BY ERIN TORRANCE
Role in the horror community: Alien-pulverizing powerhouse of a leading lady
Claim to fame: When Ridley Scott set out creating Alien, the role of Ellen Ripley was the last to be cast. Strangely, the actress who won the role, Sigourney Weaver, had the least amount of experience in film among all her castmates. One of the first leading ladies in the male-dominated sci-fi horror community, Ripley is often used as an example of a strong female lead role. Also, she’s the last survivor of the Nostromo, which sounds pretty impressive on a resume.
Weapon of choice: Vacuum of space (she’s resourceful). Also, she handles a flame thrower fairly well.
Why she’s bloody brilliant: When we first meet Ripley, she seems OK—we can tell she’s got a good head on her. She follows protocols and obeys logic. (Hey, I wouldn’t let an alien life form into my spaceship, either.) However, we see tensions rise toward Ripley’s habit of making decisions based on regulations rather than emotions, the first instance being when she denies entry to Kane (John Hurt) because he has a life form on his head and, well, he needs to be quarantined—never mind the fact that he could maybe die from this thing. In the end, it may seem ruthless, but it was the right decision for the safety of the rest of the crew.
In fact, I’d say Ripley is ruthlessly logical. No matter the situation, she knows what needs to be done, not what’s morally “right.” It’s almost as if she knows what nearly ever viewer is shouting at their screens.
But in all reality, while we may be pushing her on, her character is there to show us what we should do during an alien threat—attempt to be emotionally strong and clear-headed. Ripley breaks down here and there, sure, but she’s human. When placed alongside the emotionally weak Lambert (Veronica Cartwright), who is said to mirror the audience’s true emotions (how we’d react if we were in that situation and not just watching it), Ripley is brazen.
Finally, no matter how much flak she gets from her male counterparts, she still shows them she can be a strong leader when it comes to crunch time.
Clearly, I could go on and on about how cool Ripley is in the face of danger—or an alien with ridiculously sharp and plentiful teeth—but there’s one thing that stands out to me that makes her the ultimate woman of horror: she can kick an alien’s ass while also saving cats. Yes, Ripley is that woman of horror you’d like to say you could be, but ultimately know you’d never be.