Ode To Ripley

Ridley Scott intended to kill off beloved butt-kicking hero Ellen Ripley in the very first of the Alien franchise. His script saw her harpooning the alien in her escape pod but it making no bloody difference, so the thing tears through her mask and rips her face off. Then the alien takes over the controls and sets his course – well, you can imagine the rest. The studio wouldn’t hear of it. “The first executive from Fox arrived on set within 14 hours, threatening to fire me on the spot,” Scott has said. “So we didn’t do that [ending].”

tumblr_nbwng6xMfu1rp0vkjo1_500.gifAnd this might be the first ever case of me agreeing with studio interference, purely because the world needs more Ripleys. We admire her because she was tough and she was smart. I admire her, and Scott, because Ripley cried at work and it didn’t weaken her, didn’t sap her power.

As recently as last year, the New York Post ran an article literally entitled ‘Cry At Work If You Never Want To Succeed.’ It contains helpful nuggets such as “Sure, ladies, it’s OK to cry at work. If you want every male (and female) boss to think you’re a useless little Nancy who can’t and shouldn’t be trusted with a challenging assignment again.” And evidence that writer Kyle Smith has confused women with toddlers: “Crying is an absolutely spiffing way to get what you want — in the short term. But once you’ve hosted a one-person snivel party, people tend to remember it.” Crying at work is not the same as throwing a temper tantrum. Sometimes tears are a natural (and unavoidable) reaction to anger or frustration. Some men (and frankly, some women) might take those same feelings to a bathroom stall where they’ve made an indent in the plaster punching the wall. Others might take those feelings out an on unsuspecting trash can which gets kicked and spilled all over the office floor. Doors and drawers and phones slam. Assistants get verbally abused. Half a dozen donuts get guilty devoured. Most of those are much worse than crying, but only crying gets a bad rep. “Women will be set back 100 years if they start believing it’s OK to cry on the job” Smith tells us. “But hey, OK, fine, if you just want to remain on the Girl Track for the rest of your life, by all means interrupt the weekly departmental meeting to fill your empty venti cup with your hot, salty tears.” Um, Girl Track? Fuck you, buddy.

When Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg wrote her best-seller Lean In, she wrote that it was okay to cry at work. Crying just happens, it’s part of our biology, part of our survival tumblr_nx8ebcJVP91uk3oooo1_500.gifmechanisms. For many women, and many men, it’s just part of being human, part of having emotions, and most of us do not shut those emotions off at the start of our shift.  41% of women and 9% of men said they’d cried at work during the previous year and that it had made no difference in terms of their success (note: women have six times more prolactin – a hormone related to crying – than men).

All that to say: Ellen Ripley was a force to be reckoned with. She cried at work, not to manipulate her coworkers, not because she was helpless and sad, but because she was in a tough situation and it just damn well called for it. All her male colleagues perished while she survived. She kicked alien ass so hard they brought her back for a sequel.

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43 thoughts on “Ode To Ripley

    1. Jay Post author

      Yes, the brilliant article I’ve referenced goes on to say it’s fine for macho men to cry at work, just not “weak” men, who will just seem womanly. Agh.

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  1. Lilyn G

    Interesting post. I tear up when I’m super irritated/frustrated and it drives me nuts. I want to scream “I’m not crying because I’m sad, I’m crying because it’s this or punching your face!”

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  2. Lara/Trace

    You know what? I don’t think I ever recovered from seeing this movie Aliens. And I paced the floor like a Nancy when I watched it the first time (years ago). Cry all the time. Cry at the drop of a hat. Cry over a TV commercial. It’s in our biology to react.

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    1. Jay Post author

      I think of myself as a crier and was amazed to hear a colleague describe as very strong. I do have a habit of standing up for my office, and if pushed, I can be fierce. But those things are not mutually exclusive!

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  3. Sarah Ferguson and Choppy

    Every time I think of crying at work, I immediately think of Miranda in Sex and the City, when she has the line about crying in her office with the door shut. Actually, that whole episode has a story line about that. In related news, I can relate everything in life to Sex and the City. Or King of the Hill, whichever you prefer.

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  4. Lorna Cunningham-Rushton

    With great shame, I say I avoided that movie and its sequels. However, reading your review made me cry over that.

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  5. Christopher

    Ellen Ripley cried when the situation called for it and then she kicked ass when the situation called for it. And taking a break to let her emotions out, to feel may have saved her life.
    So, yeah, crying really is an absolutely spiffing way to get what you want, if what you want is to succeed, or even just survive, or at the very least to not be some jerkwad who thinks “Nancy” is an insult.

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  6. Widdershins

    F**k Kyle Smith! … and the horse he rode in on! … and, as Meg Ryan’s character, Emma Walden, said about crying in ‘Courage Under Fire’, “I’ts just stress, asshole!”

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  7. Birgit

    I still can not watch any of these films because they are just too scary but she is on kick ass strong female lead. Actually she is one of the strongest man or woman!

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  8. Amy Reese

    We do need more Ripleys. Alien is one of my favorites. There’s supposed to be a new one out soon, right? Is Sigourney in that, wonder. I cried at work before but it’s been a long time. Now I cry at stupid Facebook videos. They do it to me every time! Kind of sad I think. Oh well, at least that’s one way to get your emotions out, Jay.

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  9. Natasha

    My introduction to Ripley was late in life as I only saw Alien last year as my Blindspot for the first time. I wish I’d seen the character earlier – we need so many more of her.

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  10. sati

    The hell I just read in that NYP excerpt. Comes off as written by someone delusional and coming from that’s saying something. Hell, in some jobs not crying every single day is what I’d call an accomplishment.

    Ripley is amazing. I love Alien and I never heard of Scott’s initial plan…glad it didn’t happen even though none of the sequels lived up to the original

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  11. J.

    Good grief. The New York Post actually printed that? Nuts.

    Anyhoo, Ripley rules. Though Alien 3 and Resurrection didn’t do anything for her character. I liked that she was so Kick ass despite appearing quite intimidated by the whole macho crew thing at the beginning.

    One of the worst things about Prometheus was how wrong they got it with the Meredith Vickers (Theron) character.

    All hail Ripley, though… long live Ripley.

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  12. anxiousannie89

    This is brilliant. I completely agree that we need more Ripleys in the world – strong women not afraid to behave naturally. I have personally struggled with showing emotion at work and, actually, when I have, people in my team have been more sympathetic and viewed me as being more honest. Emotions are part of us and should both be viewed as a weakness.

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  13. Courtney Young

    Solid post! Ripley is undoubtedly my favorite character of all time. She makes being a badass so NATURAL and logical. I wish that Ridley would stop with these Alien Covenant/Prometheus films and let Neill Blompkamp do is Ripley/Hicks project. Like, COME ON…!!!!

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