Between the Lines: Predator

February 9, 2011


It’s a sci-fi/action/survival-horror classic from the 1980s that holds up fantastically today. It has Schwarzenegger at the peak of his powers, an iconic movie monster created by the legendary Stan Winston, an eminently quotable script, and it doesn’t shy away from delivering the grue and ballistic-porn thrills. Predator is rightfully adored, even as the franchise continues to be woefully mishandled today. However, the reason that this film continues to resonate so strongly, and largely amongst men only, is the tension wrought from the central metaphorical subtext of the film: the ultra-macho characters of Predator are being stalked and defeated by their own barely suppressed homosexuality and ineluctable feminine inner nature.

The characters in Predator are introduced to the audience as an already suspiciously hyper-masculine group. They are a team of elite special forces soldiers, explicitly referred to as “the best”. Encompassing the tough but fair archetype, they are endowed with a moral righteousness behind their violent promise (“a rescue team, not assassins”) and are presented as pure, uncorrupted warriors with a singular purpose. Although racially diverse, and thereby neatly portraying all men, the team is led by a Germanic übermensch, Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer; a man notable amongst even his own group of over-compensatory physiques as possessing a ridiculous musculature, his arms resembling enormous engorged penises. Bristling with a variety of techno-phallocentric weaponry, these alpha males are nonetheless sent into that most female and hostile of terrains: a dark and moist jungle. There they are systematically picked off and eviscerated, their hard rigid bodies negated and reduced instead to exposed, wet innards and other gooey, womanly secretions and all this at the hands of an invisible and invincible force they do not understand.


"You wanna watch me fire one off?"

There are virtually no women in Predator and when one does finally show up these supposed alpha males react with unfettered hostility. They reject her presence outright, demand she be expelled from their group, and are finally forced to accept her under the most reluctant conditions, that of the already corrupt amongst them (Dillon) demanding she be included and wielding his authority to do so. The men show absolutely no sexual interest in her, despite her attractiveness and submissive vulnerability (she is bound at the wrists), and it should be noted that she is conspicuously spared the same fate that befalls them. This failure to pursue a clear heterosexual goal with the woman is also in stark contrast to earlier moments in the film where, packed in the dark sanctum of a helicopter, the squad prepare for battle and Blain (Jesse Ventura), symbolically ejaculating a gob of tobacco expectorant, admonishes his companion’s refusal to accept his chewing tobacco with the telling words, “buncha slack-jawed faggots around here, this stuff’ll make you a goddamn sexual tyrannosaur!” Sex is aggressively and cheerfully alluded to when the men are alone, confined and physically closest to one another, but it soon becomes awkwardly absent when a sweaty, captive young woman enters the fray.

Later in the film, Blain, in the midst of battle, is told by his teammate Poncho, “you’re hit, you’re bleeding, man” to which Blain memorably responds, “I ain’t got time to bleed.” Thus we witness Blain’s explicit rejection of the feminine, his denial of menstruation expressed in the most disgusted, dismissive manner he can muster. This is all in vain, however, as the character is later confronted by his fears when the accumulated power of all that he is running from, the “alien” Predator, attacks him. Blain attempts to lay waste to the female nature around him by spewing forth more ejaculatory destruction from his bizarrely exaggerated, rotating death-cock but he is ultimately defeated, his broad chest blown open and transformed into a gaping, pink vaginal cavity, oozing shamefully for his companions to see.

This alien force, queer and feminine, is admitted to and identified by Billy, the Native American (and therefore inherently spiritual) member of the group. Pensive and troubled, he acknowledges that he is scared, to which Poncho retorts, “bullshit, you ain’t afraid of no man!” which prompts Billy’s ominous response, “there’s something out there waiting for us, and it ain’t no man.” Billy eventually is shown further accepting his fate, and the imminent vaginal transmutation that awaits him, when he ceases fleeing the alien, purposefully downs his phallic weapons and carves an enormous bloody slit into his own chest.


Vagina Dentata!

