It is safe to assume that this post will discuss plot points of the movie Prometheus. The actual details of this will be light, but they exist.
By now, people are probably sick of the discussion and reviews of the movie Prometheus. I can’t say I blame them, Prometheus has succeeded in being a talked about film, that’s for damn sure. I firmly believe that a lot of business the film receives from this point forward will be to simply “see what the fuss is all about”. There are a lot of theories about the film regarding intentions, meaning, the dates and times given and just about everything else. People point to the deeper meaning behind everything and others refute them by stating shit makes no sense. Let’s go ahead and clear the air to discuss why this movie is generating so much discussion on both side. The film is a joint work between Damon Lindelof and Ridley Scott. Damon Lindelof believes strongly in the idea that science is inevitably flawed and leads do the downfall of Man, and that Faith is the only thing that matters and will see us through. Ridley Scott feels just the opposite, believing that religion is a bunch of hooey and that only science and facts matter. When you have these two strong personalities working on the same project, it is not surprising that you experience a film that undergoes tonal shifts frequently and relies and subtleties and subtext to tell the story in various ways, instead of making a statement. I believe that this is the root cause of the “explain everything” syndrome that persists in the film, but that is really neither here nor there. Instead I want to discuss one thing that hasn’t been discussed because most people attribute its presence to something else that occurs in the film. However, if you take the film as a whole and believe that everything is the result of this tonal subtext and subtle storytelling, as people are doing on both sides of the debate, then you have to accept the general premise that nothing is there without explicit intent. In a movie filled with so much vivid imagery and careful placement and explanation, it would be foolish to assume otherwise, even if that placement and explanation is nonsensical in your opinions. Cool? Cool.
So what am I getting at? The medical bay in the escape pod leads to the heavy implication that Vickers is a male to female transgender.
Yes, you read that correctly. I am of the opinion that the movie firmly supports the idea that Vickers, the character played by Charlize Theron, is transgendered. Right now, I am sure a lot of people are going to laugh and write me off, or say that I am reading too much into a situation that had alternate meaning. Remember, the entire conceit of this is that everything in the film is chosen for a reason and that nothing is wasted, leaving the subtleties and story up to the reader. The entire crux of the argument revolves around the Life Support Pod that is the living quarters of Vickers. This medical bay is stated as being one of twelve ever made and was incredibly powerful and cutting edge technology. When Liz, the worst lady archaeologist in the world, goes to inspect it, she is instantly warned away from the machine by Vickers. Let’s back up though. When we first meet Vickers, she’s working out and being a bad ass. It is obvious her relationship is strained with David, the android, though you aren’t necessarily certain of why. It’s just clear that she does not approve of David and does not like him. David has dyed his hair blond, which you are given to believe is a direct result of his watching and enjoying Lawrence of Arabia. When he goes to check on Vickers, to ensure that she has awoken from the cryosleep properly, I was struck immediately with their similarities. Here you have two slender, blonde, stoic, soft spoken figures that are given critical roles in the mission at hand. In fact, here is a quote from Ridley Scott:
“The similar appearances and mannerisms of Vickers and David were intended to raise the possibility that David was based on Vickers’s DNA, or that Vickers is an android”.
Alright, so Ridley Scott is saying that David and Vickers are similar on a genetic level, despite the apparent difference in gender. Now, if we take that quote as truth, let’s return to the medical bay. Later in the film, Liz has to convert the medical bay from it’s Male settings and figure out how to override it to force it to perform an emergency cesarean section. This process was so simple that Liz was able to perform this under duress, in intense pain, and fleeing from being chased. If the commands are so simple, then why was Vickers worried about Liz playing with it earlier? You can assume one of four things here without stretching credibility. One, Liz fucked it up when she poked at it early on. This seems unlikely since she spent four seconds at the thing in total and hit one or two buttons tops. Two, the medical bay was in default mode and never been used. This also seems pretty unlikely in that it was such a big part of the room and escape pod itself. Everything else in the bay had been personalized to the tastes of Vickers, and Vickers is a highly organized, regimented individual. It would seem almost offensive to assume that Vickers HADN’T checked, rechecked and triple checked everything in her life support pod. This was her home, and she is efficient and intelligence, at least as long as she is allowed in control. I think we can cross this assumption off the list safely. Third, the medical bay was meant for Weyland. This is the most common theory, but given that his entire support staff and team were hidden in another part of the ship entirely, I don’t think this was the case. Weyland’s stated goal was to meet the Fungineers and become immortal, or at least die knowing the answers. Preferably immortality please. Never once is the idea that he would fail and need to be placed in the medical bay implied. The man’s hubris simply won’t allow it. He is a confident man who believes this is his final all or nothing gambit. Given the outcome, I can’t disagree with that either. For these reasons, this is another assumption that looks like the easy choice but falls away when closely inspected. Finally, we come to the fourth choice. Vickers is male, medically speaking, and the machine is set up to support her life appropriately.
