Some boys of a certain persuasion – which is to say young gay cinephiles – may have found themselves a kindred, tuneful spirit in Fanny Brice, or fed their fabulous longings with [insert stereotypical icon here]. More power to 'em. For me, though, it was always about Ellen Ripley, Lt. First Class. For my boundless Ripley love, I have to at least partially thank a cocktail of deep-seeded denial and flamboyance rejection, as I was much more prepared to accept an angry woman with a gun as my savior than a ballad-belting showboat. I didn't want Schwarzenegger, but I wasn't ready for Cher. And I certainly have no regrets.
Since I wasn't donning feather boas, I'm sure my parents didn't think much of it when I began strapping toy rifles together with all manner of black plastic tubes and electrical tape, so as to recreate that shell-firing, flame-throwing, grenade-launching monstrosity that Ripley uses to resurface the industrial spaces on LV-426 (if memory serves, a black snorkel was even used as an extra gun barrel). I doubt I tripped their gaydar when I put two four-legged ottomans flush against the living room chair, then proceeded to crawl on the floor, weapon in hand, through my improvised air shaft.
Was I in drag? No. But make no mistake – I was diva-channeling.
Aliens, far and away my favorite action movie of all time, was also a liberating gay outlet long before I knew I was gay. That inherent gay need to fall headfirst in love with glorious females of outsized character was more than fulfilled by this watershed movie of womanly badassness. And my obsession with it spread well beyond playacting with plastic rifles. I regularly whipped up drawings of Ripley and those H.R. Giger beasties (I dug up some of them for this post).
I was close with these twin brothers at one point, and our friendship was pretty much based on our mutual Aliens enthusiasm – that, and the fact that they had all the action figures, even the yellow power-loader thingie. The twins' backyard was home to many an Aliens reenactment, with each of us alternating the role of James Cameron (“Okay – you be Hudson, and you be Vasquez!”). The guys never knew I was actually getting my Barbie on.
My mother was pregnant with my sister when she went to see Alien with my dad in 1979 (needless to say, she henceforth had a nightmare-filled pregnancy). This story has never made much sense to me, as I'm certainly the one who seems to have been psychically willed into Alien Saga obsession from the womb, not my sister. My sister doesn't even like SigWeavie. “She's ugly,” she says. (Oh yes, she did.)
Of the many gifts I've received from this franchise, the most cherished is a lifelong interest in Sigourney (who is not ugly, Heather). You'll see in the doodles that I was particularly fond of her jawline, which, by my hand, is ridiculously pronounced. I like to pretend that this masculine feature had a hand in getting Siggy the job in the first place, and I don't even know where to begin in addressing the sexual themes I suddenly realize it might represent for me. That's a lot of implications for one little post...
All this, and I haven't said a lick about Aliens's greatness as a film. I have no idea how many times I've seen it, and it's a long movie to have watched so repeatedly. I can honestly say there's not a single part that bores me, not even the mess hall conversations or the Ripley-can't-sleep prelude. This is a film that gets up, gets going and keeps going. It is notable for so much more than its titular nemeses, yet I can't pick a better creature feature (for Best Shot, which I sadly didn't participate in, I choose the pan that reveals the enormity of the alien queen, in her lair, on her throne – it's absolutely jaw-dropping). I think the best way I've ever heard Aliens described is that it has a beating heart – a racing pulse that's palpable. I'd say that it's certainly close to my heart, but that might sound kinda gay.