I saw Jurassic World a couple weeks ago and as much as I want to only talk about Chris Pratt and badass dinosaurs, I can’t. Between Facebook, Twitter, and every news or gossip source, there is some kind of conversation about the female characters in the film everywhere I turn. While that may be great for important conversations, it is not so great for my blood pressure. I stand conflicted; there are certainly some issues with the women written in this story, but there are some pieces of those issues that don’t look like issues at all.
There were plenty of deaths in Jurassic World and each one seemed to be creatively thought-through. It didn’t seem like there were any careless or easy deaths and I applauded this at first (I know that is so weird to say, but hey, it is a dinosaur movie). I stopped feeling thrilled when it came to one character’s death in particular: Zara, Claire’s assistant. Zara was a very secondary character who we did not know much about at all, and she was definitely not a villain (or a hero), though her death was very unsettling. Most of what we know about Zara is that she had cliché Starbucks and cell phone habits, along with a British accent. Are we supposed to not like her because of those three things? Or did we not like her because the boys wanted to evade her? Is it a commentary on the generation of iPhone-attached millennials? Honestly, this baffles me. I can’t help but feel like the audience was supposed to enjoy her demise because she was a rich, airhead… though we really have no idea about her actual personality. Of the women in this story, which are few, this was not a positive light to portray the gender. And her death? Unnecessary and cruel. Like I said, every death was notably creative, so this death was intentional. She was flung from flying dino to flying dino, falling and flailing, screaming a blood-curdling scream, and finally ending up in the mouth of the mosasaurus. Her death was long, it was graphic, it was not cool. I know, I know, it’s a dinosaur movie and lots of people die. But this was different. Her drawn out and horrific death did not seem proportionate to her character, so why did they choose this for her?
There were other interesting female-character choices, namely in the development of Claire Dearing. Claire was the true lead of this film, though the marketing of it may try to indicate otherwise. Naturally, because she was the star and a woman, the public has much to say about her wardrobe, personality, etc. She began as a one-sided, typical type-A female movie character, and her first couple scenes don’t let us forget it. She was uptight, single, not maternal, all business. Leave it to rugged, hunky, Chris Pratt to soften her in the midst of dino attack, right? This irritated me at first, especially since the writing shoved it down her/our throats for the first twenty minutes. I will reluctantly chalk it up to necessary exposition to make her character growth all the more meaningful. And grow she does, though it is still frustrating that we cannot accomplish this without berating a work-driven woman in a movie made in 2015. Luckily, Claire became a super woman pretty quickly, her maternal instincts forcibly kicked in when she realized her nephews are unaccounted for. She did not leave it to the raptor-trainer or military-esque squads, she immediately sprung into action and didn’t stop for the rest of the movie.
The buzz around Claire was unfortunately about her choice of attire. She wore the same, beautiful, ivory outfit with nude pumps for the entire movie. How dare she dress more appropriately for a day of work (and schmoozing Verizon wireless clients for funding. This movie has product placements galore, btw) than for a day of dodging dinosaurs and certain death in a jungle! I don’t know about you, but I do not have a backup outfit for such a turn of events. I really appreciated the comedic moment of relief when Owen referenced her outfit, heels included, because it called out the fact that yes, she realized what she was wearing, and yes it was a choice the movie made. To me, this is not sexist. That was probably one of the more realistic things happening in the movie aside from Jimmy Buffett double fisting margaritas through a flying dinosaur attack.
Claire’s shoes did not drag her down at all. There was not one scene where her skirt inhibited her from escaping a mutant dinosaur or her shoes caused her to hilariously fall in a heap of mud. She ran on pure adrenaline, her business-savvy mind also worked on a practical level during an outrageously stressful emergency. At no point did her clothing, her hair, or her heels define her capability to SAVE THE DAY. Yeah, that is correct, she saved the day and she did not rub it in anyone’s face. Owen did a great job with the raptors and Claire’s ungrateful nephews helped too, but it was Claire who had the brilliant idea that ultimately saved the island and twenty thousand people. She went on a suicide mission to release the T-Rex and hoped for the best. She somehow outran a T-Rex in the aforementioned heels and the rest is history.
There are only four female characters in Jurassic World, and each of them played out a cliché archetype. Zara was the fancy and distracted assistant, Claire’s sister, Karen, was the forty-something mother who scolds Claire for being too uptight, Vivian was the female-half of a comedic duo which doesn’t really add anything to the movie, and finally we have Claire, the workaholic who is just so silly that everyone had to tell her to loosen up. There are four women, compared to over eleven featured male characters. But it is not all bad, Claire Dearing does break down the female-roadblock and became a hero (did she ever get a ‘good job’ or a pat on the back?). Jurassic World is a thrilling fantasy movie about dinosaurs, but the true star is Claire, heels and all.