Played by: Jenette Goldstein (Near Dark, Terminator 2, Lethal Weapon 2, Titanic)
Appears in: Aliens (1986)
Nonchalantly doing pull-ups as the marines assemble.
“Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?” sneers Hudson.
“No. Have you?” She counters, without missing a beat.
Drake sums it up. “Oh, Vasquez. You're just too bad.”
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
Vasquez set the template for tough women with guns. Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor is among the first to benefit. Goldstein also appears as John Connor's foster mother.
Resident Evil (2002)
Michelle Rodriguez reads extensively from the Vasquez handbook in this intermittently fun zombie romp. Milla Jovovich takes the Ripley route.
Movie magpie Neil Marshall gathers many action/horror feathers for his nest here. This time it's Rhona Mitra kicking arse.
Behind The Hero
Despite her tough exterior, Goldstein was unable to handle the recoil of a handgun properly. In the scene where the survivors are escaping through the ventilator shaft, producer (and then Mrs James Cameron) Gale Ann Hurd doubled as Vasquez. If you look closely, you can see that Vasquez's hair has become longer when she plants her boot on the neck of the Alien and blasts away.
Hero Worship #1: Vasquez
I decided to open this series with a character from the movie from which this site's name originates. Any aficionado of 80's sci-fi will tell you that Aliens is chock-full of rich characters. There's cowardly, wise-cracking Hudson (Bill Paxton), cigar-chomping, marine-sergeant-in-real-life Apone (Al Matthews), stoic, heroic Hicks (Michael Biehn) and plucky but high-pitched Newt (Carrie Henn), to name but four. And let's not forget Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) herself.
But for many it's Pt Vasquez, J (the J stands for Jenette, the majority of the colonial marines in the film used their own first names) that sticks in the memory the longest. Is it the headband? The muscles? The attitude? Perhaps its her legs akimbo stance while wielding that cool-looking Smartgun. It's all that and more.
It's a pretty well-known story now, that when Goldstein first auditioned for the part she mistakenly thought the aliens of the title were the illegal kind and arrived with long hair and makeup. This is alluded to during the briefing, when Hudson chides "She thought they said illegal alien and signed up!". Fortunately, already fit, she managed to convince the producers to give her another shot.
Vasquez is the balls of the film, fearless, rebellious and addicted to combat - and unlike Hudson she doesn't disappoint. She's self assured, cool under pressure and deadly. When the aliens attack and all around her panic, she is the first to plant her feet and fight back ("Let's rock!").
"El riesgo siempre vive!" is scrawled across her armour: "The risk always lives."
Arguably Vasquez became an instant feminist icon. A woman, not just holding her own among the men, but outstripping them.
Then there's the question of her sexuality...
...a surprising source of butch imagery is provided by Aliens (1986). Aliens counts as a fantasy film here in terms of its interest in otherworldly contexts, alien sex, alien erotics, and alien bodies. In deep space, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) wakes from hibernation, and she and the company of marines ready themselves for the task at hand. As the characters wander around in various states of undress, the gaze of the camera brushes up against a hard-muscled body doing pull-ups on a rail in the cabin. When the camera returns moments later to this character, we realize it is a tough Latina. Vasquez proceeds to cruise Ripley and whispers "que bonita" as she walks by. Of course, Vasquez's studly appreciation for the rather asexual Sigourney Weaver does not save the Latina from being one of the first victims of the voracious aliens; neither pull-ups nor a moment of butch bonding with a male marine can pull her from the jaws of death, and the butch meets a gory and untimely end.
Judith Halberstam (Female Masculinity, 1998)
I do not qualify as an authority on gender roles or sexual politics, but I know my movies. The cruising part, I missed. Also Vasquez is, in fact, the last of the Colonial Marines to die and her selfless death seems to have very little to do with any perceived sexuality, rather the murderous intent of some rather nasty alien types. I think it's lazy to label the character a lesbian, just by looking at the cropped hair and muscles. In fact, always thought she had something going with Drake (Mark Rolston). The playful banter, the knowing exchanged glances and her pained desperation to go after him when he is caught lagging behind ("Drake! We are LEAVING!" Yeah!). He, at least, was clearly smitten (see Hero Hour, left).
Ultimately, one of the reasons Vasquez is such a great character is that Goldstein leaves sexuality out of the role. Vasquez is a soldier first and a woman second.
As she tells us during the briefing, she only needs to know one thing:
"Where they are."