Book Review: Alien Woman: The Making of Lt. Ellen Ripley, Ximena Gallardo C. and C. Jason Smith (2006)

Monday, December 1st, 2008

“The Making of Lt. Ellen Ripley”

five out of five stars

In ALIEN WOMAN, authors and pop culture critics Ximena Gallardo-C. and C. Jason Smith examine “The Making of Lt. Ellen Ripley” – a process which is both informed by and reflects the differing sociopolitical landscapes present during the creation of the respective installations of the quadrilogy. While the first ALIEN film was a radical (perhaps even feminist) reimagining of the slasher/horror genre, ALIENS represented a return to retro Reagen-era “family” values. ALIENS 3 joined the “hero” and the “monstrous creature,” and allowed Ripley to subvert the patriarchy by destroying both herself and the alien; ALIEN: RESURRECTION went a step further, creating a sisterhood of two non-human females (alien-human hybrid Ripley and second-gen android Call), which represents the future of humanity – humane, if not necessarily human.

Whether you love the ALIEN quadrilogy, yearn for more feminist fare, or simply enjoy watching strong heroines kick serious arse, ALIEN WOMAN is a must-read for pop culture junkies of all stripes. A background in cultural studies is a plus, but not a prerequisite; though psychoanalytic concepts such as the “monstrous feminine,” the “womb-tomb,” and the “monstrous generative mother” figure heavily into the discussion, the authors gradually unpack their thesis, piece by piece, resulting in an accessible, highly enjoyable volume. ALIEN WOMAN is the rare scholarly work that’s suitable for laypeople and post-grads alike.

As a longtime fan of the ALIEN series, now that I’ve read ALIEN WOMAN, I’m eager to re-experience the films through fresh eyes. I don’t think I’ll view Ripley’s probing of Call’s bullet wound the same way again.

(This review was originally published on Amazon and Library Thing, and is also available on Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)