Alien: Resurrection

The character of John Vriess is the most visibly disabled in the movie Alien: Resurrection, and perhaps the most visibly disabled in the popular science fiction thriller series. Vriess is introduced to the audience when he’s fixing up a small spaceship, lying beneath it with his wheelchair functioning and moving much like a mechanic’s creeper. Obnoxious tough guy Johner childishly decides to see if Vriess really is disabled by throwing a knife into his leg, and Vriess doesn’t notice until his friend Annalee Call protests. Vriess wheels out from under the spaceship to throw something back, but misses. When Call moves as if to throw a knife back at Johner, however, he takes the threat seriously and leaves.

Vriess and the rest of the crew of The Betty board the Auriga, a military ship where they are all searched for weapons. The guard gives Vriess a cursory glance, clearly not considering him a threat either. Vriess even asks him if he wants to search the chair, but the guard doesn’t bother. It isn’t long before the alien is on the loose and the alert is sounded. Finding himself alone, Vriess begins to detach components of his wheelchair and assemble them into a machine gun.

The humans must evacuate the ship, and Johner suggests to the group, “Well, I say if we wanna make any decent time, I say we ditch the cripple.” He adds to Vriess “No offense, man.” Vriess replies “None taken!” while giving him the finger, and the group reaffirms their intent not to leave anyone behind. The question of ditching the cripple comes up again when the route becomes impassable by wheelchair; this time, it’s Vriess’ friend Christie who gently tells him they must leave the chair behind. Vriess acknowledges this mournfully, saying it will be like old times again. The audience is supposed to think Vriess is about to be abandoned or perhaps crawl the rest of the way, but soon we see that Christie has strapped Vriess to his back to carry him out.

(In the extended version of the movie with deleted scenes restored, Vriess does not seem resigned to his fate, but merely asks Christie “The Kawlang manoeuvre?” and Christie nods. In this way the audience immediately knows they have a plan for continuing on, and the suspense over whether Vriess will be abandoned never materializes. Vriess was referring to the swamp planet Kawlang where he was injured by shrapnel, implying that Christie must have carried him out on his back.)

The benefits of having a rear-facing gunner strapped to your back quickly become apparent as Vriess is able to shoot at the alien from that position. Christie is hauling them both up a ladder when the gun jams and the alien spits acid at his face. Christie loses his grip on the ladder, but Vriess manages a tenuous grasp. The alien has a solid grasp on Christie’s foot, though, and Christie makes the decision to cut through the straps binding him to Vriess while Vriess shouts for him not to do it. Christie falls after the alien, presumably to his death. Vriess hauls himself the rest of the way up the ladder, and thereafter must rely on two members of the crew to carry him the rest of the way. Clearly spaceships did not have a good evacuation plan for the physically disabled.

But though Vriess is the overtly disabled one, the treatment of Ripley conveys that everybody thinks of her as little more than a freak. The captain of the ship where she was cloned considers her to be leftover experimental tissue, and would have rather seen her destroyed. The sinister scientists insist on keeping her around to satisfy their curiosity, though. During the escape from the ship, Ripley comes across the lab where the failed experiments are kept in jars of formaldehyde, and reacts with absolute revulsion. The lone living humanlike monster left in the lab, a naked and deformed version of Ripley, begs her for death. Not only does Ripley comply when she found the suggestion of death for herself offensive, but she does so in the most painful and horrific method available to her; burning the deformed version of herself with fire (as opposed to a bullet to the head), and then sterilizing the contents of the jars.


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