Tuesday, April 14, 2009


MOTHER!, originally uploaded by richstarkings.

• Do you think the role of the mother in science fiction films is important and does it correlate to other genres?

RICH: Absolutely the mother is important in Science Fiction -- inasmuch as her presence (or absence!) almost always represents the Earth Mother, the nurturing influence without which no man, woman, or mankind can survive or grow.

In oh so many Science Fiction films, women are either dressed as men (ALIEN, TERMINATOR, 1984, OUTLAND, STAR TREK) or appear as provocatively dressed sex objects (BLADE RUNNER, FIFTH ELEMENT, SPECIES, STAR TREK, STAR WARS) and most of those movies are missing maternal figures. Science Fiction writers and movie makers seem to be suggesting that space, and science, are the provinces of men -- so women must dress and behave like men to participate... or undress to make the experience more pleasurable for men (LOGAN'S RUN, CLOCKWORK ORANGE, OUTLAND).

I think it's significant in the ALIEN series that Ripley progressively develops the qualities of a mother -- first as Newt's surrogate mother in ALIENS, then as the mother of a maturing alien in ALIEN3 and finally as the mother of the halfbreed and the understanding, nurturing companion of the android Call in RESURRECTION.

In many ways ALIEN is akin to the Frankenstein monster. Created by scientists, both the monster and the aliens behave monstrously without the warmth and balance of a caring mother -- they serve only the greedy purposes of the hungry, egocentric father, whose dependence on the intellect ultimately turns into fear of the very thing he has created, and death at its hands.

Ripley survives the ALIEN series and her survival in each movie follows her demonstrations of compassion and affection -- first for Jones, the cat in ALIEN, then for Newt in ALIENS, for ALL mankind in 3 and for the halfbreed and Call (and all mankind again) in RESURRECTION.

In a similar fashion, John Connor mothers the Terminator in T2, after his mother has become more manlike and machinelike, and the Terminator becomes the protector in 3 and SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES. I think mothering and the qualities of compassion are presented in Science Fiction as something of a lost art that has to be recovered. Roy Batty destroys his father in BLADE RUNNER and the compassion he demonstrates at the end of the movie triggers in Deckard the desire to pursue his relationship with Rachael no matter what.

• Many SF films don't feature a mother at all;, the boys follow in their father's footsteps --- is this simply because the sci~fi genre is a "Boy's Own adventure" or do you think there are ideological and narrative reasons why this should be so?

RICH: I think men have come to represent the intellect, the cold reason of science, rather than the warmth of nature and nurture which is attributed to the mother. I also subscribe to the whole HERO'S JOURNEY philosophy played out in STAR WARS -- it seems as if being orphaned is a requirement for Joseph Campbell's archetypal hero. Loss of the parent frees the hero and cuts off his options. He has to discover the balance between the compassion of the mother and the intellectual reasoning of the father on his on terms through his own experience.

• In ELEPHANTMEN, the mothers are seen as reproductive machines and then disposed of -- is there no place for the mother in the world of MAPPO, where Nikken wants to be both "father and mother"?

RICH: MAPPO's disposal of the mothers creates the instant hero archetype! Hip, Ebony and Horn are all seeking in themselves qualities that were never demonstrated by their father figures (Nikken and the architects of MAPPO). I see elements of Ripley's struggle with the Alien in WAR TOYS -- only in my story the roles are reversed; Hip and Horn regard Yvette as the Alien and Hip's demonstrations of compassion in the course of the story indicate that he is emerging from the mindset of the cold scientific father and discovering the nurturing qualities of the mother. It's interesting to me that I subconsciously chose to illustrate Hip's compassion in a scene wherein he saves a mother and child.


Lorenzo Living with Mom...(temporarily) said...

wow... this is amazing! thanks for posting Richard!

Lorenzo Living with Mom...(temporarily) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
boo said...

wise words....interestingly, the first reference to 'mother' in Alien is the 'nostromo's' onboard computer called 'mother' - not to be argued with!

also in aliens we find ripley is actually a mother, but her daughter died at the tender age of 67 - perhaps that drives some of her motives later on...

the way 'mother's' are used in elephantmen in wholly depressing, but valid sci-fi none the less!

some of my favourite sci-fi nurturing is done by bruce dern and his robot trio of helpers in 'the silent running'...i think i'm gonna cry......