This article contains some spoilers for Alien and Raised by Wolves Season 1.
Listen, I love Ridley Scott as much as the next girl — and I’m also never one to kink shame.
But for sanity’s sake alone, we need to discuss the indisputable fact that the seminal sci-fi director has a milk fetish. At the very least, the man has a notable artistic fixation with milk, to the point where it is now a staple of his filmography, from Alien to his new HBO Max series, Raised By Wolves.
Egregious uses of milk are as common a visual motif in Scott’s work as women’s feet are in Quinten Tarintino’s movies. Yet for some reason, we’re not ready to call a fig a fig when it comes to Scott’s persistent ingenuity in finding new ways to feature high-production titty juice every chance he gets.
To my knowledge (though, to be fair, I’m not a certified milk or Ridley Scott scholar), the inclusion of milk in Scott’s oeuvre began with 1979’s Alien. In an iconic scene with Ash actor Ian Holm, it is revealed to apparently serve as the android equivalent of blood. This became embedded into the Alien cinematic universe, cropping up across its many titles — especially those directed by Scott himself, like Prometheus.
But with Raised By Wolves, Scott’s obsession with milk has spread into another sci-fi world that lies outside the Alien cinematic universe. In fact, the centrality of milk in the series became so unmistakable that, in an interview about its recent finale, the New York Times finally asked the director to explain it.
His response, while lengthy, is revealing:
On Alien, I was in a room with Sigourney Weaver, who was being attacked by Ian Holm as an android. His acting was just sublime, and his character was on the verge of completely losing it and getting violent. I said, “Does anybody have an eyedropper full of milk?” The makeup department brought out an eyedropper, and I got the milk, and I reached out and put a drop of and then started rolling. As it dropped down across his eye, it freaked everybody out! And then I thought: “Do androids all have white blood? Like milk of magnesia?” So that’s why my androids are milky white inside. And for Mother, I wondered, “Should I use that again?” I think it works great — it’s more uncomfortable than seeing red blood.
Exactly why milk was the first thing to come to Ridley Scott’s mind at that pivotal moment in movie history remains unanswerable. But what I can say is that the fears and desires of our collective unconscious often form the basis for a lot of cinematic tropes, especially when it comes to horror.
Now, I mean no offense in taking note of Scott’s artistic proclivity for milk. Actually, the filmmaker’s milk fixation adds lots of fascinating layers of meaning to his work, since he often deals in the language of psychosexual Freudian body horror.
On a logical level, the prevalence of milk in the futuristic society of Raised by Wolves is one of its greatest unexplained curiosities. After all, even in 2020 humanity is already in the process of phasing out our habit of drinking animal milk into adulthood, a uniquely unnatural human practice.
You’d think that this far into the future, long after we’d mastered android tech and space exploration, humanity would’ve evolved past such a heavily milk-based diet. But at one point, stranded human men on an alien planet celebrate bursting open a valve of the life-giving substance with an exhilarated shout of “MILK!”
In a narrative sense, though, the milk carries a lot of illuminating symbolic significance.
The series features android blood-milk spewing out of every kind of orifice in practically every other scene. But more specifically through the character of Mother, tasked with rebirthing a new human civilization (no pressure), the milk imagery contributes to the series’ meditations on nature, creation, life, family, humanity, and technology.
Across various scenes, Mother’s android blood-milk ejects forcefully from her mouth. In another, her milk is suckled from her USB port-like teat by a parasite, while in yet another, milk fills a virtual cathedral during what can only be described as a robot immaculate conception.
The milk motif is a mixture of charged female and male psychosexual imagery, akin to how H.G. Giger’s iconic Xenomorph in Alien combined both the phallic and the vulvic. With the milk in Raised by Wolves, Scott imbues conventionally female imagery with conventionally male imagery, highlighting the show’s themes of man-made life via technology versus Mother Earth as the natural creator of organic life.
For all this food for thought (or rather, milk for suckling), Scott’s fixation on milk gets a hardy thumbs up from me. Unlike Tarantino’s apparent foot fetish, Scott’s artistic fixation on milk adds actual value. Sci-fi and horror fans owe a lot of iconic imagery to one man’s inability to ween himself off the teat.