Save the cat, but

There is a famous screenwriting manual called “save the cat” suggesting that your character should do something nice like that so the audience will like them. The inspiration is Ripley in “Alien” saving the ship’s cat.

My theory on why Ripley saves the cat is different.

The cat is the only creature on the ship who’s not a moron except Ripley. The rest of the crew all disqualify themselves when the question arises if the away team with the infected crew member should be allowed back on the ship. Ripley is the only one who’s trying to do the right thing here while the rest of the crew are dooming themselves by disagreeing and overriding Ripley’s order.

Had Ripley succeeded at that point and not let the away team back on the ship, most everybody would have lived.

Ripley doesn’t save the cat to make a nice impression on the viewer (it’s much too late in the movie for that) but because the cat is innocent. The cat deserves to live. Everybody else was an asshole.





3 responses to “Save the cat, but

  • Supa

    This reminds me of why I’ve always been more for animal rights than anything else: animals follow their nature, while people have the choice to be assholes.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Firstly, the whole crew did not agree with the decision of Ash overriding Ripley’s decision to follow protocol. In actuality any GOOD commander/captain of a ship would do the same. Making at the very least Captain Dallas a moron I will agree and a traitor to his crew and their safety. In fact, he makes several decisions that would disqualify him from his post even before going to the planet surface. The other that accompanied him on the surface that wasn’t infected was simply acting in her self interest. Which is of course human nature. Ripley was not the only one to agree with following protocol. The two other crew members inside with Ripley besides Ash also agreed. They could have been quarantined and frozen, as was alluded to by one of the other crew members, but Ash did not give this opportunity a chance to play out. In fact, Ash, actually being a android with secret knowledge and mandates to study and bring back samples of any lifeform found, made the extra-ordinary decision to override Ripley, who was technically in command, by letting the crew inside. And disobeyed quarantine laws. It is telling that an Android was so easily able to put the lives of his crew in mortal danger because of secret mandates and the androids lack of risk of infection or relative danger to harm as the rest of the crew clearly would be potentially exposed. Not only that, Ash continues to take limited precautions (come to think of it, so does Dallas) even after continued complications come up during the investigation of the lifeform and not quarantining the man whom recovered shortly after the lifeform removed itself and died.

    As for the reason for saving the cat, I have no screen writing knowledge so I could not say much for sure about whether its important to have a character do something nice like that. I agree with your conclusion, that the cat is innocent (all animals essentially are), whether it ‘deserves to life’ is another matter. Reality does not work that way. But her decision to save the cat is not surprising. I just don’t agree she did it because all other members were ‘morons’ (implying they deserved to die?) and the cat was the only one, besides her, that actually deserved to life. Deserving to live is not what matters. The cat had no idea one way or the other its fate. Like most animals its in the dark til the end is near. Ripley, however, fought to stay alive. And in the end, far from deserving to life, she insured her survival because she’s smart, capable, quick-thinking, and resolute. These are the things that determined her ability to survive. And in her ability to live, she was also able to save the last remaining ‘crew member’ she could.

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