my whole body is like… healthy range weight proportion and then probably 40 lbs of fat congregates on my midriff I’m not even exaggerating… it’s like causing me posture problems and my doctor won’t even entertain that I have PCOS even tho I have every single symptom… he’s just like well maybe it’s PCO-…actually Nah! U have high testosterone bc you’re overweight! couldn’t be part of the reason why u are to begin w!
When I saw Jurassic World for the first time last night, a sneaking suspicion rose in me. Through a set of random circumstances, I happened to see it again tonight with a different friend, and my suspicions were confirmed upon a careful second viewing.
This movie is quietly, subtly, unostentatiously feminist. It’s true that there aren’t a wealth of female characters (not counting the dinosaurs) but the film finds a way to sneak it in (there aren’t actually a lot of major human characters, period - but the film also includes a pretty healthy proportion of POC among them). I know there are critiques to be made, but after two viewings, this was the impression I was left with.
First, the low-hanging fruit. It passes the Bechdel test, several times over. But going further, at no point do any women discuss men at all, except if they’re talking to a man about himself, which is a valid time for discussion on that topic, I think.
Second, the movie gets some mileage out of men being ridiculous. Teenage Zach is poked fun of for his habit of staring slack-jawed at pretty teen girls at every opportunity. As for those teen girls? Are they given the usual portrayal as giggly and silly? They are not. They smile back but are obviously a bit “Whatever, dude, you’re cute and all but I got dinosaurs to see.” Near the film’s climax Lowery tries to go in for the dramatic parting kiss, but is delightfully shot down. Why didn’t his crush ever talk about her boyfriend? “Duh, I’m at work,” is her response. She is a professional, leaving her personal life out of the workplace, while he is living out rom-com fantasies in his own head. Those boys, so emotional, you just can’t trust them with the really important stuff, amirite? They might fall in love with you and be all distracting!
Third, let’s talk about Claire Dearing. She is obviously a thirtysomething woman in a very demanding job. In most movies this would be something that’d be addressed or become a point of conflict or at least attack by less likeable characters, but not here. At no point is her gender (or her age) referenced when other characters deal with her in this capacity. You could swap out her character for a fifty year old man and you wouldn’t have to change a word of dialogue (except when referring to the heels, more on that later). Her gender is that much of a non-issue. At no point does any character, even the villainous ones, use a gendered slur with her or call her by an infantilizing gendered name (like “sweetie” or “honey.”) Her gender is never once used as a way for another character to tear her down.
And if you thought she was a damsel in distress…watch it again. She is never, at any point, rescued by anyone. She is absolutely in distress, yes, but no more so than everybody else being pursued by dinosaurs. At no time does she ever require direct rescuing (apart from the general situation of “dinosaurs on the loose, we all need to be rescued somehow”). In fact, the one and only time she and Owen kiss, it’s after he’s swept off his feet by her rescuing him. There are practically little cartoon hearts in his eyes when she helps him off the ground. At the end of the movie, when the shit is really going down, Owen is pretty much entirely ineffectual and is relegated to the typically-female role of “hunker down with the kids and try not to die” while it’s Claire who goes to free the T. Rex.
Okay, now for Claire and Owen. First, right off the bat they’re doing a little trope subversion. Claire is the buttoned-down, by-the-book administrator who doesn’t appreciate the wonder of the world, a role that would typically be assigned to a man, while Owen is the brother-nature respect-the-living-creatures raptor whisperer. He is practically a Manic Pixie Dream Boy, here to teach Claire about the beauty of dinosaurs and respect for life and miracles, or something. I won’t venture an opinion about whether he teachers her the beauty of his ass in those pants.
Speaking of, this movie is full of female gaze. Bryce Dallas Howard’s assets are never really highlighted. There are no lingering shots of her chest, no up-angle views of her ass or cleavage. She’s not wearing a whole lot for some of the movie, but the camera never lingers on her in a sexualizing way. Her skirt gets torn almost up to her hip but you hardly notice because there are no shots that emphasize it. Pratt, on the other hand, is practically being caressed. In their first scene together when he’s prowling around his bungalow in a tight henley, the camera is constantly following him, sliding up and down his body. People in the theater were actually chuckling a little at how blatant it was. Meanwhile in that same scene, she’s got a boxy blazer over her shoulders to hide her as much as possible.
Which leads me to the most-discussed point of feminist critique of this movie: those heels. In case you’re reading this having not seen the movie, she begins the film in business attire including heels, and stays in them the entire film, because the shit goes down fast and there’s no time for wardrobe changes.
I am convinced that this is on purpose. I now believe that this is the filmmakers’ deliberate elbow-jab at the trope of turning women in action movies into rippling combat-boot-clad badasses, which should not be required for a woman in an action film to be useful and be a participant. It’s like that old saying about Ginger Rogers - she did everything Fred Astaire did but backwards and in heels. Claire does everything Owen does, but she does it in heels. And it’s never used to make her into a joke with her silly girl shoes. She never minces around in her heels like she’s afraid of getting them dirty, from the first time she’s outside normal heel-wearing environments she’s striding around in those heels as if they give her no pause at all. She never trips or goes down or lags behind - most of the time she’s running faster than Owen is. It’s even made a joke of once - as they race out of the old visitor’s center, he pauses and turns back to help her down the stairs in her heels but she blows right past him, running full out. I became convinced that this was intentional at the point when she’s leading the T. Rex out of her paddock and into battle, flare in hand, and there’s a shot of her feet, outrunning a dinosaur…in those heels. She didn’t have time to change, or seek out better footwear. Finding her nephews was more important, so girlfriend did what she had to do, heels or not.
Because you don’t have to be Ellen Ripley to pull your weight in an action film. You don’t have to suit up like Sarah Connor or be hard as nails. You can have emotion, you can scream because omg velociraptor, you can be wearing clothes that were fine for business meetings but not so great for jungle escapades, and you can lack extensive knowledge of modern weaponry - but you can still try, you can still run, you can still fight and you can still save everybody, including the former Navy man who needs to just stay down and make sure that fine ass doesn’t incur any damages.
And you can do it all wearing heels, because shit, sister, not everybody keeps a spare pair of Nikes in their purse. Now get off that island, make the company get you a suite at a posh hotel, throw Owen down on a bed and show him how much you’ve come to appreciate the beauty of natural things.