More than 40 years after Alien hit cinemas a new generation of fans are discovering the futuristic film was more trans inclusive than they realised.
Ridley Scott’s 1979 space-bound slasher has achieved cult status for its genre-defining visual effects, depth of characters and stunning sci-fi realism – but trans reputation doesn’t often come to mind.
Yet if you look beyond Sigourney Weaver’s iconic performance as Ellen Ripley you’ll find a subtle detail that many viewers missed.
Among the small crew of the Nostromo is navigator Joan Lambert, a brilliant bag of nerves played by actor Veronica Cartwright. By the end of the film she and Ripley are the ones remaining aboard the doomed ship, left alone to battle it out against the Xenomorph.
Lambert was ultimately killed by the Alien while gathering oxygen tanks, but it wasn’t her final appearance in the quadrilogy.
James Cameron’s 1986 sequel Aliens opens with Ripley being debriefed by her employers over the destruction of the Nostromo. Behind her, biographies of each of the deceased flash up on a computer screen.
Lambert’s file includes reams of personal data like her date of birth, height, weight and hair colour, but one important detail stands out.
Under gender it states: “Female (unnatural),” before expanding: “Subject is Despin Convert at birth (male to female). So far no indication of suppressed trauma related to gender alteration.”
The fact that Lambert is canonically trans has been known among sci-fi circles for years. But the blink-and-miss-it moment is easily overlooked, and many newer viewers are only now discovering this early trans representation.
Whether the characterisation was conceived by Ridley Scott in the first film or James Cameron in the second… is a mystery.