The Empty Promises of Prometheus

Guest post by Aphrodite Kocieda

Aphrodite is currently a graduate student at the University of South Florida focusing on Communication. She is a radical feminist and an enthusiastic media and cultural critic, as well as a contributor for Out Front Magazine

Is Hollywood completely dominated by white males who are only able to write about their own experiences and their own fantasies? I kept thinking this as I watched the first five minutes of the newly released film, Prometheus. When it was over, I could feel the feminist itch in my hands reaching out to the keyboard to unleash the anger that manifested during the viewing of the film. My boyfriend and I initially decided to take in Prometheus based on the merit of the online previews. The previews looked promising. It appeared to have a strong female character (which is RARE for Hollywood), and had a plot that was almost identical to Alien. However, as usual, I was completely disappointed to the point that I left before the movie ended. It appears as if Hollywood today spends more time and money on constructing distorted previews for their films to trick you into buying a movie ticket, instead of just creating a good creative plot.

I feel like we’re in an era where Hollywood is turning EVERY book into a movie because film writers just don’t exist anymore. Though maybe more disturbing is the trend of blatantly stealing plots and storylines from the past, regurgitating them on the screen for an oh-so-loyal audience that is overly entertainment-saturated to the point that almost anything with bright colors, 3-D glasses, and loud noises will fulfill their expectations and desires for creativity and entertainment.

One of the reasons I was disappointed with the film is that while it capitalized on the legacy of the 1979 hit film Alien (also by director Ridley Scott) it did not build on the progress of the original which was, in many ways, progressive for its time. It had a lead female character that was not stereotypically attractive in a challenging role that centered on her and her actions, instead of her sexuality. The plot for Prometheus was too large and the only semblance of an attempt of progressive representation was represented in its ONE black cast member, and ONE Asian cast member. I do not understand how, in 2012, white people still dominate the screen. Based upon the previews, it seemed as if the film was going to focus on the lead character, played by Charlize Theron, but her role was merely a façade of power and progressiveness. Theron’s character, Meredith Vickers, acts as the supervisor of the mission, and contains all of the trite stereotypical characteristics of a female leader in a masculine world. She is bland in appearance, tough within her internal core, and is a physical threat to some of her crew members. Although it is wonderful that the film does not focus on her sexuality or her attractiveness in a stereotypical mainstream sense, the writers merely fall into another stereotype in their lack of imagination for their female character in power. Power, for the white male writers, immediately equates to dominance, aggression, and physical fear. Theron’s character, Meredith, is even assumed to be a robot by Idris Elba’s character, Janek, because she did not want to have sex with him. In response to his accusation, she crumbles to his insult, and ends up fulfilling his desires in her bedroom.  Her tough exterior and cold composure merely fulfilled the stereotype of the “bitch” in power that is unsympathetic to love and human emotion. In order for a female to be in power, she must abandon any signs and traits of femininity, and overtly subscribe to a distorted version of masculinity.

After shuddering at the thought that the writers actually assumed their Meredith Vickers character was progressive, the movie just got worse. The archaeologist character of Elizabeth Shaw, the only other main lead female character, subscribed to a trope that feminist Anita Sarkeesian from Feminist Frequency, calls, “The Mystical Pregnancy.” Here is a video Sarkeesian created that pretty much sums up the trope.

Sarkeesian examines how Hollywood writers use women’s bodies as incubators and vessels for alien offspring or demons. She states, “Basically the characters are reduced to their biological functions.” Additionally, writers use pregnancy as a way to torment and violate the female characters whose male counterparts are not tormented in a similar complementary manner.  The archaeologist, Shaw, ends up becoming pregnant with an alien baby and enters a machine that rips the baby out of her. She runs through the hall with blood all over her half naked body due to her fear of what was inside of her own abdomen. This was so cliché and uncreative. I honestly couldn’t believe they included an alien pregnancy in the film because it was so unnecessary. They couldn’t find a way to construct fear within their female character, so they had to resort to impregnating her with an alien. Real creative (note the sarcasm).

After all of this ridiculousness, the movie was just garbage. I remember looking down for a minute, and when I looked up, the film looked like a WWE wrestling match. I saw a character bashing in the face of another character, there was fire, tons of gunshots, and too much masculinity for me. I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if Vin Diesel drove by on a motorcycle in space with Megan Fox in a space suit behind him. After this, I got up and left. The movie was not worth watching until the end, even with the 3D glasses, and an IMAX screen. It seems like the more you have to wear for a movie, the more it is going to be garbage.

The only captivating thing about the film was the graphics. They were awesome, but unfortunately, being attached to the plot it just began to self-destruct. I hate watching mainstream films. I thought the point of film and science fiction was to escape reality, not reinforce the shitty parts of it.



