Some spoilers for the film Prometheus ahead
A couple of days ago, I went to see Prometheus. I’m probably the only one in the entire universe (other than one of my best friends, Hi Rasmus, if you’re reading this!) who loves Alien, hates Aliens, and considers Alien: Resurrection to be more interesting than Aliens. So I was glad that Prometheus was more akin to Alien than any of the sequels, never straying far from the sci-fi/horror elements I love. It’s a great film, a wonderful continuation of the summer of geeky cinema we’ve been offered so far.
There was, however, one little, niggling detail that bothered me. I’m probably the only person in the theatre who noticed this, but Prometheus, in spite of taking place in a ridiculously advanced future, had more than a hint of 20th/21st century squeamishness towards calling a spade a spade when it came to abortion.
Basically, the main character, Dr. Shaw (played by Noomi Rapace, who is excellent in everything!) is impregnated, in spite of being stated earlier in the film to be infertile, and reacts to the news with terror and anxiety. She says “I want it out!”, screams, thrashes, and does everything she can to get away from the android David, who ignores her wishes. But the word “abortion” isn’t mentioned, not even once. Dr. Shaw yells “Get it out of me!” and variations thereof, David says “There’s nobody on board who can perform such a … procedure”, and when she gains access to a surgical machine which can abort, she requests a caesarean section, and then an “extraction of a foreign body”. All of this seems to be dancing around the painfully obvious: Dr. Shaw is pregnant and doesn’t want to be, so she’s getting an abortion.
This is not uncommon in Hollywood films. In Knocked Up, which has a plot centred on dealing with an unplanned pregnancy, they couldn’t even get themselves to say the word “abortion”, going with the phrase “rhymes with shushmorshon” (seriously) instead, in Juno, we see the titular character approach an abortion clinic, but she doesn’t say the word either, she just “gets it nipped in the bud”, and changes her mind about aborting after a protester tells her that her baby has fingernails. Mighty compelling. I’m not the only one aware of this bias, and I’m disappointed that the “A” word is still seen as something so forbidden that it can’t even make it into the script.
You could say that the fact that she had the abortion (or extraction of a foreign body, whatever) is progress, but I don’t think that would have made it into the final cut of the film if she’d been pregnant with a human foetus, instead of a hideous xenomorph which would shred her insides to pieces. Just a feeling, and not from any aliens crawling around in my guts.