Married with an Alien – Gender roles in I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958)

1/2011

Kimmo Ahonen

Alien invasion was a common plot device in the American science fiction films of the 1950s. This article deals with the representations of gender roles and masculinity in such B-budget films as The Brain from Planet Arous (1957), Night of the Blood Beast (1958), and I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958). The films are analyzed within the context of the Cold War culture.

I Married a Monster from Outer Space, directed by Gene Fowler, Jr., was an exploitation picture that revised the successful plot device of alien invasion by adding a gender element. It focused on gender roles between the female protagonist and her alien husband. The film reveals a sense of fear that was typical of 1950’s science fiction: some unknown force steals the identity and emotions of ordinary people.

On the one hand the film can be read as a critique of patriarchal society and its strict gender roles. The small-town home turns out to be an oppressing place, where men and women must both accommodate to idealised models of middle-class marriage. The climax of the film, however, can be interpreted as a re-establishment of patriarchy: aliens have lost, and the happy small-town life has been restored. Nevertheless, the happy ending does not necessarily overturn the film’s critical potential. Fowler’s film hints that the ordinary middle class life that was being defended was as threatening in its obsessive demand for conformity. The film offers some subversive commentary about the very nature of gender roles in American society of the 1950s.