Close calls.

Well. Not that Call. Not yet anyway. We'll get to Alien Resurrection in future posts, of course.

No, I mean "close calls" to refer to a few other strong female leads I've enjoyed in the past.

Most obvious, of course, would have to be the ever-compared-to-Ripley's-greatness Sarah Connor from the Terminator films.

Linda Hamilton's fierce fightin' mom Sarah Connor was/is a refreshing bit of dark fruit for the sci-fi set, and her determination to be ready for The Fight is awe-inspiring. I spent some time deeply enthralled with Hamilton over this character and a few others she portrayed.

One can draw (and thousands already have all over books, magazines and online) many physical and mental parallels (besides Jim Cameron) between Connor and Ripley, no doubt, though one must certainly note that without Ripley, Connor would not have become what she did by the second film. Hell, they even both shared romantic screen time with 'other than that where've you been' Michael Beihn:

Maybe this whole 'blog should really be about how I hate Michael Beihn.

Well, okay, Sarah actually slept with him, Ripley never got the chance but probably was heading that way if David Fincher hadn't screwed over every fan of the first two films by doing his usual 'fuck you' bird-flip to the audience in Alien3 and killing off Ripley's last chance at a moderately happy life (and then killing her -- eh, Alien3 posts are on the horizon as well).

So yeah I kinda hate Michael Beihn.

Still, Sarah Connor, for all her fire and determination, is no Ripley.

Connor is still defined by the men, robotic or otherwise, in her life. I mean, right in the middle of her one bit of choice dialogue getting ready to grind the male War Ego into the dust in Terminator 2, her son shouts 'Mom, this isn't helping', and she actually shuts up -- she's still owned by her men. She's ready to play at the End of All Things, but in the end, she's a scared survivalist.

Ripley's a survivor.


Another interesting and attractive strong female lead came along just before Ripley and Alien, in the form of the meek but determined Fran Parker in 1978's iconic horror masterpiece Dawn of the Dead.

Portrayed evenly and with great spirit by film newcomer Gaylen Ross, Fran begins her story as a tough-minded, if frightened, woman, but very soon we see she's not about to fall apart screaming and gibbering at the sight of blood, violence, chaos.

She's also pregnant.

Ah, mothers.

And after seeing her male counterparts get by and get screwed with dumb luck and testosterone, she rapidly becomes this:

... knowing she can only rely on herself. Pregnant, wanting to learn to fly the chopper, handling guns, refusing proposals, staying calm -- Fran rocks, and rocks hard. 

In her own way, Fran Parker was as revelatory and revolutionary as Ripley would be the next year, and if Dawn of the Dead had reached the same immediate global blockbuster success of Alien, there would easily be far more written on the character and her pioneering place in film history than there already is. 

Go Francine!

Of course, one always comes back around to Ripley as the Ultimate.

Sure, later heroines have hit it big in films like Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, Serenity, and TV series like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and others that are always brought up when discussing strong female characters. The Web is chock full of 'em.

But Ripley remains, even after dying and cloning and all that, so very human. Her story and her heroism come from nothing as over-the-top as the rest. She's just her, doing what she could.

I do notice, though, when other, newer actors begin to assume roles and personalities that could become the next great female leads, and one in particular, I think, could not only play a younger Ripley but I think if Ridley Scott doesn't pick her to play Ripley in the much-talked-about prequel to Alien that he's working on, he's insane.

Katherine Moennig is a stunning actor, more (perhaps) masculine than Sigourney Weaver but has the same smoulder, the same fire, the same kind of lanky, comfortable way about her.

I see physical comparisons too -- the great lower eye lids and lower lip, the sculpted features, the unique power of tall beauty.

I mean, c'mon, can't you see it?

Look. There will never... EVER... be another Sigourney/Ripley continuum like we've been able to enjoy for the last 30+ years. 

I would be the LAST person to think otherwise.

But I think there's something special going on with Katherine Moennig that could capture much of what Weaver brought to the first portrayal, without looking or acting like she's doing an impression.

And I wouldn't mind seeing Moenning pick up a big ol' gun and start blasting her way through a few xeno's, either!


Yes, a few close calls.

But... I saw Ripley before them all, and my notion of what constitutes a female action hero is biasedly, annoyingly, and eternally predicated on the impact she made on my 11 year old mind and heart.

Ah, Ripley.

But for you, where would we be?


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