In horror and sci-fi films, female characters are too often the victim of the male gaze. Some might offer Ripley’s disrobing scene in Alien as a classic example. However, the mise-en-scene and cinematography of the scene disrupt the sexualizing possibility of the male gaze, and instead highlight the vulnerability of the human form.
A corporate computer named Mother, operated from a control room that suggests a mechanical womb; an android from the same company named Ash, whose sweat resembles something between milk and semen; a wage slave astronaut named Gilbert Kane writhing in agony as a phallic head bursts from his chest, like a horrific pregnancy coming to term…throughout Alien (1979), Ridley Scott imposes human reproductive imagery upon the vessels of an amoral corporation as well as a series of space monsters, neither of which possess any humanity of their own. The result is a Freudian nightmare wherein a business’s greed is equated to an alien’s desire to procreate, culminating in either case with the consumption of human life. Whether it’s a company abusing its employees for profit or a cosmic beast using their bodies as a breeding ground, the inhumane imperative that drives both antagonists is one and the same.
By Peggy Nelson
Moon – 2009 – dir. Duncan Jones
In Moon (dir. Duncan Jones, 2009), Sam Rockwell plays the scruffy hipster-next-door on the moon, who turns out to be both more and less than what he seems. With impressive set design, constructed with tiny models instead of CGI, Moon inhabits not the 1960s techno-future of visible progress, but the 1970s paranoid present of hidden ulterior motives. In a way, Moon recalls not so much the actual space race, but the aftermath of plastic modules on the kitchen table, with an excess of glue and tiny pieces that don’t seem to fit anymore.