Jurassic World: A (Slight) Review and The Problem with the Chris Pratt of it All

By Amanda Jay
Special Contributor, SpeedontheBeat.com

Let me begin by saying I love Jurassic Park. I loved Jurassic World. And I love Chris Pratt. I have been a long time fan of dinosaurs (because, hello, teeth) and I am definitely a long time fan of funny, charismatic, attractive males. I think there is no question that the Jurassic World franchise is capable of not only playing homage to her predecessor, but of also standing on her own. Director Colin Trevorrow had the toys, and twenty years of technical development that Spielberg couldn’t hope to match in 1993.

Having sufficiently described my dino-hottie-cinemagic love affair with Jurassic Park and Jurassic World, I have one major gripe. I saw Jurassic World in the theater four times. The magic of the dinosaurs never faded for me.  Each time I saw them, I felt like a kid again. I had, by the fourth go, renamed the dinosaurs in certain scenes with names like Little Foot, Cera, and Petrie. I was in it, man. But I also left the theater each time with a sense of unrest. Nothing serious, just a little nagging that I couldn’t identify, but also could not quiet.  It wasn’t until I read an interview with the Trevorrow, that I was able to put my finger on what was bothering me.

Joss Whedon tweeted his reaction to the promotional trailer, and it was not all love. He blatantly denounced it as sexist: “I’m too busy wishing this clip wasn’t 70’s era sexist. She’s a stiff, he’s a life-force – really? Still?” This coming from the guy who created some of the most boss, feminist characters in media in the last twenty years (like Buffy) and some of the most sexist (like Black Widow). Colin Trevorrow was not shocked, but disappointed. He told an Italian publication, Bad Taste, that he felt that Claire, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, was the real protagonist, and that he felt very strongly that it was important to have a female character that kicked butt and was still very feminine: “There’s no need for a female character that does things like a male character, that’s not what makes interesting female characters in my view.”

THIS. It is the point I debate endlessly with my male counterparts, who routinely attempt to denigrate female characters that portray compelling arcs and storylines with traditionally feminine roles and characteristics of strength, but instead tout the female characters that display traditionally male characteristics of strength. An easy example would be to contrast Sansa Stark and Arya Stark . Males love Arya Stark, because they consider her a badass. She goes around killing people, not bathing, and generally disobeying rules and running amok. Cool. I can respect that. Her adventures with the Hound were both terrifying, twisted, and action packed. No one could say she hasn’t had a rough go of things. 

Case in point, this scene from S1E2, "The Kingsroad"

On the flip side, however, her sister Sansa has been living under threat of death and torture. She has been sexually harassed and assaulted, physically and emotionally chastised for things that are beyond her knowledge or control, and continuously coveted and lusted after by males more than half her age. I have never had a conversation with a male that acknowledged her hardship without saying something to the effect of, “she deserved it.” 

How does all of this relate, you ask?  Simple: Males aren’t the only ones who are desensitized to traditionally feminine strength. As women, we have spent the last twenty years rooting for characters like Lara Croft, Buffy, the Halliwells, Beatrix Kiddo, the modern Charlie’s Angels, Katniss Everdeen, Selene, Sarah Conner, any character Angelina Jolie played—the list goes on and on. Unless a character was downright evil, she had to kick major butt for anyone to consider her a badass. In the past five years, we’ve see a return of the traditional female character.

“Traditional” does not necessarily mean that she’s in an apron and heels.  Rather, I consider “traditional” to mean that she is more like the average female and can’t scissor kick a dude’s head off because he tried to stop her from saving the world/finding Pandora’s box/complete her plan of sweet revenge.  “Traditional” means that she overcomes (or succumbs) to her crucibles using tools that all real women have in their arsenal, such as intelligence, intuition, charm, resolve, and determination.

And this, friends, is what brings us back to Claire Dearing of Jurassic World.  Yes, she ran around in heels, fleeing for her life from modified dinosaurs. Yes, it was a little silly.  I didn’t have much of a problem with that, as a viewer. Bryce Dallas Howard has stated that she worked out a lot to be able to run for eight or more hours a day in those heels (which, as any heel wearer knows, aren’t really heels- they are sensible work pumps). She ain’t worried, I ain’t worried. Yes, her storyline was a little played out. Again, this is a dinosaur movie. I didn’t come for the story, I came for the DINOSAURS! The parts of the movie that I feel everyone is overlooking when the discourse about this movie is centered on sexism is the ACTUAL sexism in the script. 

Let’s examine this. I don’t find the protagonist running around in heels to be sexism (women who wear heels a lot definitely run in heels). An example of actual sexism is a scene around mid-movie, when the Indominus has breached the Aviary and the flying dinosaurs are terrorizing the populace. Chris Pratt’s character, Owen Grady, has formed ranks with the dino-security and they are trying to pick the flying terrors off one by one. Grady gets mollywoped by a flying terror.  He loses his gun in the grapple for his life.  He’s barely keeping the dinosaur at bay when Claire grabs his gun, smacks the dinosaur on the head, and shoots it full of tranquilizer darts. This is all great and awesome! Girl in heels does what is necessary to protect her cohort.  

Awesome—until not even three minutes later when the gang is all together. The young boys ask if they can stay with Grady. Grady, who to their knowledge has done nothing except be a big muscled guy with a gun (America, amirite?). There are plenty of little jokes like this that are made at Claire’s expense.  This turns her from the hero into a practical joke, dependent on the male character.  And that, my dear friends, is the real sexism of Jurassic World; that even when she saved the day, IN HEELS(!), her thunder was stolen by a cute guy with a gun, nice biceps, and a few well-timed puns.

So, now that we have identified the real sexism in the script, what do we do about identifying the sexist bias in our viewing practices? Instead of the majority of viewers, reviewers, and critics identifying Bryce Dallas Howard as the lead, the majority of press has been centered on Chris Pratt. BDH’s Claire Dearing is the one with the intelligence.  She is the one on the journey.  She is the one who makes the difficult choices, the one who is burdened with the most responsibility, and she is the one who ultimately takes on the greatest risk and is prepared to make the greatest sacrifice.  Why is everyone concerned with her wardrobe choices?  Even when she does show a moment of traditionally male strength (tranquilizing the dinosaur to save Grady’s life), the moment is trivialized as her nephews instead focus on her love life, rather than on her badass dinosaur takedown.

Viewers, and female viewers especially, seem to overlook her traditionally female characteristics of strength, such as her intelligence, her bravery, her insistence to make things right, her willingness to learn, and her temerity. Instead, they choose to discuss the fact that Chris Pratt looked good on his motorcycle, or conduct fake studies about whether or not a woman could run from dinosaurs in heels.  The feminist in me was grateful to see a beautiful woman who was fully dressed for an entire film display characteristics that I see and value in myself and the beautiful and brilliant women in my normal, every day life.

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