If the Exosuit Fits: Becoming the Alien Queen in Alien and Aliens

Charles Hicks


Historically, Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) and James Cameron’s Aliens (1986) have attracted an exorbitant amount of scholarship focusing on the numerous representations of the maternal body scattered throughout the pair of films. However, the majority of criticism tends to restrict the narrative in each film by structuring it as a binary opposition between Ellen Ripley and the Alien Queen, each seemingly embodying the role of “good” and “bad” mother respectively. In this article, I argue that the relationship between these two maternal figures is not so easily reduced to the strict dichotomy between “good” and monstrous body; in fact, it is one of subjection. The following article incorporates Barbara Creed’s scholarship on Scott’s Alien to illustrate that the first film in the franchise pays close attention not only to the primordial archaic mother of the pre-Symbolic, but to how the traumatic experience of birth is internalized in the psychic realm. Furthermore, this article explores how this very experience of abjection facilitates a “turning toward” phallic Law in order to assuage the trauma of the originary loss. Using Judith Butler’s theory of homosexual melancholy, I argue that the Alien Queen in Cameron’s Aliens is not merely a horrifying phallic mother but an Absolute Subject of maternity that Ripley must embody to be recognized within the phallogocentric network of representation.

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We are grateful to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) for its ongoing support of the Journal of the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement.