Academic journal article Cultural Studies Review

Arrival of the Fittest

Academic journal article Cultural Studies Review

Arrival of the Fittest

Article excerpt

Introduction

The Alien films have always been culturally significant feminist texts and Prometheus (2012), the fifth film in the franchise, is no exception.1 Through examining production decisions and the opening sequences of the film, and looking at the figures of scientist and astronaut, this article contends that Prometheus supports fresh directions for feminist critical engagement. The argument acknowledges the importance to the previous Alien films of readings of the archaic feminine, developed primarily by Barbara Creed using Kristeva's abject, but reads Prometheus as shifting away from the abject towards a carnival aesthetic and carnival politic. The advent of the Engineers, a very different kind of alien, requires a fresh examination of some of the unifying ideas of the series and a recalibration of the dominant ideas and expressions of this particular text and its connection to the viewer. In Prometheus, rather than the repressed feminine returning through the abjection of the violated body and the horrific confrontation with the abyss, grotesque bodies act to undermine and destabilise scientific reliability and the heteronormative, bourgeois social and economic order that supports science. While the first four films have a more singular focus on the archaic horror of the raised monster, Prometheus suggests rather that monsters are compound and complex creations, produced from compound and complex social and scientific discourses and materiality, and that they are received in a compound and complex way. Questions of who is the monster, whether the creator of the monstrous is also a monster, and if monstrousness is socially distributed predominate in the film. Thus the feminist weight of the Alien story is primarily found in the disruptive and confusing politic generated through critiques of social practices of science, and gendered implications of storytelling within science.

At its most accessible level, Prometheus is the narrative of a discovery, made by archaeologists around the year 2089, of a consistent representation of star patterns in prehistoric human depictions of the sky. The archaeologists suspect the depictions indicate contact with a technologically superior species early in human history, and interpret the star patterns as an invitation to a location where they will meet this species. An expedition is mounted. The expedition is financed by the Weyland corporation and consists of the captain and his crew; Meredith Vickers, representing the corporation; archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw and her partner Charlie Holloway; and a number of mercenaries and scientists-notably Fifield the geologist and Milburne the biologist. The cyborg in this story-a body common to all the Alien films-is 'David', a synthetic humanoid and a creation of the Weyland Corporation. Finally, unbeknown to most members of the expedition, the head of the Weyland Corporation has been cryogenically preserved in his last days and has been shipped aboard the Prometheus in the hope of discoveries that will extend his life.

Contact is, of course, fatal for most members of the expedition as the astronauts and crew of the Prometheus discover the ship of technologically superior humanoids, the Engineers, and let loose the bioforming material that has the potential to create the monstrous and familiar Alien. Key to understanding the action in the film is the conflict between the human hope for technological and medical progress (and financial gain) through the contact, and the Engineers' determination to return to earth to destroy the life they apparently created. Thus, there are encounters with various unstable and dangerous life forms and the final human survivor-archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw-exits in an escape pod carrying the android's still functioning head in her bag. Shaw's intention, at the close of the story, is to find other Engineers and ask them why the ones they met on the Prometheus expedition were on their deadly mission to earth. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.