic mutations, technological variations, and extraterrestrial beings. Yet such new monsters do not necessarily provide a novel horror to the extent that monsters—whatever types of monster—are visual representations of what human beings fear for. Horror films attempt to explore human fears by making them confront the monsters. Kelly Hurley argues that the repressed content, as well as the surface content, of horror films should be revealed to “understand the
real fearsthat horror mediates for producer and consumer” (204, italics in original): she argues that the monstrous in horror films are “indices to the contents of what might be called the cultural unconscious,” and these monsters represent what Freud called a “return of the repressed” (205). The repressed is a potential monster to the extent that the “return of the repressed” threatens the existing social order. In this way, monstrosity and horror are social and cultural.
A monster isdefined as “something extraordinary or unnatural,” “a malformed animal or plant,” and “an ugly or deformed person, animal, or thing” (
Oxford English Dictionary). The abstract adjectives used in the definition of monster—“extraordinary,” “unnatural,” “malformed,” “ugly,” and “deformed”—show how subjective and arbitrary it could be to judge something/someone as monster. With these adjectives of negative meaning, the definition records unfavorable images of someone/something extraordinary and different.2 Yet, as Bernadette Wegenstein argues that difference is “only to be seen as a differentiation,” the monster as difference is a side effect of the culture of sameness (342). Horror caused by monsters illustrates negative social unconsciousness toward difference that poses a threat to our identity and our social order.
The Alien is highly commended as “one of the most iconic movie monsters in film history” (Mackinder). Indeed, the
Alienfranchise very iconically presents the social unconsciousness implicated in monster and horror. Not only are the appearance and power of the Aliens visually and biomechanically shocking, but their sexual and evolutionary overtones are also intriguing. Alien Resurrectionmaximizes horror by strategically adding social fear for difference and disorder as well as surface fear for the Aliens’ appearance and physical power. Throughout the first three installments, Ripley struggled to survive, and her survival meant the victory of humanity over alien monsters, or the victory of order over disorder: Ripley’s sacrifice to kill an Alien queen inside her in Alien 3was the loftiest decision to save humanity. By not leaving any trace of her invaded body, Ripley wanted to eradicate the monstrosity in herself. That was her desire to keep humanity from contacting alien monsters—difference or the source of disorder. Yet, Alien Resurrection, which clones Ripley bearing an Alien queen, per se shows that monsters are born of greedy human desires seeking the One-ness.
Reviewing contemporary SF horror films, Anne Jerslev argues that“ [t]he monster is the monstrous body not the monstrous character” (18). She means what people really fear for is not death but “one’s own body and its potential destruction” (18). This argument mirrors human beings’ fear of body transformation in uncontrolled ways. Uncontrolled body transformation produce samonster, representing difference or one-less-ness. According to this line of thought, a necessary question toward explaining what really causes horror in
Alien Resurrectionwould be “who/what has the monstrous body.” The monstrous body, indeed, is a place where the audience can read monstrosity, or what they fear. In Alien Resurrection, along with the alien monsters, Ripley 8 of the hybrid between human Ripley and an Alien queen and Call of the hybrid between machine body and human mind are monsters designed to engender the body horror. Though they are not visually horrible, the bodies are still monstrous in that they are related to human anxiety about impurity: the hybridity of Ripley and Call makes them monsters. Their hybridity is to cross boundaries—boundaries between human and Alien, between human and machine, even between mind and body, and thus they are threats to the existing order. In this vein, the concept of boundary, or the norm, is central to the construction of the monstrous: monstrosity is needed to define the normal.
The normal is, as George Canguilhem puts it, “the zerodegree of monstrosity” (Braidotti,
78). Such an incompatible relationship between the normal and the monstrous emphasizes the structural rigidity of the boundary between them. The monstrous as the abnormal is located outside the system defining the normal. Luhmann states that “a system . . . is an entity that delimits itself from its environment by continually stabilizing the distinction between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’” (Cornell 76). Indeed, the system continually tries to achieve its “self-referentiality” by closing its own semantic structures (Cornell 76). The system prefers structural coupling to meaningful communication about the environment. Things excluded from the structure of the system are repressed to preserve the system’s self-referentiality. If they try to communicate with the structure of the system, that will be a threat to its structural coupling, the order of the system. That something excluded dare come out of its assigned closet with its own voice to claim its rightful place is horror for the system. Horror films maximize horror by associating the unfamiliar with the familiar, which hints at a possible communication between the inside and the outside of the system. Nomadic
Alienfranchise overlaps images of female and images of monster. Women’s bodies change through their reproductive processes of pregnancy and delivery. These changes have made the female body be regarded as difference with respect to the normal form of human beings, which is based on the male body. As such, both the feminine and the monstrous are the signs of embodied difference. Conjunction of the monstrous and female images in horror films is one of the main strategies to produce horror. Their conjunction works as the deconstructive method about normativity. Braidotti suggests that mother, monster, and machine as difference can offer a possibility to deconstruct the normative ( Nomadic78). In this aspect, Alien Resurrection, which posits mother/Ripley, monster/Aliens, and machine/Call, must be a perfect example of Braidotti’s suggestion. The next two sections examine how the film spurs human fear and produces horror through the three paired elements.
