Prometheus: The Story No One Mentions

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.

15 thoughts on “Prometheus: The Story No One Mentions

  1. Are you forgetting the fact that Weyland was on board? The bay was most definitely on the ship in case it was needed to operate on Weyland.

    • I am not forgetting that, and I even address it above. Weyland was secreted away in a different part of the ship, with a full medical crew. This again glosses over the fact that Vickers most certainly would have noticed this and done something with it.

      • Are you sure that Weyland wasn’t in the escape pod as well? I think this would be another Giant plot hole if she were a male.

        The setup – why is this pod callibrated for a man? That is strange!
        The Payoff – Oh shit, Weyland is on board of course – David talking to him, the medical bay etc….

        The fact that weyland has a medical staff means nothing – What if he discovers the secret to life and everyone else dies? What if they can’t perform surgery and are just “medics.” Also, Vickers was a late edition to the trip was she not? The escape pod wasn’t really hers – it was where she lived. The pod was 100% Weylands if it was needed.

      • Also, can you clarify what you mean here – ” This again glosses over the fact that Vickers most certainly would have noticed this and done something with it.” Are you suggesting that Vickers doesn’t know that her father is on the ship?

  2. I am not saying that Vickers doesn’t know Weyland is on the ship, but I am saying that leaving the machine calibrated for male only when she quite obviously plans on living on the escape pod in the event of the emergency is something that she wouldn’t do, given her character as presented. She has a lot of time in the escape pod, after all. Don’t forget that quite the presentation is made to Shaw and Holloway by Vickers about the escape pod when she first calls them in, going over the loving details.

    Weyland was in an entirely different part of the ship. If he was in the escape pod, it makes the “tell me what he said” scene entirely superfluous. The setting is entirely different as well. The “set to male” discovery comes long after Weyland has been revealed, and serves only as an obstacle that Shaw has to overcome. Remember, we don’t discover that it’s set to male until she is trying to remove the altered baby. The presentation of the timeline doesn’t serve that set-up and pay off. As presented within the confines of the story, it’s sole purpose in the narrative is to impede Shaw. Anything else, including the fact that it was for Weyland, undertakes an unstated assumption.

  3. You are wrong on two accounts here –
    1. We find out it is callibrated to a male before we see weyland – She is running around bloody when she discovers him.

    2. the tell me what he said scene is not superfluous not matter where Weyland is. Vickers can’t communicate with him while he sleeps. Only David can.

    • We, the audience, meet Weyland before this scene takes place. By that point, he is prepping to go to the ship, and Vickers has had a conversation with him. Shaw runs into him afterwards, but the audience has already experienced the reveal. You are correct that the Vickers can’t communicate with him while he sleeps, but neither can David. He says, “I saw your dreams” when discussing the cross and her father with Shaw. I don’t believe there is any implication of having the ability to converse. He certainly never imparts any message to Shaw.

  4. Hmm – I’m pretty sure he was communicating directly with him while he was wearing those glasses – Likely some kind of willing set up between Weyland and David that wasn’t explained.

    Also, we did not see Weyland before we saw shaw get her alien removed. I’m not sure where you think we saw him prior.

  5. If I recall correctly, the order of relevant scenes here is: “Tell me what he said”, where Vickers confronts David and puzzles out that Weyland is on board. Then David infects…uhhhh…the Bright Eyed Scientist Guy. The next day, Vickers confronts Weyland while the team goes to the ship to retrieve the two lost guys. After all the stuff happens with BESG getting roasted, Shaw goes through the Alien Baby sequence where we discover the RoboDoc is set to male, and ends up finding Weyland getting prepped to go to the ship.

  6. I believe that Weyland is ready to go outside AFTER the surgery on shaw. I wish I could find a scene write up on line.

  7. This is exactly what I thought when I first watched this movie. On second viewing, I became more convinced.

    Full disclosure: I am transgendered, and living in stealth. No one in the workplace know about me. Thus the family-and-friends dynamic in this movie is exactly like mine.

  8. I watched the movie for the third time yesterday and without having come across it anywhere else, I came to the same conclusion as you. After looking into it, reading your piece and seeing how quickly it is skated over on other forums discussing “is she an android or not”, I am now even more convinced than ever that it’s true.

    The fact that so many people are just dismissing and ridiculing the idea out of hand is very ironic indeed.

  9. I had heard that this movie had a transgender subtext and had that in mind when I just got done watching it tonight. I caught a few of the things you mention, such as the “closest thing I have to a son” line and the male-calibrated medical pod, but I still wasn’t convinced. You really lay it all out pretty well here and, if correct, I think you present a nice interpretation of the movie’s “message.” As a transgender woman myself, I have to also add that if that really is the message of the film, it’s a heinous one – the transgender woman is punished for “defying nature” while the cisgender woman is “rewarded.” Maybe I should be grateful that this subtext is so difficult to decipher.

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