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Alien: Covenant and the Significance of Sacrificial Love} ?> The Alien films are all about the coldness of space with an emphasis on mechanics ahead of humans, the quietness in the vastness of the universe, and the xenomorphs that hunt humans without relent. So it feels strange, at first, that in Alien: Covenant the vessel is led by a crew consisting largely of married couples, carrying in the warmth of love to this callous environment.
Unlike in many horror films, the couples don’t turn on each other. Their love is real and deep; they are strong, solid, and supportive. It’s no wonder these pairs were specifically selected for the Covenant’s colonization mission, as they have the responsibility of guiding a ship carrying thousands of humans and additional embryos to a new planet. The crew is also friendly, and despite arguments and missteps, genuinely want the best for one another.
And yet, despite its promising beginning, lots of people die. The crew of the Covenant fights against the furious predators, the coldness of space, and evils of sin and humanity. This is no touchy-feely universe. Love doesn’t stand a chance.
Living a life separated in every way from the frightening fiction of the Aliens franchise, I’m much more optimistic about love. I believe that my friends will reach out to me when I’m hurting. I believe that I’ll be gracious to those who injure me. I believe that my church community will love the downtrodden and the cast aside. Many times, my expectations are met; but more than I’d like to admit to myself, they are not. It doesn’t take a monster to destroy love; humans can do that just fine on their own.
In the midst of Alien: Covenant’s chaotic action, the film manages to stress that dilemma. Battles take place within the characters and among them, which all boil down to whether they should love each other or not. Crew members are confronted with the death of loved ones and still must decide whether to sacrifice for their colleagues, even as they deal with grief. And at the heart of the film is a conflict between whether to choose that sacrificial love, which could cost one everything, or choose oneself, which leads to pleasure and safety.
I can’t help but wonder which of these options I choose more often. I try reaching out to others in love, becoming vulnerable, and offering my time to others in attempts to bring us closer and build relationships. Sometimes that closeness hurts. Sometimes it hurts too much.
Although I want to be a model of sacrificial giving, I sometimes would rather choose myself. Why go have lunch and listen to someone’s needs when I can stay at home and watch Netflix? Why dedicate time and effort to a relationship that might end badly, when I can spend hours diving into my hobbies? Why should I start a text conversation with an old friend when I can go for a run instead?
As a giver, you pay the consequences of giving. With physical gifts, there are financial and time costs. When I invest in a relationship, the price is higher; within that intimacy, I impart a portion of my heart, and sometimes don’t receive the same love and care in return. In fact, I often receive pain, stress, and burden. During times when I feel particularly hurt, I have a tendency to become bitter and frigid, creating distance rather than intimacy. Love takes sacrifice, and that sacrifice sometimes doesn’t seem worth it when my own safety and comfort is threatened.
Walter, the synthetic introduced in this film, is asked to consider whether his desire to protect Daniels, the terraforming expert who is the voice of reason and leadership in the film, is out of duty or love. Walter grows more aware of his own desires and wishes, and ultimately this: he can choose to do his duty or he can choose to not.
I have that same choice. And I realize in the moments of pain, love is in the very choice to go down that road, to follow the thorny path of intimacy and all the discomfort that entails. I’ve come to realize that when love doesn’t pay the dividends I expect or when it might become unpleasant, that doesn’t mean it failed. It simply means that I’ve chosen to imbue the cold with warmth, and continue the hard work of closing the space between someone who I care about and myself. There’s danger there, too, but it’s far better than the alternative: the coldness of space.