"One Bad Mother"
#5 in my "Fandom Rocks!" series
Gouache and Mixed Media on Wood Panel
2 X 3 ft.
Why I painted Ellen Ripley:
So far, Ellen is the only unexpected subject in this series. I set out in my endeavor to paint her when I heard about Dreamweaver, a show in New York dedicated to Sigourney Weaver. The show is orchestrated by Geeks Out!, a LGBTQ rights group catering to the nerd community. All of the paintings in the show will be sold and the profits go to their cause. I just had to throw my hat in!
You can learn more about Dreamweaver here: www.dreamweavernyc.com
OK, on to what Ripley really means to me.
Well, gosh, where to start? First off, I like to think of Ripley as the perfect strong, female character (S.F.C.). You might have noticed that my list has few other women on it (one I think, Matilda from The Professional). Unfortunately, women in sci-fi have often been relegated to damsels in distress. At this point, we're moving past that, thank goodness, but that's the way it's been. Ripley kicks the living shit out of that stereotype, and has been since the 70's. She IS the Aliens franchise. And I have a few theories on why (spoilers from this point forward).
Many times when writers try to make a woman appear stronger, they do so by stripping her of what traditionally defines her as feminine. They essentially write their S.F.C.s as men with boobs. And that can be fine, I am not saying that there aren't women out there who have absolutely no interest in what is traditionally feminine. But to me, what is special about Ripley is that she draws her strength from her identity as a mother. In Alien, her need to survive stems from wanting to get back home to her daughter. I painted her holding Jonesy the cat. I absolutely love Ripley for going back to save that cat. Her entire crew is dead, she's set the ship to detonate, an alien is hunting her, and she goes back for the cat. It's the mothering instinct.
And then of course in Aliens she bonds with the girl Newt, a replacement for the daughter Ellen finds she has lost. Eventually in the later films, Ripley isn't even the original Ripley any longer, but a human/xenomorph hybrid clone. And what does she do then? She loves her children. Ghastly, evil, unfeeling, and horrible as they are, she loves them. Even knowing what they are, and what she is, and how she has been used and abused, she loves them, because deep inside, she will always be a mother. And because of that, she endures.
So I mean, the whole thing is set up to reflect that. The pose obviously invokes religious iconography of the holy mother. The xenomoph tail is meant to double as both a halo and as a symbol of Ripley's entrapment. The rainbow patch on her uniform is actually from the movie, and I like to think it is a happy accident that it reflects the cause of the show.
I'd like to point out that Ripley's spiritual successor in the series, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw of "Prometheus", is sort of the opposite. She begins the film incapable of becoming a mother and then outright rejects motherhood (symbolically) by performing a c-section on herself to remove the xenomorph parasite. Maybe she'll fare better than Ripley.