Updated: Mar 10, 2020
Post by: Jessica
Okay, so don’t shoot me, but I had really only became a fan of the Alien franchise about four years ago. I had always heard about the series, how terrifyingly great it is, and how Ripley was such a badass. I knew that the artist H.R Giger was the creator of the terrifying creature, the Xenomorph, as I have always been a fan of his surreal artwork. However, I was too much of a ‘scaredy cat’ to actually watch any of the films because anything with space and aliens terrifies me. Yes, I am the person who watches one of those “I was abducted” stories, and then spends all my time avoiding fields, isolated city streets and looking out my window at night. My imagination is a little too overactive at times…
The reason why I decided to finally get over my fear of the series was due to a comment from a former colleague of mine. Prior to my transition to the IT/Security field, I was a departmental supervisor in a retail store. My leadership style is very telling of the person I am day to day. I believe firmly in being a leader who jumps into the ‘trenches’ with their team and is willing to do the same task they ask their team to do. I respond well to this type of leadership and I know that my team responded well to this. So well in fact that over time one of my colleagues started to call me Ripley. When I first heard it, I asked why he was calling me that. I was told I needed to watch the first Alien and then I would understand. I was so hesitant but I really wanted to know why my team had nicknamed me, Ripley. I knew of her due to pop culture references and Kelly being such a fan of the series. So I decided to get over my fear and watched the first film.
After my first watch, I thought ‘Oh. It is because she has an orange cat and she goes back to save him.” I have an orange cat (Caesar) and I am a cat lady and would do the very same. She was pretty badass to take on an unknown species and fight her way to survival despite the odds. So when I told him that he said “Close... now watch the second one… Aliens”. So, I watched the second one. It really was after the second film that I came to really appreciate the characterization of Ripley and Sigourney Weaver’s ability to bring this character to life. So I went back to my colleague and expressed my admiration for Ripley and just how she is such a positive role model in such dire situations. That despite how bad it would get, she would do her best to keep her cool and do what she could to keep her team alive for as long as possible. I could not stop gushing about Ripley and how I was looking forward to watching her development in the next two films. That was when he told me why the team called me Ripley, not because she was a cat lady but because like Ripley, I would do anything to help my team survive a long shift, bombardment of customers and the demands of our Managers. I would go to bat for my team time and time again and in me, he saw Ripley. My mouth dropped… I had never received such a compliment from someone and it really struck a chord with me.
Ellen Ripley, warrant officer on the Nostromo, became hugely influential in humanity’s encounters with the Xenomorph species throughout the Alien series. However, in pop culture, she became one of the top female influences in the sci-fi/horror/fantasy arena. Everyone knows the famous phrase from Aliens “Get away from her you bitch!”. With the delivery of this line and the visual imagery around it, Weaver set the mold of a strong, intelligent, complex and determined woman who would be emulated time and time again in cinema. She became a female lead that was believable and relatable. While she does the best that she can, she is also flawed. While she shows us her strengths, we can relate to her moments of weakness. While she can be humane, she is also violent. While she connects with her femininity, she is not defined by it. She does not allow that idea that because she is a woman, that she can’t handle what her male counterparts can. And this is seen time and time again, throughout each of the films when she is challenged by her male peers. When she is forced into a leadership position, she takes it in stride and does whatever she can to survive and destroy the alien threat to humanity.
It is amazing that when Ridley Scott’s Alien was released in 1979, Sigourney Weaver’s name was buried in the credits and Ripley doesn’t even get much screen time in the first 20-30 mins of the film. But it is Weaver’s ability to bring such strength of force to the character of Ellen Ripley that the Alien franchise continues to be seen as a masterpiece to this day. Ripley shattered gender-norms on the silver screen and we have been cheering for her ever since.