2Likewise, “monere,” the etymology of Latin “monstrum” for monster, means “to warn” or “to advise.” The monster, or the difference it embodies, is indeed something to warn people of (http://latindictionary.wikidot.com/verb:monere).
Alien Resurrectionoptimizes the patriarchal horror at female productive power and the heterogeneity of the hybrids. The idea of cross-species breeding in Alien Resurrectionis unexpected, considering Ripley’s ambiguous gender role and the Alien’s ambiguous sexuality. Ripley is one of the rare female protagonists among SF horror films. But many critics agree that there is no necessary reason the protagonist should be a female in the Alienfranchise, pointing out her masculine role in the films. Similarly, the Aliens are overdetermined within the sexual field, legible as both phallic and vagina, male and female: despite their absence of genitals and their apparent masculine power, the femininity of the Aliens is emphasized in such scenes as that of the Alien queen laying eggs. Such ambiguous senses of gender for Ripley and the Aliens illustrate Braidotti’s assertion that horror films unveil the unconscious fears and desires of both genders: “male fears of woman’s reproductive role and of castration and woman’s fear of phallic aggression and violence” ( Metamorphoses195). Though Alien Resurrectionis an example of this claim, the film experimentally combines these two types of fears by hybridizing the two main characters, the monster/the Aliens and the monster hunter/Ripley, cautiously weighing their hybridization up as a possible way of human evolution.
The monster and woman have been abjected and excluded because of their difference, and “the concept of the monstrous feminine, as constructed within/by a patriarchal and phallocentric ideology, is related intimately to the problem of sexual difference and castration” (Creed 251-52). The reason that women’s bodies are metamorphosed and textualized is “not only to signify her own castrated state, but also the possibility of castration for the male” (Creed 256). The anxiety about castration can be read in the Alien’s appearance. The Aliens’ big and slimy looks are fearsome, but more horror attacks the audience when they open their mouths, which have another mouth inside. The inner mouth has metal-looking teeth. The toothed mouth looks like a
vagina dentata, which represents the male horror about castration. The Alienfranchise depends upon a general assumption that “castration anxiety is a central concept of the horror film” (Creed 256). What is interesting, however, is that the protagonist destined to hunt the feminine monsters is a female character. In order to maximize horror, Alien Resurrectiondoes not make one defeat the other in the apparent confrontation between masculine monsters and a female human being. Rather, it hybridizes the two camps, anticipating a horrible result.
The idea of heterosexual breeding as the norm is disrupted by the reproductive mechanism of the Aliens in
Alien Resurrection. The Aliens without genitals do not reproduce their offspring by means of heterosexual coupling. Their unique reproductive system requiring an organic host can make human males mothers, who bear the baby. In this way, the monstrous Aliens become a symbol of challenge to the heterosexual normativity, in which heterosexuality is represented as natural and legitimate. Besides, the Alien’s procreation system newly introduced in Alien Resurrectionmakes the Aliens more perfect and thus more fearsome: the Aliens come to utilize the human reproductive mechanism as a result of hybridizing with Ripley, and thus they no longer need hosts for reproduction. As Barbara Creed argues, male anxiety about procreation becomes the site of horror in horror films; indeed, the Aliens’ procreation system is the site of horror in Alien Resurrection.
There appear two mother figures in
Alien Resurrection: Ripley and the Alien queen. Cloning Ripley from her DNA collected in the spaceship of Alien 3is, of course, outside of the normal procreation process. The results of the cloning, the cloned Ripley and the Alien queen in her chest, prove that the process of cloning is involved in the hybridization of the two species: consider the fact that no conjunction between the Alien and the human being for the Alien’s procreation has produced such a hybridized result. This new procreation mechanism means that the Aliens can have self-control over their breeding. In addition, the mutant baby born by a new procreation mechanism resembles a human figure and seems to have some human emotions. The powerful human-like baby, who was born by the transgression of the border between human and non-human, makes the difference between the two species blurred. The first thing that the mutant baby does is to kill its Alien mother while expressing intimacy with Ripley. A male scientist who is entrapped in the Alien organic structure says to the baby, “You are a beautiful, beautiful butterfly,” but his enthusiasm ends when the baby bites into his head. The mutant baby is still a horrible monster, who may be even more intelligent and powerful—thus more threatening— than the Aliens. As another mutant baby, Ripley is so, too.