The alien Predator is finally revealed to be an enormous bipedal monster that fulfils that greatest of masculine anxieties, vagina dentata. The Predator’s mouth is undeniably shaped like an open vagina surrounded by sharp teeth and it prompts an appalled Schaefer, the last man standing and thus the one privileged to gaze upon the truth of that which is pursuing him, to remark, “you are one ugly motherfucker”. He heroically rejects the feminine even as it appears to have him finally and fatally cornered. Schaefer narrowly defeats the alien by reasserting his masculine dominance over the natural, feminine surroundings. He takes to the trees, covers himself in mud and fashions primitive weaponry from sticks and rocks. He has escaped his own repressed gay behaviour by default, the other men having all been destroyed and therefore rendering him asexual for the climactic moments of the movie. Nonetheless, he is savagely beaten and almost killed by the overwhelming power of the insatiable cunt-faced monster until he manages, at the last minute, to *ahem* snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by dropping an enormous penis-shaped stone on to the alien in a final moment of phallocentric triumph. It’s a moment that feels like an eleventh-hour cheat to assuage the fragile masculine psyche so assaulted throughout the preceding dark adventure. The spectacle until that point, however, was of supermen viscerally feminized and reduced to being, ultimately, gay for prey.



  1. Holy shit this is good! I only ask what is a “eleventh-hour cheat” and when is the review for Predator 2 coming out?

  2. Thank you. Um, I’m not entirely sure what an “eleventh hour cheat” is myself. The eleventh hour as being synonymous with “last minute” but I’d already used the phrase “last minute” earlier in the post (I think) so I didn’t want to repeat myself.

    That’s not really meant to be a review, it’s just something I had planned to do for ages now and finaly got around to. Don’t think I have anything immediate to say about Predator 2.

  3. Another delicious amuse ‘bush’ from Wigfield. Bout time you tried to get paid for this stuff, no?

  4. That’s some damn fine detective work there, Wigfield. Damn fine, indeed. The vagina dentata conclusion killed me.

  5. best… blog post… ever… anywhere! You alluded to this in an email and I kind of saw where you were going and kind of didn’t. I’m with Chien — I want more. If not Predator II how about Commando, or Under Siege, or whatever!! Anyways I’m sending links to friends. The thing that makes it great is that the evidence you cite is irrefutable, whether the writers intended it or not. As Josh said, ‘damn fine detective work’. Dare I ask what inspired it — heterosexual disgust or a disturbingly homo-erotic empathy — perhaps a strange combo of the two??

  6. Thank you, gentlemen.

    What inspired it, Nick? I think the long answer to that could probably constitute a decent blog post in itself (guess I’ll make an index of the three “Between the Lines” pieces later)so I’ll leave that for now.

    I made a joke to a friend on the subway in Seoul a few years back to the effect of what Predator is really about and he laughed and said, “you could write a whole essay on that”. When I started blogging I had ideas based on Face/Off and The Island that were actually sincere analyses of mine but this one was basically a joke that I had to expand. I kind of decided to try and ape the convoluted style of academic, post-modernist queer theory/gender studies, Derridean bullshit. I don’t have a problem with those fields of study in themselves, I don’t want to sound like some Arizona reactionary, but some of what is produced in these areas is worthy of nothing more than ridicule and contempt. Look up Alan Sokal and “The Sokal Hoax” to see where I’m coming from on that. Sokal is a modern hero of academia, in my opinion.
    Anyway, I realized that to parody that style properly and use a lot of the jargon would take a shitload of time and research for a mere comedic blog post that I wanted to get finished in an afternoon so I settled for one Derridean neologism of the top of my head, “phallocentric”, and went from there.

    It actually all came a lot easier than I had anticipated. Some of the lines in the film just seemed to wonderfully support my spoof thesis.

  7. I’d been meaning to do this for ages and I had the title only sitting as a saved draft on my blog admin screen with the single line “Your arms remind me of an engorged penis” typed underneath it as a note.

  8. I’ll have to second what Kenny has said. You need to start getting paid for this. Very funny and well written. Keep up the good work, man.

  9. Great writing! You should send some articles to Screen, but I’m not sure if they’d be amused…

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