On Alien Horror Movies and the Other
If anyone ever has difficulties understanding Nietzsche, Social Darwinists and those who posit the views of serial killers and Ayn Rand about the glory of not comprehending or conceiving of “The Other” I always – in my many hypothetical conversations with people where I’m discussing sociopathy in a sophisticated and erudite way accentuated by jokes that everyone laughs at of course – tell them to see a host of horror films, Ridley Scott’s Alien in particular.
There’s the Anti-Capitalist sentiment portrayed in having the entire crew expendable in the conquest of new life; not in some “boldly go where no man has gone before” James T Kirk ideal, but, of course, in-hopes of making new products (particularly weapons) and with more fundamentally creating new avenues of capital creation and exploitation. “Standard procedure is to do what the hell they tell you to do.” But along with the apathy of giant corporations we’re given a view of the Universe’s total indifference to human suffering, or as it’s said in the tagline (or whatever it’s called) of this film: In space, no one can hear you scream. A sentiment that is better portrayed in a film such as Pitch Black but is a minor point of this film as well. However, while Pitch Black’s Existentialism and Ethics focuses on how humans are different than the heartless creatures’ eager to kill them all for a full stomach (or whatever their digestive organ(s) would be called) and there’s only an ethical inclination to help others once we know them to preserve our own egos, in this film selflessness isn’t even considered.
The skin-deep distinction between the Alien, Ridley, and the survivor characters of Halloween, Friday the Thirteenth, and Nightmare on Elm St. is that where the Alien is amoral – he/it lacks morality – the survivor characters are merely nonmoral – they have morality, but it doesn’t affect their choices in any considerable way whatsoever. In nearly all horror/survival movies, you have the predator and the prey, and we would like to assume (and the facts seem to support it in most cases) that the prey is morally superior to the hunter, but really it’s merely that the hunter’s instincts and nature is different and inclines it to be a carnivore rather than a docile grass-feeder. Are deer more ethical than wolves? This is the mindset we need to understand when reading Nietzsche and trying to get a fresh perspective of Alien and Horror in general that is new, and without the “moral lense” of human psychology that is innate in us. Life is fundamentally about survival, and very-little moral and existential problems can arise in early man. In a sense, early Man, that is hunter and gatherer tribes were spared existential dilemmas by the sheer base and trivial nature of their existence. In many ways they were more animal than man.
Horror is essentially a genre that operates under the logic of Virtue Ethics but is under the motives of contemporary ethics – allow me to explain. In Halloween, Michael’s sister doesn’t survive in the sense of cause-and-effect because she is selfless and moral. However, because it is a work of fiction she does persevere because she is constructed as the “good character” because she both is kind and overall ethical and is the “virgin” character that fits the archetype of the Puritan ethic. That is both in-terms of what she does or is and what she abstains from (sex and drugs) she is portrayed as the moral character and also the logical one who outsmarts Michael, Freddy or whatever character it may be. The Puritan ethic is not a factor in Alien, so in this sense it is all-the-more Nietzschean. In this film there are no moral judgments. It’s simply kill or be killed and the fittest (or luckiest, since random circumstance is a factor) survive.
Ultimately Ripley is a believer in the master morality as-well. She is willing to allow others to die for her to live once they’ve even potentially be contaminated. Only her nature as a human being has intelligence intrinsically defined in its flourishing. So not only is it something that she may use to her disposal to survive, it’s something she must use if she wishes to flourish and be her best self, be “who she really is” Nietzsche would say.
It was Ash who masqueraded moral intentions when actually he is the amoral machine programmed to defend the Corporations potential for a bigger bottom line. Similar to either the Capitalists’ defense of their existence as Utilitarian and moral, or Religion and Government’s defense of Capitalism both intellectually (as in-terms of argument but also in-regards to the brain drain factors involved with the Church and bad as well-as propagandistic schooling) and physically in-terms of the State and with keeping people poor and ignorant with aid being defunded and thrust unto charities.
Also the movie portrays like most Horror movies do how one enemy can destroy many. For Alien its simply power and ignorance. The Alien is stronger and better equipped in its biology for killing than humans, and the crew is almost entirely ignorant of its nature. As in almost every Horror film the “many” the “group” is weaker or ill-equipped compared to Michael, Freddy and Leatherface, and many of them are ignorant of their existence or their existence as being evil. It is only the protagonist who is aware of the antagonist and is aware that it must be dealt with, rather than being disorganized, confused or apathetic that triumphs over this. This is an effective metaphor for the efficacy of any Socialist movement anywhere today. The evil of Capitalism exists, with its machete infecting our dreams and infesting fat and all-the-more hungry in our reality. But rather than be ignorant of said evil, we need to strategize and defeat it. Puritan ethics won’t save us, for reality isn’t a movie for teenagers to see on a Friday night. However, certain aspects of the Puritan ethic can help the Proletariat and the Socialist movement to-the-effect of less young having children and less drug use creating more ambitious youth to organize and achieve their goals. Sex, drugs and other hedonistic activities weaken the mind and resolve needed for political action. Hedonism is an enemy of Socialism almost to the extent that Capitalism is, and in some ways more. For Hedonism more-so than any other vice has us living in the moment, when at-least Capitalism has us using some degree of cognitive prowess to focus on the future, even if it’s in fear and worry of where are next meal is coming from or how to get more money to impress losers we should have nothing but contempt and pity for.
Though many Socialists, Anarchists and Communists were far from “saints” in-regards to the Puritan ethic, they generally are not the habitual drug users or rampant Hedonists we see with the Hippy movement; its inevitable failure documented in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. If we as Socialists are going to defeat “evil” as physical manifestation, we must use and further particular concepts of both the Master and Slave morality in-regards to any tactics that will further our goals. Logic and cunning can help us as it did Ripley, but ultimately it is merely another tool that is as ineffectual to affect change without proper action as a headless android is ineffectual in furthering its own goals, and has only sympathy to give to us, the humans, and for many of us both in-regards to cinema and life, the damned.