Horror isn't complicated. You find out what makes your audience uncomfortable and present it to them in the most unsettling way possible. This is why horror movies aimed at young males contain vague allusions to homosexuality -- it's what makes that audience nervous.
So, if you have a country scared that communists are secretly infiltrating society, you give them 1956's Invasion of the Body Snatchers. If you have a nation coming off a recession and spiraling violent crime rates in 1980, you give them Friday the 13th.
And if your country is terrified of people with dreadlocks, you make Predator.
Which Brings Us to the Rape
But Alien? It's all about rape.
And not just the one Joss Whedon wrote.
Oh, we're not joking. Our goal isn't to paste a bunch of out-of-context shots or lines of dialogue to make some spurious case. We'll let Alien screenwriter Dan O'Bannon spell it out himself:
"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.'"
Hearing this man utter the words "I'm going to attack them sexually" is more terrifying than all the Alien movies combined.
That's from the Alien Saga documentary.
At the time, O'Bannon was coming off Dark Star, a comedy directed by horror luminary John Carpenter. Dark Star wound up being as big a disaster as a boy scout selling candy in a village of werewolves, so for revenge O'Bannon vowed to make a movie that would allow him to rape movie-going audiences right under their noses.
That's the third worst place to get raped.
Alien fans already know that the creature was designed by Swiss artist H.R. Giger. O'Bannon had worked with Giger on a failed attempt at a pre-David Lynch version of a Dune movie. Giger's biomechanical, sexually explicit art had stuck with O'Bannon after the movie fell through, and the dark imagery helped fuel his revenge-writing when conceiving the story of Alien.
Once the movie was greenlit, O'Bannon suggested Giger to director Ridley Scott, and after seeing Giger's Necronomicon -- a collection of art laced with sexual imagery -- Scott decided that he had to have Giger design the titular Alien.
Left: Giger's Necronomicon. Right: Giger's Alien. Left and right: dicks aplenty.
At that point, Scott was 100% on board with O'Bannon's man-rape agenda.
Once You See It, You Can't Unsee It
Bringing Giger on board turned out to be the decision that shaped the entire movie that itself spawned a franchise and some of the most recognizable images in all of film history. Giger designed the alien, the derelict ship and its captain, and the alien landscape. And every last bit of it is loaded with galactic penises and space vaginas.
Pictured: space vaginas.
None of the sexual imagery in Alien is unintentional. For example, in the picture above the human crew members are "invading" the alien ship, so in effect those are man sized sperm crawling through it. From here, John Hurt's character, Kane, plumbs the depths of the ship's "womb" to find an endless landscape of eggs, which if you're paying attention to the whole sperm analogy makes a whole lot of biological sense.
This throws some of those childhood wet-dream/nightmares into stark contrast.
He comes into contact with one of the eggs, which opens up and births a little alien, so at this point Ridley Scott is essentially smashing his audience in the face with a sex ed textbook.
The alien bursts out, attaches itself to Kane's face and rams its space wiener down his throat while simultaneously choking him in a display of man rape so obvious we're surprised the critter isn't shouting at him to squeal like a pig.
Hurt's future role in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will be no less degrading.
The alien's life cycle is modeled after that of many parasitic wasps, the inside of the face-hugger is a vagina and a penis joined in a Super Friends-esque team-up to force its seed down the throat of its victim.
It Only Gets Worse From Here
So, let's push it further. We learn that once the alien is attached, it can't be stopped before its load is deposited, or it will kill its victim. Which, you may notice, is the word-for-word agenda of a violent rapist. Kane is literally held down and mouth-boned by an alien bug-dick for about 20 minutes of the movie.
And then comes the unwanted pregnancy with the rapist's baby.
Complete with morning sickness.
Admittedly the guys in the audience get off a little easy -- gestation of a normal human takes 9 months and involves a lot of bloating, puking, and hormonal surges that generally make women miserable. But Kane's man pregnancy results in a sore throat and the need to eat spaghetti. Note the "sore throat" comes as a result of an alien wang having been forced down his throat, which he fortunately does not remember.
The birth, on the other hand, is another story. The film makers purposely went out of their way to present the birth of the alien as violently as possible. This was as much a symbolic representation of men's typically ignorant ideas about pregnancy and birth as it was about scaring the living shit out of everyone -- the event is explosive, bloody and painful, utterly ruining the body it came from.
Oh, and look at that. The alien is a dick.
Again, it's no accident that the newborn looks like a penis that's "erected" its way out of a man's chest. Some people have even speculated that it is the male version of vagina dentata.By the way...
Dicks, Dicks, Everywhere Dicks
And people say we overdo it with the dicks.
The adult alien's head:
...with a toothy erection that penetrates the victims:
Even the evil android tries to kill Ripley by doing this:
In the sequel James Cameron switched things up by giving the face-huggers a more overtly vagina-like appearance...
But make no mistake, there's still plenty of male penetration:
Nope. Nothing at all sexual in that image.
Obviously we're not the first ones to notice this -- quite a bit of analysis has been done over the years about Alien and its representation of sex. People have suggested everything from the Alien being a representation of the id to a metaphor for women's refusal to bear children.
The imagery doesn't just end with the overwhelming cavalcade of boners hidden in plain sight and various acts of forced penetration. There are even some mild references to failed birth control:
He found this in the garbage with a bunch of airplane bottles of vodka.
The entire series continues on with this thread, with each episode focusing around the strong female lead of Ripley while all the men get raped and murdered by the aliens. The series is credited for creating the first real female action hero in Sigourney Weaver's Ripley, though ironically she was changed from a man in a rewrite of the script just to make things more interesting. The only other woman in the original movie is a blubbering mess that gets raped to death off-screen by the alien's tail.
All of this is a perfect, and incredibly unsettling, example of why people like us (meaning Cracked.com) spend time dissecting pop culture. It's not just about saying, "THE ALIEN'S HEAD IS SHAPED LIKE A DONG LOL!" it's realizing that the alien's head is shaped like a dick for a reason. To quote O'Bannon:
Much like Alf.
People make fun of "geeks" for noticing things like this, but it pays to notice all of the ways that Hollywood (and advertisers and politicians etc) push those subconscious buttons O'Bannon is talking about. They do that shit on purpose. Because it works.
"I'm going to attack them sexually. And they're going to pay me money to do it."