Jurassic World sexism – are the claims justified?

Film has been accused of displaying prehistoric attitudes to women

Matilda Battersby
Friday 12 June 2015 14:57 BST
Comments
A scene from 'Jurassic World', released this week
A scene from 'Jurassic World', released this week (Universal Pictures)

The latest in the Jurassic Park franchise has unleashed an unexpectedly hideous monster in the form of accusations of sexism that just won’t stay in their cage.

Colin Trevorrow’s film, released 22 years after Jeff Goldblum and pals first entered the dinosaur theme park, has been described as a “dumb, sexist mess”.

Following Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dearing, a career-hungry and “unmaternal” park operations manager alongside Chris Pratt’s laid back Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady, the film is apparently guilty of stereotyping both sexes.

But it is Howard’s presentation as a stiff, stiletto-wearing corporate suit with no feeling toward the nephews who have come to the park to visit her that has really got the casual sexism alarms bleeping.

“Jurassic World is not about corporate greed, anti-militarization, crass commerciality, disrupting the food chain, or dinos eating the shit out of people. No. It’s about a woman’s ‘evolution’ from an icy-cold, selfish corporate shill into a considerate wife and mother,” wrote Marlowe Stern in The Daily Beast.

When a clip of the film surfaced online a few weeks ago Joss Whedon, director of The Avengers and creator of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, called it out for being “’70s-era sexist” adding: "She's a stiff, he's a life-force — really?"

And his comments were (perhaps, surprisingly) backed up by Trevorrow who criticised the ill-chosen clip released by Universal. "I wasn't bothered by what [Whedon] said about the movie and to be honest, I don't totally disagree with him," the director said last week.

"I wonder why [Universal] chose a clip like that, that shows an isolated situation within a movie that has an internal logic, that starts with characters that are almost archetypes, stereotypes that are deconstructed as the story progresses."

So, Trevorrow appears fully aware that all the characters are stereotypes and with a cast made up of the loveable geek Lowery (Jake “Nick from New Girl” Johnson), the All American head of security who likes to blow things up (Vincent D'Onofrio) and the moody teenage boy Zach (Nick Robinson), it’s impossible that the film is anything other than self-parody. Quite what he means by how they are "decontructed" we're not sure - to our eyes the characters just flit from one ready-made norm (uptight cow) to another (soft, mumsy love-interest).

Apple TV+ logo

Watch Apple TV+ free for 7 days

New subscribers only. £8.99/mo. after free trial. Plan auto-renews until cancelled

Try for free
Apple TV+ logo

Watch Apple TV+ free for 7 days

New subscribers only. £8.99/mo. after free trial. Plan auto-renews until cancelled

Try for free

But that’s not to say that the disgruntlement over Howard’s one-dimensional character (predictably she sheds the power suit, becomes all doe-eyed at Pratt’s sweet talk and suddenly displays laudable maternal instincts and soft lady fluffiness) is entirely unwarranted.

“At one point Bryce’s character smoulderingly unbuttons her shirt (she's wearing a vest underneath) and ties it in a knot to show that she's ‘ready to face the wild’ but still keeps her high heels on,” says Steve Anderson, The Independent’s resident Jurassic Park superfan.

“And it takes all the men in the film to try and stop her from being really uptight.”

“Also, Chris Pratt – who is technically her employee – makes loads of innuendos when she comes to talk to him which he shouldn’t get away with.”

Trevorrow might insist that Claire is the "real protagonist" in the film and that the story openly "embraces her femininity" in its progression but something else that might be trickier to explain away is that all the dinosaurs in the film are female. Why?

Chris Pratt in Jurassic World
Chris Pratt in Jurassic World

Anderson jokingly suggests that the subtext to the Jurassic World (which should be subtitled Terrifying Female Dinosaurs film) is: “Girls, left to their own devices, will kill all men. They need controlling but equally they cannot be tamed. Try and cage a woman and she will eat your head.”

Expect feminist theory to be written on the significance of female sexuality and dinos before long. Critics might have called this the best dinosaur film since Steven Spielberg’s original but let’s hope any follow-ups leave the gender tropes firmly in the Jurassic era where they belong.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in