In honor of Passover, a local movie channel has been airing science fiction movie series, and this evening it was the Alien quadrilogy. I've just finished watching the first two films (I could be watching the third film right now but really, why would I?). It's been ages and ages since I saw either one, so I may be stating the bloody obvious, but I was utterly floored by how unglamorous Sigourney Weaver is in both of them. It's not just that she's conforming to late 70s and mid-80s styles and fashion, though this is also a factor. I can't, for example, remember the last time I saw a female lead with curly hair in a blockbuster film. These days they all have shiny, silky perms--but then, as I've noted in the past, sometimes it seems that Hollywood has only one, very narrow, standard of female beauty. It's not even a question of production values, though the color palette on both films felt drab and washed-out compared to modern standards, to a degree that I suspect isn't entirely intentional. Mainly, it's the fact that, though Sigourney Weaver is a beautiful and sexy woman, the films aren't very interested in her that way. The camera doesn't fondle her. Her clothes are utilitarian, neither skintight nor revealing. There are no glamor shots of her, and when she's sweaty and dirty she looks just that, not attractively mussed. The same holds for Sarah Connor. I couldn't stop thinking about Trinity in her pleather catsuit, or the trailers for Doomsday and Resident Evil: Extinction, and wonder if things were actually getting any better.
This is not to say that there aren't troubling aspects in both films' treatment of Ripley's body. There's plenty of body-fondling towards the end of Alien, when the camera practically drools at Weaver in her too-low underpants. Meanwhile, though Aliens keeps Ripley fully dressed at nearly all times, it's hard to chalk this as a win when one considers that the film views Ripley's femininity strictly as it relates to her being (or becoming) a mother, and thus sexless. She even has mom hair.
Something else that occurred to me while watching Aliens was that I wouldn't be surprised if, in the wake of the film's release, some military hardware engineer sat down and started designing an APC that could be loaded onto a plane, or fully-articulated body armor. And then I thought about this article, which cropped up on the net a few weeks ago and finally confirmed what so many columnists and bloggers have been postulating--that the US intelligence apparatus is modeling its behavior towards terror suspects and its techniques in preventing terrorism after the actions of characters from 24. I started wondering--what's the difference? Science fiction fans have always known that imaginary futures can predict the real one by making it, by implanting images in the minds of movers and builders, telling them that this is how the future is supposed to look. Why are we surprised to discover that 24 has the same effect when it comes to the present?