top of page

Alien: The First Feminist Blockbuster

The Female Lead presented a panel discussion at the Science Museum, following a screening of Ridley Scott's iconic Alien (1979), to ask whether Alien was the first feminist blockbuster - just in time for International Women's Month.

Veronica Cartwright - who stars as Lambert in the film - joined the discussion via live video link, alongside Corrina Antrobus (film critic and founder of the Bechdel Test Fest), and Simran Hans (culture writer and critic).

The event took place as part of the Science Museum's first-ever science-fiction film festival and was chaired by The Female Lead's founder Edwina Dunn OBE.

Veronica Cartwright appears via a live video link for the Alien panel discussion

Cartwright is an Emmy-nominated and Saturn award-winning actress, whose acting credits also include The Right Stuff (1983), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), and Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 horror-thriller The Birds - aged just 13.

Alien is often considered a feminist blockbuster as it features a strong female protagonist and explores themes of gender and power - particularly in the way the male characters underestimate Ripley.

While Alien may not have been the first film to feature feminist themes and a strong female lead, it is often cited as an important early example of feminist cinema and a landmark in the representation of women in science fiction and action films.

In the film, 'the crew of a commercial spacecraft encounter a deadly lifeform after investigating an unknown transmission' (IMDb). Cartwright's character Lambert is a member of the ship's crew.

The discussion following the screening at the Science Museum also included an audience Q&A - during which the panel was asked their thoughts on Sigourney Weaver's character Ripley's undressing scene, and how this matched with her otherwise 'feminist' characterisation throughout the film.

The scene referenced the crew of the spaceship waking up from their 'hypersleep chambers', wearing white underwear, and in the female characters' case, white vests.

Cartwright recalled how the female members of the cast 'had to have white tape put across, like, all the way across, our nipples', adding that the male cast members did not. 'That's weird. Considering we were supposed to be total equals.'

The panel (L to R): Edwina Dunn OBE, Corrina Antrobus, and Simran Hans

Panel member and film critic, Corrina Antrobus, explained that the nipple tape was used 'so that they could transport the film to other territories, and they wouldn't be offended', which Cartwright confirmed.

'You lost six countries if our nipples weren't covered - and try and get that stuff off' after about 4 or 5 hours! That was not pleasant!'

To watch highlights from the rest of the Alien panel discussion click here.



bottom of page