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By Martin Barker;Kate Egan;Tom Phillips;Sarah Ralph

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Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. 0006. 0006   Alien Audiences In Chapter 1, we explained our decision to swerve our rating scale upwards, to permit a distinction between calling Alien Excellent and a Masterpiece. This, we hoped, would allow us to distinguish among and explore the responses of particularly devoted audiences. The phenomenon of devoted audiences is gradually being given increased attention in many fields. For a long time, such audiences have been distrusted, especially in relation to the mass media; engaged audiences might be ‘vulnerable’ to ‘messages’, might identify and ‘lose the distinction between fantasy and reality’.

Alien is now so historic that it is assessed (like a draft, almost) for its role in what came later. There are some clear shifts in the kinds of explanations given for not liking or appreciating Alien. In 1979, this can include misrecognition of the film (in light of expectations set by earlier science fiction); in the 1980s, the most likely cause was a comparison with the second film in the franchise, Aliens. 0006  Alien Audiences measured against the expectations which that sets – added to which is the loss of surprise engendered by circulating parodies and the like.

Watched without much operative prior knowledge, as a lone film (rather than one in a serial franchise), as a thing in itself, rather than one version among others, it achieves a particularity which, for some people, takes it beyond being just a film. It can become a special token, a marker, or something which changes its genre, and can even (as we saw above) add to how a film can comment on our wider lives. This becomes even clearer when we sample the responses of the twothirds of our participants who rated Alien at least a bit lower.

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