The main character Ripley is a warrior hunting the monsters and, at the same time, is a monster as a hybrid of human and Alien in
Alien Resurrection. Ripley literally represents the association of woman and monster and illustrates woman’s monstrosity once more by producing monster babies. Along with her upgraded power, Ripley’s tight black outfit, dark manicured finger nails, dark hair, and cynical smiles seem to stress her monstrosity. Her existence is very difficult to define. Ripley herself demonstrates the paradox of monstrosity of the female, which Braidotti postulates: “The monstrosity of the female is a sort of paradox, which on the one hand reinforces the patriarchal assumption that female sexuality is evil and abject, on the other hand, however, it also states the immense powerfulness of the female subject” ( Metamorphoses196). Transgressing the boundary between human and non-human, Ripley produces another kind of monstrous being that does not belong to any category of normative subjectivity. Such collapse of categories would demand the re-construction of the human subject.
Ripley’s self-understanding of her identity is significant in
Alien Resurrectionin that it is also the main question of the film: how to respond to the non-categorical existence. Probably because she did not experience the normal process of growth, Ripley feels sympathy neither for human beings nor for the Aliens. As soon as she becomes conscious, she asks herself: “Who are you?” Her answer is “Ellen Ripley. Lieutenant, first class 36706,” but she soon re-questions, “I’m not her. Who am I?” This shows her confusion about her own identity; she is no longer Ripley two hundred years ago. The confusion changes into anger and sorrow when she meets herselves as otherson her way to escaping the Auriga. She recognizes how she is Ripley 8: the scientists of the Auriga continually cloned Ripley till they had a successful model, Ripley 8. The failed clones have deformed bodies and she comes to witness her own monstrosity through the failures. A failed Ripley pleads with Ripley (8) to kill her, and Ripley(8) burns all her selves. This symbolizes that she rejects her place as the other that is deserted/ab-jected in a confined room/system, though she is also not without pity for her Other selves. But the rejection does not necessarily mean that she wants to incorporate herself into the human by erasing the trace of her monstrosity. Rather, the burning must be interpreted as deleting the history of the greedy human desire that produced monsters. Right after the burning, Ripley answers the question about her identity, “I’m the monster’s mother.” By locating her subject outside the human normative system, she is finally able to identify herself. Ripley, as a sign of the mixed and the ambiguous, is subjected to a constant process of metaphorization as “other-than” (Braidotti, Nomadic83), and she becomes “the fear of the Majority-subject who sees [her] as a threat to their own patriarchal power” (Braidotti, Metamorphoses197). Her threat to the patriarchal normativity is actualized when she points the flame projector at the chief scientist of the military ship, who produced the Alien monsters through cloning and growing Ripleys and Aliens. Killing the Aliens and the human producers of the monsters, Ripley is, indeed, a destroyer of the existing system, and she is thus a producer of horror.
Call is an ironical monster that abhors monsters. She is one of the second-generation automatons, which are the best robot model ever. Since the robots are highly intelligent enough to (re)produce their own offspring, human producers confined the robots’ capability by programming them to follow the norms of human society. Call is programmed and stuck in the existing concept of normativity. Thus, before her identity as a robot is revealed, she says, “[Ripley] is not human. We can’t trust her”—as if she herself were a human being without doubt. But, ironically, her very humane-ness makes her unnatural as her monster company Ripley testifies: “You’re a robot? I should have known. No human being is that humane.” In the same vein, Johner remarks, “I thought synthetics were supposed to be all logical and shit. You’re just big ol’ psycho girl!” Both point out Call’s obsession with the normative, implying that her too human-like and too normative thought and deed make her abnormal. Forgetting the fact that she attempted to kill Ripley because her monstrosity was threatening humanity, she is envious of Ripley’s organic property:
In this conversation, Call shows abhorrence of her own monstrosity while Ripley seems to accept hers—albeit cynically. Finishing up their conversation, Call states that she acts as she is programmed; contradictorily, she is “programmed” to deny her existence. The program inserted in Call forces her to behave illogically though she is supposed to act according to logical algorithm as a robot. Johner labels Call an “illogical . . . psycho,” pointing out the illogic of her behavioral ethics toward human companions and Ripley as well as herself. Such illogic of Call reflects the illogical norm of human society, which is the founding source of her program.
