Thursday, 13 July 2017

Alien Review - Story Above All

Photo by roya ann miller

J and I went to see Wonder Woman recently and it was epic! I could have spent the whole time with the Amazons (as per this article sent by B*)

In honour of WW, Patty Jenkins, women's marches, and creating a world of equality, here's a look back at one of the first films I ever saw with a kickass woman leading the way: ALIEN.

I recently re-watched this (late 1970's) Ridley Scott film with some friends and it 100% stands the test of time thanks to Story & Character.

Here's how I think they hit a home run with those two elements:


Although the script was written with all male pronouns there is a qualifier off the top: The crew is unisex and all parts are interchangeable for men or women.

This opened the door for Ripley to be played by Sigourney Weaver without the usual gender assumptions (subversive or otherwise).

Sometimes J and I will flip a major aspect of a character. While I don't think all scripts should be written this way, when it works it can produce interesting results and help us remove our personal biases.


As well as the characters being interchangeable, so too could the setting and interactions.

The opening dialogue has them around a table sharing food, talking about 'the bonus situation,' and whether or not two of the crew will get 'full shares.'

Their conversation could be a family bickering at dinner, a bunch of truckers at a stop, or office co-workers in the lunchroom. This is what makes this 'space horror film' so relatable - the crew could be any of us.

When movies tap into that universal experience, they become timeless. It is what J and I aim for with all our writing. Art has the ability to bring out true equality when each of us is able to find a story we connect with.

- M

*M, I think our most interesting and telling character flip was when we changed a teacher role from female to male. Seeing our own use of weaker language at first was very eye opening. The exercise is fantastic for writers, as is your post. J

*Footnote: B is another writer we work with sometimes.

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Maira Gall