‘Jurassic World’ is not sexist

Published 12:22 pm Saturday, June 27, 2015

by Lauren Bradshaw

As my web history can tell you (with frequent visits to Jezebel, The Mary Sue, etc.), I pride myself in being a feminist. So it’s a bit insane to me that people are calling “Jurassic World,” one of my favorite movies of the year, sexist.

I can assure you that if I felt it was even the slightest bit sexist, I would’ve written it off immediately and started writing a hate-filled review about my disappointment. It seems Joss Whedon’s critical tweet about one small scene he saw (out of context) has made journalists/critics focus on the “sexism” of the film, and that is unfortunate because “Jurassic World” is a great throwback to its predecessor. Also I don’t want anyone to go into the movie with a skewed viewpoint.

As we all know, “Jurassic Park” is a feminist movie. From the female-gendered dinosaurs to Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Lex (Ariana Richards), the girls are the stars of the film. It is Ellie who ventures into a jungle rife with velociraptors in order to restart the breaker to restore the park’s power, all while telling John Hammond, “We can discuss sexism in survival situations when I get back.” And it is super-smart Lex, not her brother, who has the computer knowledge to restore the visitor center’s security system.

Although we don’t have that same kind of take-no-prisoners, action-heroine in “Jurassic World,” isn’t that a good thing? The whole point of “feminism” in movies is to show different sides of female characters. Much like there are real-life strong women, there are also women who are damaged. What I like to see is a multi-dimensional representation of us on-screen. Female characters in movies (especially action movies) do not have to be strong all of the time for a movie to be considered “feminist.” Having another carbon-copy Dr. Sattler would be just that, a replication. Why can’t we have a female character with a different identity and motivations? Yes, I get that Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is shown as a shrewd businesswoman, with power bangs and the courage to wear a white suit. And yes, this does have the chance of turning into an eye-roll inducing movie character archetype. But to me, her character arc, from cold and blissfully unaware to informed and courageous, is believable. The jarring realization that not only has she lost control of her park, but that her test tube creations had lives and were affected by her choices, would have an impact on her life.. oh yeah, and the giant dinosaurs chasing her and her nephews around. This would have life-changing effect on anyone who is in that situation, so is it that crazy that she would have such a change of heart later in the movie?

Also, she is the freakin’ operations manager of a huge park and is the star of the movie so let’s give “Jurassic World” a little credit here.

Some other arguments I want to discuss:

Claire’s decision to wear heels for the entire movie does not make the movie sexist. She is the operations manager of the park and dresses for her position. She wore heels to work, like many other women (myself included), not knowing what the day would bring. When shit did hit the fan, she didn’t have a change of clothing, nor do I blame her for not wanting to walk barefooted through a treacherous jungle. The fact so many critics are focusing on this is infuriating. If she can run through the jungle with heels, why shouldn’t she? Her adrenaline probably took away any discomfort and even Bryce Dallas Howard herself shot every scene with her heels on to prove it could be done. Why am I even talking about this?

Claire “cowers” behind Owen (Chris Pratt) in a few scenes because (ANYONE WOULD IN HER POSITION). Owen is a well-respected dinosaur trainer/researcher and he had a gun. Any man or woman would be stupid not to look to him to take charge.

Claire is being criticized for becoming too caring as the movie progresses. What?! Based on Claire’s wardrobe and personality, it’s clear she wasn’t getting down and dirty with the dinosaurs in the field. She cared more about the business side than the animals.

So when she finally did get to see her animals up close and personal, and saw their reaction to human interaction (realizing they aren’t all “bigger, stronger and scarier”) she understood the effect her “playing God” had on living beings and had a change of heart. Apparently critics wanted her to be heartless and not care about a dying dinosaur?

It wasn’t just Claire’s decision to not shut down the Island, it was the park’s beneficiary who really drove that point home; they would never be able to reopen if bad press got out and they thought they had enough security in place to contain the I-Rex.

I think Claire never allowed herself to think about her maternal side because she was such a careerist. The fact she became maternal toward her nephews does not make her weak or even necessarily signal that she wants to be a mother herself. And why would she? There are all types of women and her feelings are entirely valid even if she did decide to not have her own children in the future. That doesn’t make her incapable of still caring about her family and other human beings. On the other hand, let’s assume that she now does want to have kids. Is it really that crazy to assume that going through such a life-or-death situation, like she did, would make her reassess her thoughts on everything, including motherhood?

Of course I would’ve loved to see Claire commandeer a machine gun and blow all of dinosaurs to smithereens, with no one’s help (hey, she did shoot a pterodactyl!)… but that wasn’t her character and that is OK. She does have many bad ass moments, which I found even more awesome in part due to the way her character was originally written. She was able to come out of her shell and find the hero in herself, when it mattered most, … and in heels.

LAUREN BRADSHAW grew up in Courtland, graduated from Southampton Academy and doubled-majored in foreign affairs and history at the University of Virginia. She lives in the Washington, D.C., area and can be reached at flickchickdc@gmail.com.