When Call recognizes the fallacy of her program, she comes to be a menace to the norm. Call has a feeble look and pity for the underdog just like a lovely human girl. Regardless of her intention, she is sexually gazed upon and objectified by the male characters, as shown in Elgyn’s comment on her to General Perez, who asks about her: “She is severely fuckable, ain’t she?” But when her identity as a robot is revealed, the male characters’ responses for her are more than surprise: when Johner expresses his embarrassment and disgust, saying, “Can’t believe I almost fucked it,” Vriess, who also had affection for Call, tells him with hostility to her being, “Yeah, like you never fucked a robot.” Both Johner and Vriess saw Call as a sexual object though their manners toward her are seemingly different. Their responses are interesting in that the point of their disgust is not exactly the fact that she is a robot or she disguised her identity, but the fact that she is not a sexual object: the other characters, who have never shown any sexual concern with Call, are excited about her being of robot rather than disgusted. Call is abject and monstrous because of her non-sexuality, despite her harmlessness. Call as “a robot designed by robots” becomes evidence that a machine can produce its offspring without human control. In other words, Call is threatening to the heterosexual normative system due to the possibility of reproduction without heterosexual contact. Her potential threat is actualized when she overrides Father, the main computer system of the Auriga, and announces, to her great satisfaction, the death of Father to the chief scientist Dr. Wren, who betrayed Ripley and Call’s company and asked Father for the control of the ship in the attempt to survive alone: “Father is dead, asshole.” Father, a symbol of patriarchal power, is deprived of his dominance over all the system of the ship, which represents a patriarchal system, by the feminine robot. Indeed, she is a machine monster to take the existing system over. Call repressed by human beings’ normative programs now recovers her monstrosity, and such a recovery comes to be possible with Ripley’s aid.
The relationship between Ripley and Call most dynamically changes in the film. Since Call told Ripley that her mission was to kill Ripley at their first encounter, they have kept a watch on each other, and they also have happened to disclose each other’s monstrosity to their human companions. Yet, they begin to feel a sense of kinship and intimacy when they are derided by the human companions, who still appropriate majority-subjectivity as human males. Their intimacy is often suggested as lesbianism (Darren 809): when Call accesses Ripley’s cell to kill Ripley, Call opens Ripley’s clothes around her chest with a knife and Ripley caresses Call with her hands; when Call has a big hole in her chest from the gunshot, Ripley puts her fingers into the hole and gets white gel on them.3 Although their lesbian relationship is neither very explicitly marked nor thematized in the film, it is obvious that lesbian intimacy is intended in order to accentuate their monstrosity. This strategy is workable, considering Braidotti’s argument that “categories of otherness are sexual difference and sexual deviation” (“Signs” 141). The woman and the homosexual have been regarded as difference from the normal subjectivity and, therefore, they are monstrous and abject in the patriarchal, heterosexual matrix.
Jocelyn Robson and Beverley Zalcock remark that the forbidden female is “mythical, monstrous and murderous. She has many names. Today she is called ‘lesbian’” (191-92). Lesbian sexuality is generally understood as “redeploy[ing] its ‘derivativeness’ in the service of displacing hegemonic heterosexual norms” (Butler 310). Lesbianism, or homosexuality, therefore, intrinsically threatens heterosexual normativity. According to Judith Butler, heterosexuality has acquired its normativity by repudiating homosexuality: that is, heterosexuality presupposes homosexuality(310). This claim ultimately means that there is always a possibility that the hierarchical relationship between heterosexuality and homosexuality is not natural. In fact, the framework of copy and origin is so unstable that it is impossible to locate the permanent and logical priority of either homosexuality or heterosexuality (Butler 313). Such instability in the relationship of heterosexuality and homosexuality becomes a popular material to produce horror in literary texts and films. Although the lesbian relationship between Ripley and Call is not enough to make ostensible horror in the film, it fully functions as a threatening element to the heterosexual normativity by stressing their monstrosity.
