The Vagenda

Prometheus: Attack Of The Alien Vaginas


Both the brevity of life on earth and the mortal expense of cinema tickets behove me to urge you to not spend your time and wage upon seeing Ridley Scott’s much anticipated Prometheus. It is bad. The script is bad, the story is bad. Charlize Theron is criminally underused. Guy Pearce has been made-up, presumably to look like an old man, but in fact bears a striking resemblance to a scrotum. However, dear reader, I do not know you. All of these things may sound appealing to you. Far be it for me to deny you the right to enjoy an overlong and creaky Sci-Fi extravaganza. God gave us free will, and though it was arguably philosophical and political freedom that put Boris Johnson in a position of power, it is generally considered to be a good thing. So in summary, if you want to go and see Prometheus, go. Just stop reading this post, for there be spoilers ahead.
Ridley Scott – he’s alright, isn’t he? He’s famous for his strong female protagonists. I mean, this is the man behind Thelma and Louise. We love that shit: Geena Davis having her wicked way with Brad Pitt and Susan Sarandon generally being awesome. No problem there. Prometheus initially promises more of the same: Swedish actress Noomi Rapace (of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fame) does lots of alien-kicking and gets all up in evil Cyborg Michael Fassbender’s grill. This is only slightly undermined by the fact that for half of the film she’s wandering around in her pants, but we’ll let that slide for the moment. Sometimes when you’re fighting aliens a nice pair of dungarees just gets in the way. Whip ‘em off, I say.  
The issue, as I say, is not Rapace’s semi-nakedity. It’s deeper than that. Remember I said Guy Pearce looks like a big ball bag? His is far from the only case of genital looky-likeys. Specifically the alien. Because all of the aliens look like vaginas. All of them. It starts off kind of innocent: a lovable little vagina on the end of a tentacle that nonchalantly breaks Rafe Spall’s arm then goes on a little trip down his oesophagus. This set off a few alarm bells but I thought, give Ridley a chance. Maybe he didn’t realize how much that looked like a fanny. It was inadvertent, even quite funny. Sit back, enjoy the film. But it didn’t stop there. It was like a fanny flood-gate had been opened: millions of the things started popping up everywhere, ending finally in a huge, unapologetic vagina dentata that gobbled up a CGI alien man at the film’s close. The effect is overwhelming: a genuine case of what Lee Aronsohn recently (and infuriatingly) termed ‘labia saturation’. No matter how powerful, how independent, how generally great Rapace is, this is all pretty much negated by the fact that the physical embodiment of evil in this film takes the shape of a vag.
It almost feels like an incredibly self-aware spoof, especially at the point when Rapace’s (formerly barren) character is impregnated by an alien and has to perform her own caesarean. There’s so much terror of women as reproductive machines, of vaginas as evil little mouths, you wonder that nobody on set suggested a little therapy for Scott. Surely when Scott was working with the special-effects guys and developing his vision of the alien – ‘A little more lippy…kind of like a mouth but sideways?’ – they had to stifle their giggles and assume Ridley had led a sheltered life, that he knew not what he did. If Freud had been on the board of producers he would’ve been all, ‘WTF, Ridley? Seriously? Why are you advertising your debilitating fear of women?’ Had no one on set read Freud? Had they not, at least, heard all the jokes about the Eye of Sauron looking like a fanny and thought: ‘Consider that a bullet dodged guys, let’s create an image of unmitigated evil that wouldn’t be eerily familiar to a gynaecologist’. Apparently not.
Maybe I’m over-sensitive.  Maybe, in fact, this is my obsession and I see vaginas everywhere I look. If this is the case, I will apologise and promptly seek professional help. If not, however, then the powers-that-be in Hollywood need a different icon for evil.
- RP

16 thoughts on “Prometheus: Attack Of The Alien Vaginas

  1. “jokes about the Eye of Sauron looking like a fanny “

    ah, so I’m not the only one to think that? I was always too polite to mention it!
    I think the same applies to the dissection scene in “Alien”, foreshadowing the prequel :)

  2. Nope. Not just you. The first thing I said on leaving the cinema was “well, that was more genital imagery than I know what to do with.”

