From Facehuggers to Thought-Provokers
by Ray Blank
Like the films which are its inspiration, Alien and Philosophy: I Infest, Therefore I Am is not a book for the fainthearted. It may be the latest in a successful series that draws on popular culture to explore philosophical concepts, but the writers broach ideas that stretch in many different directions. They collectively name-check every intellectual from Arthur Schopenhauer to Noël Coward amidst a series of contributions that cover education, feminism, aesthetics and all sorts of other topics. Alien and Philosophy will please readers who already give deep consideration to the rights that John Locke might have thought natural for a species which has acid for blood, and who wonder at length if Sigmund Freud would dare to use psychoanalysis if confronted with a synthetic person that obsesses about Lawrence of Arabia. If you enjoyed the film Alien and its sequels then you may want to dive into these scholarly essays, using them to further your intellectual curiosity.
The strongest contributions in this collection tend to be found in the later chapters. In “The Alien as Übermensch: Overcoming Morality in Order to Become the Perfect Killer”, Robert Mentyka offers a refreshingly sharp analogy between the fearsomely effective alien monster and Nietzsche’s conception of the superior man. Mentyka also does an excellent job of using events in the film to illustrate Nietzsche’s ideas. This is followed by an essay entitled “Why Do You Go On Living?: Ripley‐8 and the Absurd” which features an engrossing study of the central character in Alien: Resurrection, the clone of Ripley that has also absorbed some of the alien’s characteristics. Written by Seth Walker, this essay does a superb job of reiterating the question in Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus and relating it to Ripley’s circumstances. Walker shows some flair by providing as good an answer, and as difficult an answer, as Camus might have offered.
The essays that succeed are those which remain close to the characters that drive the plot of the films: the various incarnations of Ripley and her alien antagonist. These articles are solidly rooted in the actual films, and so deliver the most satisfying results. This movie franchise is not an obvious choice for thoughtful analysis, because it heavily relies on violence and the basic desire for self-preservation. However, the films also boast some intriguing recurring themes that explore the relationship between a mother and her child, or between a creator and their creation. The philosophers that address these themes find plenty of fertile territory, allowing them to use the Alien films as a means to discuss the rearing of children, the status of women in society, and when it becomes acceptable to kill.
Read the rest of the review at the Sci Phi Journal here.
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