Alien vs Midwife

An Alien chest-burster’s trajectory through your ribcage is a hell of an opening line. It’s the most iconic moment of body-horror ever filmed, despite delivering things faster and easier than millions of real human births. Much is made of Alien’s themes of sexual violence* but not nearly enough is said about the brutally obvious birth. Ignoring Alien’s obstetric implications is a more painful excision from pop culture than Darth Vader getting his limbs lightsabered off.

*as opposed to Aliens’ themes of violence violence, the most dramatic apostrophe placement in cinema history

The chest-birthing scene couldn’t be more on the nose if the alien had emerged through his nostrils. Kane collapses, thrashing and bleeding as a living thing emerges from his body, and here’s the thing: he should have been fine. He didn’t die because of the alien, he died because he was surrounded by panicking idiots and an actual corporate machine prepared to kill people if that made more money*. If he’d been in an ER they might have saved him. If he’d been in a maternity ward they’d absolutely have saved him, it wouldn’t even have been the hardest work they’d done that week, and they’d even have caught the alien because a midwife’s most primary skill is “not letting slimy little things drop on the floor”.

* topical for Americans

For far too many people the horror isn’t that an alien emerged but that it emerged from a guy. Because on a scale of one to real human births this xenomorph’s emergence isn’t even a three*. It broke through his ribcage, sure, but it was out and over inside a minute. It was only the size of a decent shit. (Note: if you’re upset by the sudden appearance of shit you’re REALLY going to have to get over that as a parent). If it had just emerged through his digestive system he might not even have noticed, especially if it had waited for the morning after their feast of fast reprocessed food, booze, and an incredibly long cryogenic lie-in.

*though in the context of Alien three is actually really bad

That alien baby punched straight out: no muss, no fuss, no biotopological yoga or umbilical lasso. And say what you will about xenocidal parasites knowing nothing but murder and reproduction, at least their offspring have heads the same size as the holes they have to push through. No pelvis-wrecking headbutts here. That thing was a birth-torpedo. It puts our reproduction to shame.

Some people see human childbirth as a beautiful natural process. Specifically people physically incapable of doing it and mentally incapable of empathy, usually proposing legislation which would lock women in Harry Houdini-style style glass boxes full of chains submerged in shark tanks until their due date. Childbirth is a natural process, because “natural process” means “without a lot of expert help almost everything involved dies early”. Nature is an neverending deathmatch we’re winning so hard some people forget it’s fatal. “Natural” childbirth is leading a conga across a minefield: people started off having fun together but now someone’s leading people into pointless danger.

Safe natural processes don’t have dedicated hospital wards. There’s no sneezing ward. You won’t see a blinking ward. Go to a hospital and you’ll find wards for intensive care, cancer, neurological trauma, and childbirth. Most births go brilliantly now specifically because it’s extremely serious and some spectacular people work extraordinarily hard to help. If the Nostromo crew had included a midwife then stringers of alien drool wouldn’t have been a horrifying reason to spend your last seconds alive slowly looking straight up into a new camera, they’d be happily dabbed with a tissue by a smiling parent.

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