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6 Comments on “The Empty Promises of Prometheus”

  • Pouly

    Yep, I saw this with a bunch of friends (girls + guys) and prior to viewing the thing it had generated quite a bit of internal discussion in our little movie frequenting group and some genuine excitement to boot, but post movie almost nothing’s been said beyond the usual word play (and not even word play, just calling each other ‘Prometheus’, or substituing ‘Prometheus’ for various other nouns – and this all faded within 10 mins in the theatre foyer). It wasn’t because the movie was fullfilling and there was no more discussion to be had, it was just so dire and on-the-nose and cliche no one can even be bothered with it – the preview was SO misleading. So nice to have so many stereotypes so completely reinforced, especially racist and sexist ones because those are the best!

  • Aphrodite

    Hey Pouly-
    Yeah I was thoroughly disappointed with the film.I completely agree that the preview was very different from the movie and seemed to almost be advertising a different film. There were so many obvious cliches and that alone made the film lack creativity. I honestly just found myself laughing on parts that were not funny because it was garbage. I was really stoked to go see a sci fi movie with prominent female roles, and I found myself angered. I wasn’t even able to focus on the plot because of the ridiculous stereotypes that were popping out. I’m glad that you agree Pouly.

  • Kess

    Great article, you opened my eyes to facets of the movie that I wasn’t aware of. I’m not anywhere near a movie buff and don’t pay too much attention to them, nor have I seen the Alien movies, which is probably why these thoughts weren’t on my mind, save for it being unimaginative.

    I am curious though, do you subscribe to the idea that there are set feminine characteristics and set masculine characteristics? Even if in a general sense?

    “In order for a female to be in power, she must abandon any signs and traits of femininity.” What would those signs and traits be?

    “I saw a character bashing in the face of another character, there was fire, tons of gunshots, and too much masculinity for me.” Fire and guns = masculinity?

  • Aphrodite

    Hey Kess-
    Thanks for your post! Let my preface my post by stating that I think any healthy human being, or even healthy culture needs a balance of both feminine and masculine characteristics. Unfortunately, in our culture, we tend to have this gender binary which attributes all traits feminine to women, and all traits masculine to men. Hollywood appears to subscribe to this gender binary, and this is reflected through their film characters and plots.

    Unfortunately, we tend to construct characteristics and compartmentalize them. So, although I use the terminology “masculine” and “feminine,” I definitely think they are fluid and subject to change. As of now, they are terms that essentially characterize certain behaviors or actions. Unfortunately, our culture takes that a step further and allocates these attributes to specific genders and sexes.

    So, in my article, I was being slightly sarcastic. When I critiqued the filmmaker’s vision of Charlize Theron’s character, I was trying to state that it was unfortunate that they attempted to give credibility to her character as a leader by stripping her of any general, or stereotypical “feminine” traits, like compassion,nurturance etc. These traits should be in ALL healthy human beings. In order for her to have real power, she had to subscribe to the gender binary and only act cold and tough, as if showing a compassionate side would be unfit for a leader.

    When I spoke of the fire and gunshots, I was referencing stereotypical hyper-masculinity which is void of compassion, communication, etc. This oftentimes manifests itself in extreme violence and sexism.

    I hope this post clears up my article a bit. I personally do not like subscribing to the notion that masculinity and femininity are on polar opposite sides of a spectrum, but are fluid and work together. Since our culture does not quite see it that way yet, i have to speak in a compartmentalized terminology in order to make a point.

    Thanks for your post :)

  • Grackle

    I thought it was weird that when Shaw jumped into the automatic surgery machine to have that mystical pregnancy removed, it announced that it was only configured for male patients. I GUESS this was supposed to be some sort of nod towards the struggles she faced as a woman or something but why wasn’t it configured for female patients when Meredith Vickers was supposed to be in charge of the mission and owned the entire station? What in the world did she have it there for?

    And yes, Vickers jumping into bed when Janek challenged her was just about the stupidest thing in the movie. Didn’t lead to anything, was never visited again, and clearly just existed to take her down a peg and prove that behind their gruff exteriors, even the most powerful women are just dying to have sex with the first moron who suggests it.

  • Ryan

    I think the male medical capsule was for that “hours of life left in him” shadow puppetmaster; seeing as Vickers was 99.9% a robot and not female per se.
    Watching the mystical pregnancy tutorial it’s hard not to note that with the exception of Rosemary’s Baby (which might land in another category entirely) all the examples dated after Ridley Scott’s Alien(s) which might make this baby; his.
    Its a stretch to lump all the poorer scenes where alien babies spawn from earth ladies on to his head when the idea (if it’s his)didn’t sink his “groundbreaking” Alien movies; only dragging down the stories of his imitators.
    I’d be interested to know if there were any earlier examples of MP to support the charges as is.
    There’s no denying that Prometheus is a let down, the C+ metascore is bang on. Its very difficult to have consecutive hits in a genre. He has alot of hits with strong female roles; more so it seeems in the first 15 years than appearing in the latter.
    The inappropriate action segues seemed to really stand out from what a viewer would expect from this director.
    Hopefully theres still gas in the tank

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