Alien and The Spectator Theory

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This essay explores the spectator theory and how it relates to the film Alien. It also highlights how the film was made with cinematic experiences which aim to treat the audience as spectators who will absorb it in a darkened space. It also touches on the marketing of the aforementioned film in relation to the way Hitchcock marketed his films, how he crafted scopophilia into his films and how it is present in Alien.

The spectator theory is a film related theory which expounds on the ways films induce pleasure into the people viewing the film. Its main concern is on how the person watching the film is connected and involved while he/she watches the film. This theory also talks about distanciation in film which in this case is a state whereby the people watching a film are hidden from making assumptions about the characters in the film and that what they conclude about the characters should be from their conscience. It also touches on the point of self reflexivity whereby the film viewers are aware of how the film was made so that they watch it knowing what to expect.This theory also expounds  on how the filmmakers use the camera's point of view on the world and make assumptions that that is how the audience see the world.

Alien, is a sci-fi horror film produced in the year 1979 by Brandywine productions and directed by Ridley Scott. The aforementioned film has a relation with the spectator theory since it has an element of self reflexivity in it. There is a scene in the film whereby we see a creature enters the ship. The ship's captain by the name Dallas fights it with a flame thrower and manages to cast it off into the dark space. Unfortunately, the creature returns detected and fatally attacks poor Dallas. The other four surviving crew members ponder over a lot of options but the two of them named Ripley and Parker conclude that it is better they kill the alien before heading back home.Parker goes off to start finding the alien but Ripley stops him.He puts out his hand to cover her mouth but then Ripley increases the pitch of her voice. In this scene, viewers may decipher that Parker was simply avoiding further discussions since he just wants to kill the alien and on the other hand Ripley raises her voice to resist him.This shows that the viewers will interpret the actions according to the contexts of their basic way of life and what they see, hear and experience and this eliminates the possibilities of wrong interpretations or explanations.

The major cinematic experience in the movie Alien is achieved by the fact that the director fused two genres of film , the horror and the science fiction. Added by the fact that the movie's setting is in space and the characters are dealing with an antagonist who in this case is the alien, any audience will take in this movie and consider the environment as a "dark space" whereby everything else is so scary and anything horrifying can happen at any given time. However, the film subverts the fusion of the two genres through the application of the "final girl concept" whereby the last person standing or rather the heroine is a lady. It also shows the audience that the movie is all about aliens and space stuff and  by doing this, it appeals to more people hence attracting a large audience.

The marketing of the film Alien was  done by the Twentieth Century Fox company through various ways. First of all was its tagline, "In space nobody can hear you scream" which was loved by people and some even used it for haloween. Another way they marketed the film was making a very tense trailer which induced the scary mood through its exclusive use of music and sound effects with no dialogue.They also used radios because the trailer was majorly sound oriented hence it made them easy to source audience through radio. The crew and the cast of the film also attended vintage interviews in several TV stations and preached good things about the movie hence they gathered fans. Twentieth century Fox also made a computer game depicting the happenings of the movie and named the game Alien, just like the movie.

The way the marketing of this film was done has a close relation with the way Alfred Hitchcock marketed his own films.First there was the use of suspense which is vividly visible in the movie's trailer. Another way is making the people watching the film participate actively in it.This had been explained earlier in the part where I touched on self reflexivity.Alfred Hitchcock utilized  media like cinemas to market his movies whereas Twentieth Century Fox used media like TV and radios to market the movie.

Scopophilia is the state of deriving pleasure especially sexual pleasure from looking at erotic objects. Hitchcock induced this into his films through the use of women in the films in a way which replicates the fantasies which men always have about women. Scopophilia is also present in Alien at the scene whereby Ash, angered by Ripley actions chokes her with a magazine containing erotic pictures and as their struggles give out an impression of something like rape. Another incidence where we see scopophilia is when Ripley undresses as she is about to go to bed. That scene  conjures fantasies in the minds on the viewers.

In conclusion, the film Alien, gives out itself to the spectator theory since it conjures an emotional response among its viewers through aspects like scopophilia, the male gaze, self reflexivity and distanciation and so through these aspects, the audience get a specialized environment whereby they make a connection to the movie.


Cummins,Chris."The wierd Marketing of Alien Films”. Denofgeek,UK site. April 26, 2018,

Hoch, Ross. “Mulvey’s Theory of the Male Gaze in Alien".The prolongation of work, ENGL 117.M19,2016,

Algeretti, Matt."What Advertisers Can Learn From Alfred Hitchcock”. Medium,dumbstruck.Oct 31, 2017,

"Scopophilia".Wikipedia, Wikipedia. Sept 2018,

September 25, 2023




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