Sometimes, you look at someone’s Oscar nomination and feel annoyed that they didn’t win. Then, you look at who beat them and shrug, because, yeah, okay. Which is how I feel that Sigourney Weaver’s Aliens nomination lost to Marlee Matlin in Children of a Lesser God, and for Gorillas in the Mist, she lost to Jodie Foster in The Accused. I’m not all that into The Accidental Tourist, but I haven’t seen Working Girl yet (soon!), so I don’t have an opinion there. I will say that it’s sad to me that she doesn’t have a nomination since 1988; frankly, I’m not convinced she shouldn’t have been nominated for Galaxy Quest in 1999, and I’m not fond enough of Girl, Interrupted to be sure she shouldn’t have beaten Angelina Jolie.
Two of her “Trade Mark” (and seriously, IMDb, that’s one word) features on her IMDb page are subtly pointing out that she’s, you know, not short. Sigourney Weaver is nearly six feet tall. Which rather does lead one into making some joke about how she’s also a giant in the world of acting, blah blah blah. But let’s face it; even if the only movie she’d ever made were Alien, we’d still be talking about her now. And she’s done a lot more than Alien; as it happens, I even thought she brought interesting things to her Defenders character. And that’s not even getting into the things of hers that I like most.
Because, yeah, let’s talk Tawny Madison. Gwen DeMarco is the actress’s name, and it’s a perfectly reasonable acting name. Honestly more so than Sigourney; her actual first name is Susan, and she named herself for a character in The Great Gatsby. But Tawny Madison is such an awful ’80s character name for exactly the sort of character she played. And we know without being told that Gwen took the role because it was a paycheck on a show that she thought would be good for her career, and while Alexander Dane felt trapped by his character after decades on the convention circuit, at least his character got actual things to do. Gwen is smart, and her character has a dumb job, and it rankles. A lot. Because of course it’s about sexism; how could she not know that?
There are also seeds of her Defenders character in her role as The Warden in Holes, to my mind an underrated film that I might do for Disney Byways this week. She’s an evil character driven by motives that are a blank to the main character—and, indeed, to the audience for much of the movie. (I’ve read the book, but it’s not relevant to a discussion of Weaver.) She’s tough and leathery and weirdly sexy, all things considered, and the movie simply would not have worked without someone as forceful in the role. I like the movie, and I think she sold it to me when I initially saw it.
And Dave, and The Ice Storm, and, yes, Ghostbusters, and all kinds of movies I haven’t gotten to. But it’s very telling that she is referenced in Terry Pratchett’s Only You Can Save Mankind. The character of Kirsty is a teenage girl who is, in a way that the book doesn’t explore because it’s from the perspective of a teenage boy, uncertain in herself. She comes across as confident, and Johnny accepts that about her, but of course in the alien-hunting video game, she calls herself Sigourney.