Her ushering away of Liz possibly supports this. Vickers is possibly trying to hide this fact from the crew, not wanting to be treated any differently, and wanting to remain being thought of as a woman. If Liz were to discover the settings of the machine were calibrated for a man, she would have to explain that in some fashion, and exposition and lying aren’t necessarily her strong suits. Her abrasive relationship with David seems to support this, as well. Look again to the quote above. It would seem at first that this adversarial relationship is a result of the fact that Vickers and David are at loggerheads over Weyland’s inclusion and involvement in the mission. Vickers immediately lost control of the mission at the beginning, with full control being given to the scientists. Did you wonder why that was? I sure as shit did. Why include Vickers at all if you are going to have David on board to assist Weyland and the scientists were going to be the leaders? A little light can be shed on this once Weyland is out of cryosleep and Vickers goes to meet him. An important point to remember her is that Weyland states that David, who is definitely not a human and has no feelings or emotions, is the closest thing that he has to a son and that he has no heir. When Vickers is revealed to be the child of Weyland, you are meant to have a gasping, pearl clutching moment, but instead you get the smoldering rage in the eyes of Vickers.
At this point, you really should be saying, “what the fuck?” Weyland DID just go to the trouble of espousing how he had no heir and no one to carry on his legacy, after all. Looking back at the quote, we can posit that David is another attempt at creating Vickers as she looked or existed when she was a male, presuming my theory is correct. After all, in the scene with Vickers, David looks down upon her kindly and with a strange look, which is taken to be commiserating and a look of understanding, but really might mean, “it seems neither of us are good enough men for him”. Vickers doesn’t have the last name of her father, either. It is clear she is not estranged from him, and she’s not married. So why is her last name different? She works for the Weyland corporation and has an important job with the, after all. I propose that the reason for that is that Weyland was ashamed when his son became a woman and wanted to keep it secret. His obsession with the Fungineers is in part because he so disproves of his daughter’s choice. It is never clear why he thinks that the Fungineers hold all of the secrets of immortality, other than the fact that their species comes again and again to Earth. The theory is that these people are our creators though, and that they designed us with specific intentions. While it might be true that they hold the secret of immortality, the idea that they created all of us with specific intent is one that is established from this as well. Due to his fervent belief in this, the very thought that his child would go against it and swap genders is almost anathema. The inclusion of Vickers on that mission is simply to rub her face in it. After all, she’s not the captain. She’s not the mission leader. She’s not even a scientist. All of that power was stripped from her. Her job is to stay on the ship and observe the mission and findings. She’s a project manager in space, with all of the power being usurped again by her father when he re-emerges. His speech to her about living forever, discovering all of the secrets and being his own heir all but proves the fact he has her there to be a vindictive dick. Otherwise, why is she even there? Seriously, Weyland reveals himself very early on, and by then David is going around doing his thing.
Another scene which is evocative is the scene with the captain. She starts a conversation with the captain with the express intent of having sex. That’s all well and good, but given the earlier parallels drawn between her and David, the captain asks, “We were wondering, were you a robot?”. She smiles and then extends the invitation to the captain for some space boinking. The look on her face is a wry one, and you are given the time to say, “well, is she?”, which was the intent of the scene. Instead, given the rest of the information and context, you can read this to mean “Well, I’m not a robot, but David and I are more in common in other ways”. Now, this might be a bit of a stretch, but the pause and tonal weight the scene is given express more than a simple “could she be an android?” giveaway scene. We have to again assume that nothing is wasted and everything has intent, let’s not forget this.
This sort of approval/disapproval of Vickers and her actions would fit in perfectly with the fucked-up push/pull of the Lindelof/Scott dynamic as well. On one hand, you have Scott making the argument that through science and technology we can define ourselves to others, but we remain who we are and must carrying that knowledge and weight with us. On the other you have Lindelof saying, you must have faith in the grand plan and it is through loss of faith and the manipulation of science by which our fates our wrought. Thus you end up with the dynamic of Vickers, a proclaimed woman who dared tempt nature and faith by improving upon the design of the Fungineers by changing her gender. As a result, she loses control of the situation and eventually her life, when the born woman who keeps her faith and stays strong in her convictions, Liz, is granted reprieve to be space impregnated another day.
So there you have it, what I believe is strong proof that Vickers is transgendered, giving an added and interesting twist to the story, and the characterizations of David and Weyland. In particular, this added dimension of Weyland does not make him more sympathetic, but instead makes him more reviled, but it does add to his characterization. This was a man who went looking for answers to the wrong questions, and sought out a mythical race in order to have his beliefs vindicated. Instead, he is killed by the creators, who use his created son as the tool of their destruction. Weyland never lost faith, he simply never had it. He craved power and to be proven right. That’s not faith, and it’s not the type of science that allows you to live in a Ridley Scott joint. Does this change the overall movie in any way? Not at all, but I was surprised that this was an angle that hasn’t been more fully explored.