But a more subversive aspect of the lesbian relationship between the two female-figure monsters, which
Alien Resurrectionsuggests, is the message from the fact that they are Call and Ripley who at last save the survivors of the Auriga and all of humanity by exterminating all of the Alien monsters. The human survivors— Johner and Vriess—can escape from the Auriga thanks to Ripley and Call’s cooperative work. When Call hesitates to invalidate Father because of her programmed tendency, Ripley persuades Call to do; when Call is jeopardized in the fight against Ripley’s mutant baby in The Betty, Ripley sacrifices her baby and saves Call. In this way, the two’s intimate and cooperative relationship can bring the two human, male survivors to the Earth. Fundamentally, Alien Resurrectionsuggests forbidden existences, such as monsters and non-heterosexual beings, are threatening not for humanity but for the hegemonic heterosexual normativity. Therefore, horror caused by such monstrosity is about the social structure.
3The Alien franchise has been read as lesbianism from the first installment although the lesbian relationship becomes more visible in the fourth one. Refer to Ros Jennings’ “Desire and Design – Ripley Undressed” in Immortal, Invisible: Lesbians and the Moving Image, ed. Tamsin Wilton (New York: Routledge, 1995. 193-206) and Alison Darren’s Lesbian Film Guide (New York: Cassell, 2000. 9-10).
Modern society has repudiated all kinds of monstrosity, but the repudiation could not keep the monstrous from breeding. The monstrous are “becoming more and more common, and their repression, conversely, less and less successful” (Lykke 17). Accordingly, the horror about their proliferation and the loss of control over them is getting more serious. When a scientist in the Auriga explains to Ripley how they re(-)surrected her and the Alien queen, Ripley tells him, “When she [the Alien queen] breeds, you’ll die. Everyone will die. [. . .] You can’t teach [the Aliens] tricks.” Her prediction is soon proved to be true, and the horror begins. But
Alien Resurrectionemphasizes that the horror comes not simply from the monsters as the way the audience experienced in the previous installments, but from the monsters’ possibility of incursion into the hegemonic heterosexual normativity because the monsters will not be tricked by traditional hierarchism. Alien Resurrectionultimately questions what the monster is by adding the two more monster figures—Ripley and Call. Since the first installment, Alienin 1979, the discourses about monsters have been changing. In the last part of the Alien Resurrection, in which most of the human beings and Father on the Auriga are killed, a monstrous mother/Ripley, an alien monster/the mutant baby, and machine/Call are together in the cargo compartment of The Betty, a space separated from the world outside. The gigantic mutant baby, the hybrid between Ripley and the Alien, recognizes Ripley as its mother and does not show any aggression to her. But it is still so violent as to kill human beings, and in The Betty flying to the Earth, it attacks Call. Ripley asks her mutant baby to let Call go and it obeys her. Although the mutant is still monstrous and alien, it is not what the audience expects it to be. The mutant is emotional enough to express its love for Ripley and its fear of death, unlike the other Aliens. Probably, the audience has sympathy with it when Ripley kills it with a slash on its back. In this way, Alien Resurrectionseems to ask the audience, “Who you think monsters are.” In the very opening of the film, the audience can see a monstrous figure that keeps metamorphosing. It looks sometimes human and other times Alien, or both of them: this scene represents Braidotti’s definition of monster that “the monster is a process without a stable object” (“Signs” 150). The monster is not a fixed notion, but rather is continuously changing. Such an ambiguous aspect of the monster is its ontological property, and due to this property, it is always threatening to the existing system.
In the film, Ripley, a hybrid of human and Alien, and Call, a robot made by robots, kill all the Alien monsters and save the beautiful Earth from their incursion. They, however, tell the audience that it is not the real end: as Call asks Ripley, “What happens now?,” Ripley answers, “I don’t know. I’m a
strangerhere myself.” They are still strangers called “monster” on Earth. Even though they prevent the Aliens from arriving on Earth for humanity, they are now strange monsters without the Aliens on Earth. If the next installment were to be made, it might be about the two female figure monsters’ life on Earth. The hybrids, Ripley and Call, are still available monsters in our age, and if “the horror film” is taken as “a document of the cultural unconscious” as Hurley claims, Alien Resurrectionserves as the document (204).
Even though “[t]he horror film brings about a confrontation with the abject . . . in order, finally, to eject the abject and re-draw the boundaries between the human and non-human” (Creed 257), such films have limitations for the reversal of existing normativity because they are products of the popular culture and thus cannot betray the audience’s pleasure; the audience can “entertain deviation from the norm only because this happens at the level of fantasy” (207). However,
Alien Resurrectionis still worth reading as a text including “the multilayered structure of the subject” to the extent that radicalizing the normative is more significant than reversing or getting rid of it (Braidotti, Nomadic204).