A few days ago, I saw Alien for the first time. Let’s be real, I was terrified for about 87% of the film, but I actually really enjoyed it! I appreciated the attention to suspense and thrill above mindless action sequences. Similarly, I thought all the characters were pretty authentic (maybe not Ash, but, you know, what can you do) and thought their actions and reactions to their situation were believable. Sigourney Weaver acted a strong leading woman and I thought she did a splendid job. There was also significant attention to Jones, the cat, throughout the film. So I mean, A+ to the writers for that.
On to what I actually want to talk about. I want to focus on the scene at the end of the movie when Ripley undresses in the escape shuttle and then compare that to a similar (or maybe not so similar) scene in Star Trek Into Darkness.
I’m not one to shy away from nudity. What I mean to say is that as long as it aids to the story in some way, nudity in movies doesn’t really bother me (same goes for language, violence, etc.). Put even more simply: Nudity needs to have a purpose in regards to the story. (Now, I get it. Neither of the women in either movie is “nude,” per say, but there is obvious and intentional skin bearing. So, yes.)
In Alien, Ridley’s undressing enhances both her character and the story. After losing her entire crew, fighting off an alien, saving Jones, and escaping a ship 1 minute before it’s set to self destruct, her desire to get out of the clothes that she’s been in throughout this entire experience makes sense. In a way, it’s a sign of her finally letting her guard down. As far as she knows, she’s safe from any immediate threat and is entirely alone, so why not get comfortable? Her undressing also serves to make the discovery/return of the alien much more terrifying. I think her lack of clothing reflects her vulnerability in that moment, and when the alien touches her, the danger becomes much more apparent. She doesn’t have anything to protect herself with; there is no barrier between her and what can potentially kill her. All this to say that in Ridley’s situation, walking around in her underwear was warranted because it served a purpose in the overall story.
Starkly contrasting Alien is a scene in Star Trek Into Darkness, where Carol, played by Alice Eve, changes out of her uniform. In said scene, Carol and Kirk are having a conversation while she changes. She tells him to turn around (to give her some privacy), but not surprisingly, he ends up turning his head in the middle of her change and sees her in her underwear.
What irritated me most about this scene was how glaringly obvious it was that they wanted to show off Carol’s (Alice Eve’s) body. There was no reason for the scene to be included. Honestly, the only way that it could even be stretched to make sense within the context of the story is if it was to somehow show the sexual tension between Carol and Kirk. Even with that excuse, though, the scene is so blatant that it messes with the flow of the story. Furthermore, it wasn’t like the audience even needed that scene to understand that there was a tension between the characters- it had been apparent since the first time they met. It frustrates me that the flow of that part the story was sacrificed just so they could appeal to a certain audience.
To me, the issue here isn’t that there’s a woman on-screen in her underwear. All power to Carol if she found a bra that supports her well and some matching underwear to go with it. All power to the story if there was a scene (like in Alien) where she was in these clothes (or lack thereof) and it actually served a purpose. The issue is that in the case of STiD, there is no real reason for Carol to undress other than to pander towards the male audience.
I personally find that a bit insulting.
And to clarify, I know that it isn’t just women who are objectified in films. It happens with men too. Generally, though, it seems that women are objectified in more physical ways while men are objectified in emotional ways (ie. chick flicks). If it were my way, there would be no objectification in films with any gender. Nudity would not be thrown around mindlessly to please certain audiences, but would serve to enhance the characters and plots involved in the story.
Oh, yes. One more clarification. I actually really did enjoy Into Darkness. I just thought the whole Carol scene was unnecessary. There’s that.
Anyways, that’s all for now. Go pick some flowers.