Beyond the space jockey: YouTube, morphogenetic paratexts and the alien universe

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The Alien cinematic franchise has been subject to much critical scrutiny within the academy. From the moment the first installment burst onto our movie screens in 1979, scholars have attempted to unpack and decode the latent and manifest sociocultural meanings embedded within this seminal series of cinematic horror. Studies have built a rich tapestry of understanding, exploring the franchise via lenses such as the monstrous mother (Creed; Kember; Newton); abjection (Kristeva); dreadful architectures (Benson-Allott); infertility (Grech et al.); gender inversions, male-birthing and the feminization of the hero (Greenberg; Kavanagh; Luckhurst); a-sexuality (Dervin); post-humanism and sexual violence (Hurley); as well as human, technological and environmental hybridity (Littau).
It is the latter of these conceptualizations, Karin Littau’s discussion of morphogenesis, which is of most interest to this paper. For Littau, the morphogenesis of the titular alien’s reproductive cycle is mirrored by the cycle of canonic hybridization within the cinematic franchise. Each new installment can be seen to hybridize with elements of the preceding installments (as well as the Predator franchise) and explore new genre modes, allowing the series to simultaneously inhabit a number of distinct filmic niches (Littau 19-32). For example, where Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) is a slow paced exploration of confined survival horror, James Cameron’s Aliens (1987) is fast paced action movie, leaving David Fincher’s Alien3 (1992) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Alien Resurrection (1997) to inhabit separate cult spaces, before Paul W. S. Anderson’s Alien vs. Predator (2004) and the Brothers Strause’ Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) moved the franchise into the realm of the monster mash-up, paving the way for Ridley Scott to return and tie up (or perhaps not) the loose ends via his prequel installments Prometheus (2012) and Alien: Covenant (2017).
This hybridization is not, however, limited to the motion pictures alone. Littau extends this process to the ancillary products and narratives of the franchise, such as comic books, novelizations and games (22). Considering this is a form of cross-media storytelling, which “is not the same thing as adaptation, but [...] involves adaptation at each juncture 'as' or 'where' a serial fragment is tied into the 'whole'" (Littau 32), Littau situates the Alien concept as cross-medially realizable, where the Alien concept crosses itself with the host-medium rather than performing a separation, therein resisting the notion of definitive or single authorship. Indeed, it is these processes of cross-media storytelling and shared ownership, along with the advent and expansion of the YouTube platform, which invite the return to, and further exploration of, the morphogenetic properties of the Alien concept, via the lens of the consumer created paratext.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-39
Number of pages6
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2020


  • paratext
  • cinema


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