  3. It’s not just vaginal imagery, though! The weird vagina tentacle thing has penile qualities and forces itself down the throat of a man, echoing the oral rape anxiety of the face-hugger in Alien. Similarly the uber-vagina-dentata at the end is equipped with a good few tentacles itself. The melding of gendered genitals is a key part of the Alien mythology: with the original Alien and face-hugger both resembling vaginas and penises at the same time.

    I viewed it through the lens of the original Alien exploration of male fear of rape and pregnancy, except that this film was an out and out discussion of abortion. Whether Shaw aborting her alien parasite (and coming up against serious issues like the healthcare option being man-only…) or the humans musing “why did the Engineers wish to destroy us…what did we doooo!?” I saw it as less of a mediation on Scott’s fear of vag, and more on the subject of abortion (with a hefty dose of the erasure of the parent thrown in for Freud measure).

    ANYWAY, that’s just what I thought. The Alien franchise has always drawn on genital imagery, and I feel that Prometheus simply carries this on. I can’t watch a film where a thick shaft forcibly deep throats a screaming man and think a film is alllllll about vag-fear…!

    Making Noomi and Charlize wander round in their pants while we get nary a glance at a de-clothed Fassbo or Idris, however, CRIMINAL! ;)

  4. Saw Prometheus this evening – aside from many, many problems with the film, including worrying vaginal imagery and about a quadrillion plot holes, one thing about it actually left me feeling relieved.

    Thank fuck it wasn’t an immaculate conception.

  5. BDP is totally right. There’s penis imagery in there as well as vaginal, as has been the case through all the Alien films. I thought this was well known, and definitely intentional, rather than some subconscious Freudian thing…

    And actually (aside from all the pants-and-vest-with-no-bra action) the Alien films are unusually pro-feminist! Ripley kicking alien ass, using weapons, her brain, and some pretty big muscles, and outliving all the males. Plus (except in the third one) there are other female characters, with interests other than men, passing the Mechdel test!

    Admittedly there’s a worrying focus on the link between femininity and motherhood which bothers me a lot. But it’s interesting, and given the time the films were made (’79, ’86, ’92) and how poorly so many current films (especially modern horror films) do in portraying women, I think the Alien films are pretty awesome.

    Of course there’s a question about how well Prometheus lives up to that heritage. But I think it’s important to know the history behind it, and see where some of the modern film is coming from.

  6. I completely agree, the creature that attacked Rafe Spall was completely phallic in its appearance, as were all the tentacles later on. Definitely mixed genital imagery but as BDP has mentioned- that’s nothing new to the whole Alien franchise, in fact, part of what makes these scenes so terrifying is the association that’s made between our reproductive organs (male and female) and these horrific creatures. I don’t think we need to view everything as being anti-woman! Also, just to point out- having seen several c sections performed, it would be extremely difficult to do one whilst in a space suit, so the bra and knickers didn’t really bother me, purely from a practical perspective!

  7. Also, they couldn’t do an Alien film without a crapton of H R Giger, and that dude is the living embodiment of genital creepiness

  8. I’ve been racking my brains for a typo that produces “crapton” – or is it just an expression I’ve not encountered ?

    Urbandictionary says: A crap ton is equal to 4 shit loads. …

  9. Sorry if this is a bit OT, but I really wanted to share it. It seems there are even more explicit examples of vagina-fobia around than in sci-fi movie imagery, especially across the Pond. This is from a country with the biggest porn industry in the world, even proportionally. This morning I found this on the first page of the online version of Repubblica (Italian daily equivalent to The Guardian); the vid is in English and only lasts a few secs:

    American Rep. Lisa Brown apparently kicked out of Parliament by Mitt Romney simply for saying “vagina”: