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Greenberg, H.R. (1983). The Fractures of Desire: Psychoanalytic Notes on ALIEN and the Contemporary “Cruel” Horror Film. Psychoanal. Rev., 70(2):241-267.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Review, 70(2):241-267


The Fractures of Desire: Psychoanalytic Notes on ALIEN and the Contemporary “Cruel” Horror Film

Review by:
Harvey R. Greenberg, M.D.

… The tragedy of a life centered on “things,” on the grasping and manipulation of objects, is that such a life closes the ego upon itself … and throws it into a hopeless struggle with other perverse and hostile selves competing together for the possessions which will give them power and satisfaction. Instead of being “open to the world,” such minds are in fact closed to it, and their titanic efforts to build the world according to their own desires are doomed in the end by the ambiguity and destructiveness that are in them … ego desire can never culminate in happiness, fulfillment and peace, because it is a fracture which cuts us off from the ground of reality in which truth and peace are found… (Thomas Merton, 1968, pp. 82-85).

I admire its purity … a survivor, unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality. (Ash, Science Officer of the Nostromo, in the film ALIEN).

If Hair proclaimed the Age of Aquarius, Close Encounters of the Third Kind surely celebrated its last gasp. According to Steven Spielberg's giddy vision, all our troubles were about to be resolved by Aquarian consciousness-raising sessions conducted by benevolent if somewhat attenuated extraterrestrials. But then a stretto of disasters terminated the aspirations of Woodstock Nation. Three Mile Island, the plunging dollar, the spectacle of the American imperium held hostage by a handful of shabby ideologues—these and sundry other national narcissistic injuries refurbished our pessimism, and set us brooding on apocalypse.

With the situation so grim down below, how could we remain sanguine about the projected good intentions of celestial messengers?

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