In order to survive in “Alien 3,” Ripley must embrace the very masculinity that surrounds and oppresses her. She shaves her head, wears men’s clothes, and hides any possible perceived weakness, like her cryo-sickness. It’s a fantastic representation of what it can be like to exist as a marginalized person surrounded by those with more power, and it’s especially accurate to the female experience. Eventually, the prisoners and Ripley are to be rescued by Weyland-Yutani suits who come to take care of things. But even then, Ripley has her bodily autonomy taken from her, as another Bishop android has orders to preserve the alien queen inside of Ripley for study, so they could create a bio-weapon. In the end, Ripley chooses to plummet to a fiery death in the furnace of the foundry, clutching her infant chestburster to her breast. While it’s a pretty on-the-nose image, it’s also a heartbreaking representation of what can happen when a person is kept from having control over their own body.
Ripley’s death at the end of “Alien 3” is tragic but befitting for the character, who has endured so much and finally finds an escape that offers her some kind of peace. Whether she’s been running from the allegorical assault of the aliens, the misogyny and lust of the men of Fury, or the capitalist corporate control of Weyland-Yutani, Ripley has faced the harmful effects of a patriarchal society time and time again. She went from final girl to Newt’s surrogate mother to a battle-weary crone over the course of the three films.
The brilliance of “Alien 3” is its willingness to accept the brutal truth that, in a patriarchal world, there is no happy ending for a woman like Ellen Ripley.