STUDIES AND RESEARCH
What can she know, where can she go?
Extraterritoriality and the symbolic universe in the film serial Alien
The author states that although there is an increasing number of action-heroines in mainstream films, male heroes still remain the saviors of the world, often resolving crisis of universal proportions. In the (fictional) world, those crises regularly concur with the crisis of masculinity, a particularly endangered position of the father, so that salvation of the world also assumes ’fixing’, that is to say, redefining of the male subject. Woman is mostly placed in between the inter-subjective exchange (of two men), between the territories; and in that sense she is without territory, extra-territorialized. However, as a ’constitutive outer element’, she belongs to the outer space which is the constitutive part of the symbolic order. Relying on the works of Judith Butler, Slavoj Žižek, Jacques Lacan and other authors, Vojković questions the discursive potential of this constitutive outer space pointing to the possibility of its de/re-construction, citing Lorraine Code’s question ’what can she know?’. New Hollywood action paradigm can graphically bee seen in the serial Alien, in which the story takes place in the in-between space over which ’Law of the father’ has no jurisdiction, so that Ripley can fulfill her action heroine potential. Agreeing with Judith Butler that signifier can become political signifier, the author reminds us that notation occurs in time, so that repetition of a sign always presents spatial and temporal shift/postponement, namely, la différence, in the sense of Derrida’s criticism of classical concept of the sign and signification. The structuring of female subjectivity in the serial Alien is therefore connected with the narrative process in the course of which Ripley’s shortcomings as ’Woman’ will finally be ’corrected’ through inter-subjective exchange with Call, another female character in the film Alien: Resurrection. Of course, ’Woman’ is just one in the series of possible cultural, intellectual, personal and political interests that the dominate culture excludes, but the author claims that narration is a prerequisite for reshaping and redefining of the signifier, in this case, a signifier of femininity.
In the first sequel, Ripley was understood as ’Real at its purest’, as an alien creature. In the sequel (Aliens), Ripley connects motherhood and masculinity, while in the third film the heroine realizes that she has become the monstrous organism herself, so she has no choice other than self-destruction. In the fourth film Alien: Resurrection, the resurrection of the alien is also Ripley’s resurrection — she was brought back to life so as to give birth to the agent of death. Superhuman quality invested in Ripley’s character goes through a series of shifts; she is equally capable of ’wearing’ an armored vehicle, handling guns and taking care of a child. At one point, she even successfully handles a gun and take cares of the girl Newt at the same time. In one critical moment, Ripley bonds with corporal Hicks, who assumes the role of a leader after the failure of the first operation, so she is here presented as a ’masculin mother’. Two active solutions for the crisis of womanhood; masculinity and motherhood are therefore directly connected to the structuring of the story.
Judith Butler claims that place of political competition can be understood as analytical space in which the discussion about ’a woman’ as prescribed model for female subjectivity is reopened. This presumes that woman’s coinciding with Real at its purest, her status of constitutive refugee, and particularly her overlapping with monstrous creatures, simply must be taken into consideration in the sense of momentary linguistic unification. Of course, the psychoanalysis states that Father has to be dead so that the Law of the Father could have dominion, which takes place in Alien 3. The consequence is that in the last sequel, Alien: Resurrection, Ripley reappears as the livingdead, two instead of one, causing the crashing of Father universe. Namely, in this film Ripley’s denaturalization goes a step further because the biological split offers foundation and possibility for the reconstruction of the female subjectivity.
The author evokes the work of Evelyn Fox Keller, who carefully analyzed the relationship of science, language, and gender, and focused on two motives in the language of modern science — one has to do with the secrets of life, the other with the secrets of death. She links those motives with the discovery of structure of the greatest organic molecule — DNA and with the construction of the atomic bomb. In Alien: Resurrection, the secret of life is hidden in the DNA and concurs with the secret of death; scientists return Ripley to life and at the same time produce the agent of death. Furthermore, in order to ensure human samples for experimental breeding, the Company employed hired men to catch bodies floating in cryogenic sleep. Interaction between Call and genetically modified Ripley is painted with mutual distrust and feeling of superiority on both sides, while at the same time, in order to solve the crisis, they need to join their forces. Interaction between Call and Ripley will save both the world and female subjectivity, and that is possible because Call is a construct, just like Ripley — a synthetic humanoid. Robotic qualities that Call tried to hide turn out to be the main weapon for solving the crisis when Call tunes into the main computer called ’Father’ and destroys it. Both women are materialized with the help of science; Ripley is transformed into the mother of a monster, while Call is the offspring of generations of robots. The scene in which two female constructs talk about their nonhuman status reminds us of Mieke Bal’s discussion about Medusa, a mythological female monster.
Therefore, a way to assume control in the situation of exile from the symbolical universe of the Father, is to accept ’the impossible place’ as a discursive construct offering possibility for reconstruction. Construction of identity is linked with symbolization, which also means that new symbolical networks are necessary for constructing creatures of importance. Repeating the signifier actually represents new linguistic unity, at the same time alluding to all the future possibilities of repetition / reconstruction. Decomposition of female subjectivity in Alien serial is conditioned with the Law of the Alien. When we look at ’Alien’ as an alternative normative decree (the Law of the Alien), the space of the exile (outer space) reserved for female characters offers possibility for reshaping and redefining of female subjectivity. The author compares this with Lucas’ Star Wars and Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress.