Monthly Archives: January 2015

Alien: Isolation

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The 1979 film Alien, a science fiction horror film, is praised for it’s realism, special effects, and for challenging gender roles. The movie follows protagonist Ellen Ripley as she fights for survival while she and the rest of the crew on the spaceship Nostromo are stalked by an extraterrestrial creature. The movie spawned a franchise comprised of , novels, toys, more movies, comic books, and video games including the 2014 game Alien: Isolation. While much of the franchise has focused on Ellen Ripley, Alien: Isolation follows Ellen’s daughter Amanda as she searches for answers about her mother’s disappearance 15 years before. Like Ellen, Amanda is a strong female protagonist who lives in a world where she is not limited by her gender.

Amanda’s portrayal in the game closely resembles that of her mother- she is shown to be brave, clever, determined, and she even uses a flame thrower to scare the Aliens like her mother did. After learning that the flight recorder from her mother’s ship has been found, Amanda accepts a place on the team going to Sevastopol Station to retrieve it. When they arrive, the team realizes that the station is almost completely abandoned and they eventually learn that those remaining on the station are being stalked by an alien creature and killed by androids called “working Joes.” In her attempt to find the flight recorder and eventually get off the station, Amanda must navigate through the station avoiding other humans, androids, and most importantly, the alien. Amanda’s skills as an engineer prove to be useful for her. Because the station is abandoned she needs to find ways to restore power to certain areas to achieve her goals. While she receives occasional help from other characters, most of the game play consists of her solving problems and, if the player chooses, fighting humans and androids.

One of the most empowering aspects of the game is the focus on the mother-daughter relationship. Amanda’s motivation is to search for answers about her mother’s disappearance and find closure and she is willing to risk her life to do this. Relationships between two women seem to be unexplored in science fiction. Instead, sci-fi usually focuses on how women interact with men and vice versa, but Alien: Isolation uses the mother-daughter bond as a way of advancing the story. While Amanda interacts with many men (and a few women),  it’s her bond with her mother that motivates her.

The Alien franchise presents a world where individuals are seemingly not limited by their gender. While we see few (if any) men who take roles traditionally held for women, we see many women, such as Amanda, who take on roles that are traditionally reserved for men. Nobody comments on the fact that Amanda is an engineer, it’s an accepted fact. Likewise, it’s accepted that women often make up half of a ships crew. On the station, women are often seen fighting alongside men. The society created in the universe allows women to fully participate. The society however is not “gender blind.” One man asks Taylor, one of Amanda’s crew mates, if she’s “just another girl with daddy issues.” The characters may have individual prejudices, and stereotypes may still exist, but these characters seem to be rare in the fictional world of the Alien franchise and the game,  Alien: Isolation, seems to continue to challenge gender roles like the 1979 film.

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