Episode Three Hundred Thirty Four: Tell.
In which are alienated. 

1 comment:

  1. Alien (1979, Ridley Scott). I was twelve when this came out, and twelve seems much younger in '79 than today. I remember seeing ads for this film on television, and being disappointed that I wasn't old enough to see it. A few years later, the videotape revolution would present the paradigm shift of allowing media consumption on demand, whenever and where ever it was desired. I would be watching this film in my home by the mid-80's. (The relative ease with which the Internet would provide media acquisition and consumption would still strike me as absurd for another decade.)

    Watching this film today is an odd experience, because I first encountered it through a blur of low-res VHS haze. The set design, in particular, was so evocative, as was the film's clear refusal to fit into any one simplified genre.

    The scene in this strip always stood out as well. Ash's unusual word choice is picked up by Ripley, and as a plot device, it's clearly a 'tell' on the part of the android, foretelling lines of division, although I'm not certain I was aware of that as a young teen.

    I was aware, however, that Ash was not like the rest of the crew, and did not fit in. Ian Holm's portrayal of his character's sputtering, bottled up emotions struck me as familiar territory. As I recall, Holm played a similarly repressed character in Woody Allen's 1988 'Another Woman,' another film that would capture my imagination.

    In the framing of this scene, Ash's body language shows him struggling to process the 'problem' - he turns his back on Ripley and crumples up in frustration. (In the strip, I've just noticed that he begins to resemble an egg, such as the eggs the crew has encountered.)

    This depiction of an android experiencing anguish is an odd characterization, both because the android has traditionally been depicted as coolly logical, but also because (as we don't yet know him to be an android) it's a portrayal of a closeted anguish, which, although Ash's secret is that he's a company man (in more ways than one), still will always point toward more generic closeted characters in keeping with the cinematic language of the time. Generally, the dynamic plays around the tension that anyone who is closeted has a secret, and is therefore suspect.

    But the innocence of the film feels dated. That the crew might be surprised to find Ash was not human is a little anachronistic, betraying the time in which the film was made. Another quant detail that was standing out by 1990: the idea that there is one room, one terminal, from which the main computer can be accessed. And the idea that the main computer can only be consulted at this terminal, as if Mother were an Oracle. It's a model that ceased to make any sense shortly after the film came out, and represents a 1950's concept of what computers are and how they function.

    Still, it's a hell of a film.

    Of course, it is not uncommon to find Neurodiverse folk relating to 'othered' characters, such as aliens and androids, and I suspect that this is why this one small moment in Alien caught my eye, though it would be four decades before I'd be willing to identify it as such. Ash thinks differently, is identified as different, and is mocked for his difference. That was enough for me to align with him in that moment.

    As for this week's comic itself: In the end, I'm not particularly happy with the outcome of this effort. Sometimes I look at it and think it's strong; other times it just looks like a confusing wash of lines.



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