The Real Black Death
It is common for children to be afraid of a certain monster such as the boogieman, but how often does a monster manage to shatter the will of fully grown adults? Well, that’s exactly what the Xenomorph does; it is so terrifying and monstrous that no aura of bravery could even slightly diminish the ominous vibe that emits from the Xenomorph. The Xenomorph is an extraterrestrial life form that first appears in Ridley Scott’s 1979 film, Alien. The Xenomorph has been featured in the Alien Quadrilogy, film spinoffs such as Alien vs. Predator, comics, and video games. The Xenomorph species serves as the main antagonist in the Alien Quadrilogy, in which it murders senselessly with no regard for anything except self-preservation. The Xenomorph is a terrifying creation that by any means can be classified as purely a monster.
A contributing factor to the monstrous existence of the Xenomorph is that it is an embodiment of the fear of extraterrestrial life. Due to our limited experience in space, we are yet to come into contact with life beyond Earth. Such a condition creates an anxiety of what life beyond earth might be like. In Jeffrey Cohen’s, Monster Culture (Seven Theses), the foundations of what make up a monster are explored and evaluated using seven distinct theses. One of seven theses in Cohens seven theses is titled “Thesis V. The Monster Polices the Borders of the Possible” and the thesis states that monsters are created at the boundaries of what is known to possible in the time of the monster’s creation. The Xenomorph can most definitely fall into “Thesis V. The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference”, for the Xenomorph’s creation was in 1979; a period where mankind had extremely limited knowledge of the space, and especially an ignorance regarding the possibility of life beyond Earth. The Xenomorph is a representation of the anxiety that the human race has towards what life could be beyond Earth.
Humans and Xenomorphs differ greatly in many ways, in fact, the differences are so great that Xenomorphs must be labeled as monstrous. Cohen’s “Thesis IV. The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference”, elaborates that monsters are created where differences are found among cultures or beliefs. For instance, a monster could be an extremely rich person in a neighborhood filled with impoverished people. The Xenomorph appears has no conscience that extends beyond its need for propagation and self-preservation. The behavior of such a creature most definitely is so primal and savage that its behavior alone is enough for it to be labeled as monstrous, for the Xenomorph violates thousands of years of evolution of human morals and culture. The Xenomorph has a terrifying physical appearance, however, its appearance varies as a result of the way Xenomorphs are created. An egg is birthed from the queen Xenomorph, shortly after a facehugger emerges from the egg to seek a host to implant a Xenomorph egg in, the facehugger latches onto the face of whatever species it seeks to impregnate and shoves an egg down the hosts throat, lastly a baby Xenomorph bursts from the body of whatever species that served as its incubator. The Xenomorphs egg pairs with the DNA of the host which results in slightly similar aspects between the Xenomorph and its host. For instance, a dog is impregnated by a facehugger and as a result, the xenomorph slightly resembles a dog, for it walks on four legs. If a human is impregnated by a facehugger the result will be a two-legged monstrosity. The appearance of a Xenomorph that births from the chest of a human results with a tall two legend creature that is all black, has a tail with a blade fixed to the end, a long eyeless head with two jaws including a tongue that is used to penetrate the flesh of prey, and long arms with sharp claws. Oh yeah, and the Xenomorphs blood is made of acid that can melt metal! Such a bizarre form creates the image of something that is truly monstrous, for it is unlike anything that lives on Earth.
The presence of the Xenomorph is more than enough to classify it as a terrifying monster. The Xenomorph gets very little screen time in all the films in the Alien Quadrilogy, but the brief appearances leave lasting impressions of horror and anxiety. The Xenomorphs first appearance as a newborn shakes the audience to their core and leaves the first impression that the Xenomorph is a monster of nightmarish proportions. In front of all other spacecraft crewmembers a baby Xenomorph bursts from the chest of a crew member, then quickly vanished from the crew’s sight to hide within the spaceship until it is fully grown. The Xenomorph infant looks serpent-like in appearance with sharp teeth. In Eric Wargo’s article, “How Many Seconds to a First Impression?”, the time that it takes as well as the results of a first impression are explained in detail. The lasting terror that follows the first appearance of the Xenomorph can be explained in the way that humans make first impressions, for it is stated that “A series of experiments by Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov reveal that all it takes is a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger from their face and that longer exposures don’t significantly alter those impressions” (Wargo). The impression that the baby Xenomorph leaves is powerful enough to establish a sense of terror amongst the spaceship crew members, for an unknown creature just burst from the chest of a fellow crew member killing him in the process. The first impression left is one of terror, not just because someone died, but also because the crew members are left with the fear of something totally unknown to them. The Xenomorph gets very little screen time and it is often not seen by its prey until they have met their demise at the hands of the Xenomorph. The time that the Xenomorph is not in front of its prey, its disappearance creates a powerful fear of the unknown. In cinephiliabeyond.org’s examination of the Xenomorph titled “Ridley Scott’s Masterpiece ‘Alien’: Nothing Is as Terrifying as the Fear of the Unknown”, it is stated “…nothing is so powerful a generator of fear as human imagination, and nothing is so terrifying to people as the unknown” (Ridley Scott’s Masterpiece ‘Alien’…). The Xenomorph establishes an aura of fear by spending as much time as possible unseen by its prey leaving the human imagination to decipher how monstrous and terrible the Xenomorph is. The Xenomorphs brief appearances are strong enough to leave humans with a lasting sense of terror that is rooted in the fear of the unknown.
The Xenomorph is a monster that has effectively terrified humans by means of exploiting the fear of the unknown that humans possess and shattering what we humans view as normal. The behavior of the xenomorph is murderous and extremely primal which is a steep difference between how humans wish to conduct themselves. The Xenomorph is able to create lasting fear from its very brief physical encounters with humans. Our limited knowledge of extraterrestrial life serves as the catalyst for the Xenomorphs manifestation of terror and monstrous existence. The first thing that comes to mind when briefly thinking about the Xenomorph is the word “monster”.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Monster Culture (Seven Theses).”. Gothic Horror: A Guide for Students and readers (2007):198-217.
-A document handed out in class that elaborates how the monsters that we make are made and why. The document goes into depth on monster theory by explaining seven theses that are relevant to the existence and creation of monsters. The document also defines what makes a monster a monster. The document is used in my evaluation as a measure of how monstrous the Xenomorph is. The source is reliable because it is used as source material for a college level English class.
Wargo, Eric. “How Many Seconds to a First Impression?” Association for Psychological Science, July 2006, http://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/how-many-seconds-to-a- first-impression.
– An elaboration on a study of first impressions. The study goes into how first impressions are made, and just how briefly first impressions are made. This information is used to support that the Xenomorphs leave a heavy impression despite their brief appearances. The information is credible, for its material is backed by reliable experimentation and data analysis.
“Ridley Scott’s Masterpiece ‘Alien’: Nothing Is as Terrifying as the Fear of the Unknown”
Cinephilia & Beyond, 27 Apr. 2018, cinephiliabeyond.org/ridley-scotts-masterpiece- alien- nothing-terrifying-fear-unknown/.
– An Examination of the Xenomorph. The Xenomorph’s creation and how it ties into the 1979 film Alien are explained in the article. The article is a full dedication to support the claim that the Xenomorph is a product of experts in costume design and wiring. This article was used to quote the nature and fear that the Xenomorphs produce. The article comes from a reliable and credible website that examines films.
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