I don’t know about you all, but every time I see somebody complain about how science fiction is not a place for capable female protagonists, I wish I could shake them and yell, “What about the Alien movies?” After all, director Ridley Scott didn’t just usher in one of the most influential science fiction franchises of all time — he put a woman slap dang in the center of it.
Scott has since kept up the female-led Alien tradition, first with Noomi Rapace in Prometheus and now with Katherine Waterston in the upcoming Alien: Covenent. And while Waterston’s character, Daniels, has a few more leading-lady contemporaries than Ripley did, she owes her existence in part to the financial success of Sigourney Weaver’s iconic heroine. Speaking with Nerdist at a recent press event in New York City, Waterston was happy to point out just what she thinks modern Hollywood has learned from Scott’s success. “They probably learned from it by seeing how much money those films made, you know?,” she said. “I remember when, I guess it was for Blue Jasmine when Cate Blanchett won [the Oscar], she said, ‘See? I won this thing and also people went to see this movie, so take note.’ That’s the big concern, of course, is if we put women in the movie, will people go to see it? Will they make any money? These people have invested money, it makes sense they want to get it back.”
“Ridley’s been showing for a very long time that that’s not an issue,” she added. “If you tell good stories, people will come. I’m sure that the telling of these stories and the success of them over the years, not just in the Alien franchise but with Thelma and Louise and other films he’s made with women in central roles, it must have educated some bigwigs in Hollywood about what’s possible. I think he deserves a huge amount of credit.”
It’s true that female-led films have become a little more commonplace than they were even ten years ago, and heroines like Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Elsa and Anna in Frozen are leading the way with their billion-dollar-grossing movies. But we can’t rest on our laurels just yet, fellow cinephiles, because the industry still hasn’t achieved gender parity. According to the annual “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World” study conducted by Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, women only made up about 22% of protagonists in 2015 — and that’s hardly close to equal yet.
Still, at least directors like Ridley Scott are fighting the good fight and bringing us as many badass women as they can. Let’s hope others continue to learn from his example — and that Alien: Covenant makes huge bank at the box office to prove him right once again.
How do you think Hollywood can continue to learn from Ridley Scott’s example? Let us know in the comments below!
Image: Fox/Patrick Lewis – StarPix