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SYFY WIRE opinion

The monsters to fear in Alien 3 were the men

By Stephanie Williams

Alien 3 is not high on the list in the Alien franchise, but the film still manages to invoke uneasiness and fear. What could possibly be scarier than expert killers like the xenomorphs? Well, in this story, it’s most of the men who inhabit the penal colony on which Ellen Ripley’s spaceship crashes who share the title of monster with the xenomorph on the loose.

The third installment, released in 1992, perpetuates the never-ending nightmare that Ripley wakes up to like the cruel joke it is, but this time she has to deal with horrors in varying forms.

The trend of men being allowed to be the worst versions of themselves in genre is nothing new. It's a recurring theme in a number of stories set in past and futuristic settings, especially dystopian ones. In Alien 3, the men on the penal colony have excommunicated themselves from the rest of society. These inmates are said to have double Y-chromosome syndrome — a genetic mutation that, in the film’s universe, gives the afflicted a predisposition to antisocial behavior. These characters have a written excuse for their horrid behavior courtesy of the movie script, which feels gross in itself.

Not only does Ripley have to deal with another Xenomorph on the loose after believing she was finally safe, but she has to try and navigate around the men in this tiny colony trying to harm her as well. Arguably, given Ripley’s track record with xenomorphs, her odds with the one roaming the prison feel like a walk in the park compared to having to encounter men who can’t control themselves.

Ripley has to go as far as shaving her head, thereby ridding herself of any aspects of her perceived femininity, to help diminish her appearance and avoid stirring these grown men up. The prison warden even goes as far as to let her know that her presence might have disruptive effects. The responsibility of her safety is put squarely on her shoulders, like most women, to ensure that she doesn't do anything to encourage harm to herself.

Granted, they are on this planet for the reason of not being able to control themselves, but what does that say? No matter how it’s reasoned it’s still messed up, because accountability for their behavior starts and ends at their excommunication to this planet. Nothing is unpacked or addressed by doing so, because at the first sight of a woman in years they predictably try to rape her. The scene is nerve-wracking and more frightening than any of the encounters with the xenomorph, which says a lot. It takes another man stepping in to save Ripley from her attackers. Even worse, the same Ripley who has killed her fair share of xenomorphs is somehow no match against a group of deranged men.

Alien 3 isn’t unique in its storytelling, but it does showcase monster versus monster in a different setting. It's also a reminder that even in the worst conditions, men are afforded the luxury of finding ways to up the nightmare factor. Nothing should be scarier than a 7-foot xenomorph, but some of the male characters in this film manage to achieve that status without a problem.

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