Ripley, A Mother Above All Others
Mother’s Day is a time set aside to observe extraordinary women who do remarkable things. In horror, some rather exceptional mothers go the extra mile for their offspring, communities, nations, and even to the extent of standing in the gap for their planet. These are the paragons of nurturing, power, and strength. In honor of Mother’s Day, we’re paying homage to the ultimate mothership… mother, Ripley, in James Cameron’s classic film Aliens (1986).
The film starts with our hero, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), being rescued from her escape shuttle, where she’s been sleep-hibernating for 57 years. She hasn’t aged a day, and even though it’s every woman’s dream to remain ageless after such a drastic passage of time, she can’t enjoy this cosmetic feat. Tragically, she learns that her daughter died as an old woman in her 60s. Ripley laments she had promised the once young girl she would return home for her eleventh birthday. And she missed, like, at least 50 birthdays.
Men Debating Eggs
Ripley has to contend with not only being an absentee mother, who can never have a relationship with her daughter again, but she has to deal with many men trying to take control of her eggs, well, trying to take control of her narrative about alien eggs. She tries to warn them that these alien harbingers are on exomoon LV-426, but the boardroom packed full of men sends her straight to psych.
However, when they realize they might have to investigate her claims themselves, they ultimately decide it’s better to sacrifice this loony woman than risk losing one of their corporate suit-wearing board members. So Ripley’s desperate overlords convince her, along with Burke (Paul Reiser) and Lieutenant Gorman (William Hope), to check out the derelict ship on LV-426. And it’s there that Ripley gets the second chance to save a colony and be the mother she never could be…Well, at least she tries hard not to mess up another girl’s life.
The Lost Daughter
On LV-426, Ripley and her team see the harrowing remains of the colony and a little girl, Newt, who looks around the same age as Ripley’s little girl she had lost. And it’s through Ripley’s relationship with Newt that she finds emotional redemption. Newt says reassuring things to Ripley, like “You don’t have to be sorry. It wasn’t your fault.” Sure, Newt is not actually referring to Ripley’s failures of motherhood and is instead reflecting on their present predicament. But no matter, it subconsciously releases Ripley’s deep-seated maternal fears that she was a crappy mother. Besides, this kid is better than a therapist and doesn’t require a $25 copay!
But the surrogate daughter isn’t just there for show as a piece of the mother-daughter relationship puzzle; she also serves as a consultant to Ripley and her military team. By surviving on the ship alone previously, Newt learned vital facts, like how the aliens mostly come at night, and also, she is able to map out the ship, knowing which ways to travel in the vents to escape the aliens. Therefore, like her surrogate mother, Ripley, her knowledge helps keep the team alive… Until they all pretty much die.
Newt may sometimes seem to be a fearless leader, but she’s still a little girl. She carries a doll named “Casey” and clings to it. And Ripley is the mother-like figure who tucks her into bed, talks to “Casey” as though she’s alive, though Newt has to remind this dimwit that the doll is, in fact, made of plastic, and assuages Newt’s fears. When Ripley moves around the ship, she shields Newt behind her so that she can be her protector.
But Ripley is not the only mother on the ship. Ripley has to uncover who the other “mothers” are—the ones who left their eggs on board.
Spreading Their Seed…or Spawn
Like all women in their 30s, the alien mothers are desperately trying to procreate and get their batch of babies out into the world. Sure, sometimes the alien spawn surprises you, and not in a neighbor-stopping-by way. More like I’m going to hatch inside of you and explode in a disgustingly horrific way.
For further evidence that the aliens are mothers, look no further than the flower-like vessel they come out of that looks like a… very “feminine” organ. When Ripley and Newt visit a room full of these “pods,” it’s unfortunate that Ripley doesn’t use the opportunity for a sex talk.
Thelma and Louise Versus Aliens
All-in-all, this is the ultimate tale of female empowerment. Once the rest of the team is defeated, Ripley and Newt are completely alone during the epic showdown with the aliens. It has Thelma and Louise vibes but without the suicide at the end. Thankfully. That would have been such a bummer.
The Last of… Two Females Alive
Their relationship feels like The Last of Us when Joel becomes a reluctant father to Ellie since he had lost his daughter. And like The Last of Us, Ripley becomes self-sacrificial to protect her daughter from the vicious aliens. She encourages the alien to take her so that Newt can escape it. Or “her,” because, as we’ve established, these aliens are ladies—scary ones, but ladies nonetheless.
A Male Hero?
At the film’s end, Bishop, the AI bot (Lance Henriksen), moonlights as a paternal father figure, rescuing Ripley and Newt in his ship. Then things get calm, and in classic horror-film fashion, a surprise attack comes out of nowhere. Bishop gets impaled by an alien and split in half, demonstrating that only the mother-daughter dream team can save the day. There’s no room for male heroes in this adaptation, even helpful robotic ones, who would never drive a woman crazy.
Get Away From Her!
In the final showdown, it’s Mother Ripley versus Mother Alien. It feels like an episode of Real Housewives when Ripley utters the famous phrase, “Get away from her, you b****!” And the claws come out. Well, Ripley uses this robotic transformer-like machine’s claws to fight that alien mother and then, with her badass prowess, successfully throws her out into space. Space only has room for one mother, and it’s not the beastly one with multiple sets of teeth. It’s the hot one, who occasionally walks around scantily clad in her undershirt as one does in an empty spaceship where people have been slaughtered hours before.
Once Ripley and Newt are reunited, Newt calls Ripley “Mommy,” and they hug, making sure the dumb-dumb audience gets the metaphor. The final shot is of them sleeping side-by-side in a pod, like a rebirth, and it looks like they’re almost melding into one another. A peaceful ending erases all of the trauma Ripley faced in her previous motherhood failure. Now she never has to think of that other dead whiner again.
Call Your Mommy
This Mother’s Day, even if your mom didn’t just kick butt defeating a ginormous alien mother, remember that she still had to put up with a lot of stuff from you… That emo phase, when you wore jet-black dyed hair over one eye, didn’t go over so well with your grandmother, and she had to explain to the said grandmother that you were “going through a phase” and would “hopefully be normal someday.” And your grandmother nodded her head and pretended you didn’t look like a creepy hoodlum.
So please call your mom, grandmother, or alien on the phone and tell her you love her… or at least apologize for your weird behavior. You really should feel ashamed.
Aliens (1986). Official Twentieth Century Fox Trailer