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Cinema’s Ultimate Jerks #7: Carter Burke (Aliens)

Cinema’s Ultimate Jerks is a celebration of the characters we love to hate in the movies we love to love. They’re not always the main villains – and sometimes they’re not even villains at all – but they’re definitely jerks. So let’s take a look at this week’s jerk-off, and why they find themselves forever enshrined here in the hall of shame. Also, since I’m not a jerk, this is your spoiler warning for the 1986 movie, Aliens.

Carter Burke is a Carter Jerk. Am I right, folks?

Ellen Ripley has been floating in a spaceship, trapped in cryogenic sleep for 57 years. She’s found adrift, woken up, and quickly introduced to friendly-and-definitely-not-evil Carter Burke from the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, and he and his colleagues want to know what happened to the rest of her crew. She tells them a horrific story about how her buddy had a weird creature attach itself to his face, and hours later a vicious monster burst out of his chest, killed her friends, and tried to kill her, before she ultimately blew it out of an airlock leaving her and her cat the only survivors. Weirdly, they don’t believe her. Did none of these people watch Alien?

Ripley soon discovers from good guy Carter Burke that the site where the alien from the first movie latched itself onto John Hurt’s face is now the site of a human colony. There’s families living there, and so naturally she’s a little bit miffed because of the whole vicious, deadly alien thing, but hey, the company weren’t to know, except of course they did know and they let people live there anyway because they’re a shower of bastards. Suddenly, and somewhat improbably, the company loses contact with the colonists like forty minutes after they tell Ripley there’s people living there, and the Weyland-Yutani Corporation decides that they simply must send a squad of battle-hardened soldiers out there to sort the job out. That, ladies and gentleman, is how you set up a classic action movie.

Anyway, the marines arrive at the colony and soon discover that there’s weirdness afoot. There’s no people anywhere, but there’s a lot of evidence that some real nasty business went down. Naturally, practically all of the colonists have recently found themselves incubators for an army of abhorrent alien baddies as per Ripley’s story, and once they burst some chests, shit is gonna get real. Now, you’d think in a scenario like this that all the humans would band together and help each other out, you know, to survive, but ol’ Carter Burke has other plans. I hate to break it to you, but it turns out that he’s a baddie after-all, and his plan is to try and smuggle one of the alien creatures back to the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, so he can sell it to their bio-weapons division, and then spend the rest of his days sat on a beach, sipping cocktails out of one of those half coconut cups.

This is the sort of face I imagine a chicken making when it turns around and sees Col. Sanders staring at him.

What sort of utter jockstrap do you have to be to concoct a plan like that? He knew that there were deadly alien creatures living near to where the colony was set up thanks to the plot of the first movie, and he was totally okay with sacrificing untold numbers of people so he could make a little dollar at the end of it. Okay, that’s all shady business, but surely, once you get there and you see all of the screaming and blood and terror, and you see that you’re dealing with an alien creature that is more adept at killing than the entire cast of The Expendables combined, you’d have a little rethink of your get rich quick scheme and say, “You know what? Fuck it, I’ll just start putting the lottery on.” Nope, when the aliens are killing people indiscriminately, and the marines come up with a plot to kill them back by blowing up the whole colony, Carter Burke starts making a case for not wiping out a species they know nothing about, and uses phrases like “substantial dollar values” when talking about the equipment on site as though a few computers and pencil sharpeners are seriously more important than getting the fuck out of Dodge.

Outvoted on the whole blowing the facility up thing, Carter Burke decides that he’s going to let one of the face-huggers into a room with Ripley and a little girl they’ve just rescued, get them infected, then get them back onto the spaceship, tamper with the cryogenic stasis pods of any survivors so they die in transit, leaving him the heroic, lone survivor of the ordeal, with a biological weapon in his possession that’s going to make him a zillionaire. Even for a baddie – and let’s be real here, Carter Burke is a proper baddie – this is the worst plan in the fucking world. Ripley, of course, works out Carter’s plan, confronts him about it, and just as he’s trying to wriggle his way out of it by claiming she’s delusional, a bunch of aliens break into the room and start going on the murder. Carter Burke, hero to the end, runs off, locking the door behind him and trapping a bunch of marines, Ripley, and the scared little girl in a room with multiple deadly creatures, hoping they’ll kill everyone so he can get away with everything scot-free.

It’s like looking into a mirror.

Jerk-Off Quote: “Look, this is an emotional moment for all of us, okay? I know that. But, let’s not make snap judgments, please. This is clearly-clearly an important species we’re dealing with and I don’t think that you or I, or anybody, has the right to arbitrarily exterminate them.” – Carter Burke, debating the merits of killing the aliens that he’s planning on selling as biological weapons.

Comeuppance: After locking his so-called friends in a room with some aliens utterly determined to kill absolutely everyone, he thinks he’s gotten away with his naughty plan. Ironically, he soon discovers that he’s also locked himself in another room with another alien, and… well, let’s just say they don’t sit with nip of scotch and solve their differences through diplomacy.

Jerk-Off Rating: In Cockney rhyming slang, berk is an insult derived from Berkeley Hunt, because the “hunt” part of it rhymes with cu

Tune in next week – same jerk time, same jerk channel – to find out who’s next in our celebration of cinema’s ultimate jerks.

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