The next stop in our series examining Sybok and his quest to heal the pain of other fictional characters brings us to a paragon of female heroism, Ellen Ripley. For those not familiar with Ellen Ripley, I…I mean, I don’t know how you wouldn’t know her.
Ellen Ripley is the prototypical modern female action heroine, a stunning blend of determination and intelligence who – not once, not twice, but thrice! – saved humanity from a gooey nightmare in the form of the iconic Alien designed by H.R. Giger (or, later, based on his designs).
But along the way, we have to ask ourselves, what would it have looked like if Sybok had happened across Ellen Ripley after she lost her friends on the Nostromo, but before Burke and the company goaded her into returning to LV-426?
When Sybok Met Ripley
Ripley’s pain is so apparent that it’s apparent to everyone. It doesn’t take a hyper-intelligent and emotional Vulcan to see Ripley’s soul is torn asunder by so much loss in her life. Her crew has been slaughtered by a horror unimagined. After a long cryo-sleep, her daughter is lost to the mists of time, having lived a full life while believing her mother dead.
The pain is deep within Ripley, and it comes to define her.
One would imagine that Sybok, encountering her as she smoked in a squalid apartment, would look deep into her mind and see the sorrow she carried there. He would seek to free it, to see it with her, and to take it upon himself to help her resolve it.
This resolution would potentially doom humanity as a Ripley at peace does not call Burke and ask to go on the trip back to LV–426 to save the colonists. She is content to let the world unfold as it will, having moved on from the pain she had within.
If we move it forward in Ellen’s life to after Aliens, Sybok would encounter her during the events of Alien3, which doesn’t end well for anyone. As a matter of fact, her actions at the end of Alien3 preclude a need for Sybok. She has accepted who she is and what has been her pain.
Once again, we see confirmation that Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the Starship Enterprise is correct. Our pain defines us and makes us who we are. We can’t take back bad decisions, or good ones, or erase the sorrow that we as humans must endure.
To think that we can live a life without sorrow and loss is foolishness at its peak. So much discontent seems to take root because of the idea that we can live lives without suffering and chaos. Life is suffering and chaos.
The first three Alien films are all about the fact that we have to face this inevitable difficulty. When we run from it, when we think we can control it, we are only making it worse when we do encounter it.
Elllen Ripley is motivated by her pain. Like Batman, she uses her tragedy as the driver to help others who have had similar tragedy. Her strength comes from her pain and her refusal to allow it to propagate.
A Ripley “resolved” to her pain and no longer aware of its truth, wouldn’t have bothered to travel to LV-426. She would have accepted that it was time to move on and let the past fade. If she had, Burke may have succeeded in bringing a xenomorph back to the Earth, where many unfortunate hijinks would have ensued.
Yet another case where Sybok’s self-help psychology hurts more than it helps. If you’re paying attention, this is a trend.