In case anyone has forgotten, over twenty-two years ago Steven Spielberg made a feminist summer blockbuster where a badass, khaki-short-wearing female paleobotanist and a teenage girl who’s a wiz at computers helped some men get off an island that had been run amuck by rogue dinosaur clones. That is the actual plot of Jurassic Park, let’s all be on the same page.
This is a franchise that was founded on strong, capable female role models with moral character, who were willing to take risks, put up a fight, and brush off any notions of inferiority or fragility. Park founder John Hammond’s granddaughter Lex is just a child, but even under extreme duress (like, oh, being trapped in a kitchen with two velociraptors?) prioritizes her younger brother’s safety by sacrificing her own. That’s bold as hell. The defining characteristic of any kid that’s in a main cast is “daughter/son of ___,” or some variation thereof, which is what makes Lex such a full-bodied character. She has interests! Plural! She has values that she believes in that aren’t being treated mockingly. Not only is she not a “damsel” in distress, but she’s also not just a kid that waits around to get saved. She can do this herself.
‘Clever girl’ indeed!
Then there’s Dr. Ellie Sattler, or Queen Sattler, as I like to call her. Unfortunately Ellie is on the receiving end of some sort of sexist remark or trope more than once throughout the movie. Fellow expert Dr. Ian Malcom isn’t subtle with his advances towards her, with the movie even toying with the idea of a love triangle emerging between her, Malcom, and Dr. Alan Grant (her actual partner), but the thing is is that Ellie is not the type to let that sort of stuff slide. Any time any sort of romantic pursuit is suggested, she puts the topic to bed before it has a chance to go anywhere. Yes, it’s known that she & Grant are an item but this in no way takes any bearing on the narrative, other than character-building. She combats any stereotyping that may reveal itself, such as during one crucial scene where Ellie volunteers to traverse the dangerous terrain of the unquarantined park in order to access the circuit breakers that’ll reboot the park’s system. Before she leaves, she’s stopped into having this conversation:
HAMMOND: It ought to be me really going.
HAMMOND: Well, I’m a…and you’re, uhm, a…
SATTLER: Look, we can discuss sexism in survival situations when I get back.
She hardly has time to express disgust at this archaic mode of thinking before she gets back on task with, I don’t know, saving everyone on the island. Ellie’s fighting raptors with a kick-punch, meanwhile Jeff Goldblum is struggling with the buttons on his shirt or something.
This side of Ellie is what makes Jurassic Park the gem that it is and this is precisely what Jurassic World seemingly is not taking heed of. There’s no one out there that wants this new movie to prove me wrong more than myself, but criticisms like Joss Whedon’s that Jurassic World appear to be “70’s-era sexist” might have some validity to it, or at least with what we know so far. In the first clip released to the public, Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt‘s characters discuss some sort of security measurements that need to be taken care of at the park, but the entirety of the clip was more a showcase for how much innuendo could be packed into one-minute and thirty-four seconds. Pratt’s Owen Grady is kind of like a Earth-bound Star-Lord, who intimidates Howard’s character, Claire Dearing, by being sexually suggestive (aggressive even?), pokes fun at her for being frigid (“What kind of diet doesn’t allow tequila?!”), all while doing manly things, like working on his motorcycle. Dearing is even dressed head-to-toe in white, literally a symbol for innocence & purity; this could not be more straightforward. Guy likes to get down and dirty and have fun! Girl is all business with not a spot of elbow grease on her! You can see where the concern is coming from.
It is absolutely plausible that this scene may be an outlier in the final product. Who knows? We sure as hell won’t until the movie hits theaters June 12th. What’s more disappointing is that of all properties to have a “woman problem,” Jurassic Park has never been it. I find it very unlikely that Ellie Sattler would tolerate this border-line workplace harassment that’s on display in this clip. The most of a rebuttal we see comes when Grady lewdly asks, “do you want to consult here or…in my bungalow?” Dearing responds with a smile: “that’s not funny,” more as if it was playful banter and not a highly inappropriate comment to make towards your superior. This isn’t endearing. This is the character who I’m supposed to be assured will save the day? The guy who cracks an “ASS-sets” joke? Really? Sexism isn’t a attractive quality and to have it go unchecked is less so. The fact of the matter is Ellie would absolutely call you out and shut you up in two seconds flat. There’s a stark difference in how Jurassic Park tackles gender as opposed to what’s being depicted in this clip. Let’s hope it’s not indicative of the direction the whole movie takes.
What are your biggest hopes for Jurassic World? What your favorite moments in the series as a whole? Let us know in the comments!