Of all the motion pictures Ridley Scott has produced, most of which contain some reference to or depiction of oral violation, none is so graphic, heavy-handed or obvious in its allegorical reworking of human sexuality as Prometheus, the Alien prequel currently in cinemas, whose principal antagonist, the tentacled creation of an alien race said to have created mankind, penetrates the throats of both men and women with what can only be described as a monstrously huge, throbbing penis.
It is said that everything in the Alien franchise looks like a cock. I realise this not an original observation. But I raise parameters on account of the tentacle’s newly engorged girth in Prometheus, which breaks from precedence in the existing Alien tetralogy. I think perhaps we know what Scott had in mind by depicting such an eye-wateringly large appendage. The young ladies toppling about Romford High Street at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning, screeching feverishly about torrid encounters with well-endowed black footballers, have similar fantasies.
Audiences wince and wank in equal measure when popular science makes its physiological metaphors so transparent. Indeed, the literature on the Alien movies in this regard is voluminous. Pop culture-watchers tell us that Ridley Scott knows exactly what he is up to. The camera angles and choices of visual effects staff and artists such as H. R. Giger make it clear, they say. This is not speculation; this is horror: movies designed to provoke discomfort.
Alien screenwriter Dan O’Bannon has said of his film: “One thing that people are all disturbed about is sex … I said ‘That’s how I’m going to attack the audience; I’m going to attack them sexually. And I’m not going to go after the women in the audience, I’m going to attack the men. I am going to put in every image I can think of to make the men in the audience cross their legs. Homosexual oral rape, birth. The thing lays its eggs down your throat, the whole number.’”
American blogs that at first seem wildly over-excitable acquire alarming credibility the more you think about the currents running underneath the Alien movies. My question today is: why has Prometheus gripped this theme so firmly and run amok with it, and to what end? What can now be said that has not already sunk back on the pillow exhausted? We must ask because there is little besides the sexual themes to commend Prometheus: it and its cast may look good, but that is about all there is to be said.
“This movie is about interspecies rape,” said O’Bannon about the 1979 Alien movie. “That’s scary because it hits all of our buttons.” Because, in space, no one can hear you choke, and because the franchise had previously reached the limits of what could be achieved in horror without collapsing into comical absurdity, Scott has re-examined what makes us uncomfortable in Prometheus, which, we might argue, in seeking to reconcile the creation myths of the Alien aliens, reduces interspecies rape to interracial rape, if anything enhancing our discomfort by such a reduction. It is an exploration of the emasculation and fear of the white man and a condemnation of the bases of racism.
Does Scott himself yearn for violent oral rape? One has to wonder. He has form when it comes to homoeroticism writ large, having directed Gladiator and Black Hawk Down. Consider also his fondness for strong female leads – never a sign of a sexually untroubled director – traumatic father-son relationships and absent mothers. He seems incapable of staying far away from the disturbing sexual themes, and the questions that go with them, from his 1970s hit. Transmogrified into human biography, Scott’s commonest themes are the perfect recipe for masochistic middle-aged homosexuality.