A long while ago, my mother took my little brother and me to see the original Transformers, and she, already on cartoon overload, opted to let the little bro and me go on our own while she went and saw Aliens. I had no desire to see the sequel to the movie my dad described as a “movie that’ll just scare the shit right out of you.” So when the Autobots defeated the Decepticons, I went to retrieve my mother from her movie. She begged me to watch the rest with her, but, being a giant prepubescent scaredy-cat with a mullet, I said my brother would be too scared. For shame, 12-year-old Nick. For shame. Mom dutifully abandoned her movie, and it wasn’t until I went to college, grew a set, and started watching scary movies that I realized what an egregious crime of cinema I’d committed against my mother and me that day. Aliens would come to be one of my ten favorite movies ever, but also I would discover my first action-hero crush. Yes, I fell in love with Ellen Ripley, a woman who can totally kick my ass.
Growing up in the eighties, I came of age during the reign of Schwarzenegger and Stallone, the modern era of action icons. As an adolescent in full bloom there were plenty of actresses I had a thing for — Kim Cattrall in Mannequin still gives me awkward tingles — but the Reagan era was a macho time. The closest we’d come to an action hero (we won’t say “action heroine” — that’s just insulting) of the female persuasion was Linda Hamilton in The Terminator, and her job was just to escape, not attack. So the idea of a foxy female action star was ludicrous. Which is what makes Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley all the more remarkable. She brought action-packed sexy to the screen in ways that I and many men had never thought of before.
First, Weaver is pretty but in a unique way — not beautiful in a traditional Hollywood way, which works in her favor. A Meg Ryan type playing a woman who goes toe-to-toe with an eight-foot alien in outer space would flush any shreds of believability right out the Sulaco’s space lock. You need someone whose beauty is an allure but doesn’t get in the way when it comes time to kick some ass. Weaver’s one-of-a-kind looks and unassuming way makes the idea of being trapped in space in a floating oil rig with no sun, fresh air, or makeup look sexy.
Take the pretty and add toughness. Girlie men like me need a take-charge kind of lady, so the idea that Ripley holds her own against the Alien, then goes back for more, only to again end up the last woman standing, makes many a male heart skip a beat. She’s battered, bruised, sweaty, and hasn’t seen a shower in years and yet finds it in her to learn how to fire a gun and mow down Xenomorphs. That. Is. Hot. A bikini model firing an assault rifle? Cool. An attractive lady who’s been to hell and back assaulting a space creature four times her size? Hold me.
And Ripley’s fiercely protective maternal instinct — protecting Newt — is the icing on the cake. A humanitarian with a howitzer drives men head over heels. By the time she goes toe-to-toe with the queen I needed a cold shower. And if I even think of Ripley saying “Get away from her, you bitch!,” I need a moment alone. She’s an intelligent, resourceful woman who would make a great mother to our children and could absolutely destroy me — and any other man.
Many men play tough with the idea of liking female action heroes, seeing an admission of adoration as a sign of weakness. Not me. I find female action heroes to be as hot as the pistols they’re packing. But what can you expect from a guy who didn’t watch scary movies till after he could drive. To this day I regret preventing my mother from enjoying the rest of her movie, and I’m sorrier that I prevented myself from discovering what loving a woman who could kick my ass was all about.
Nick Stevens, co-host of AMC’s Action Pack (Wednesdays, at 8pm | 7C), tries to make funny about movies, pop culture, and sports as often as possible. He lists John McClane, Batman, and Tom Brady as the people with whom he’d most like to have beers. For more of his grown-up nonsense, visit his Tumblr page or follow him on Twitter.Read More