Laura Dern wants to return to the Jurassic series and we desperately need her back. Audiences had eagerly awaited Jurassic World for 22 years, it smashed box office records and we were prepared to delve back into the world of kickass women, well-rounded characters and terrifying dinosaurs.
However, we were met with lazy writing and stereotypes. Joss Whedon said on seeing a trailer “I’m too busy wishing this clip wasn’t ‘70s era sexist. She’s stiff, he’s a life-force really? Still?”.
With Princess Leia and Ellen Ripley paving the way for strong female characters to emerge in sci-fi, Jurassic Parks Ellie Sattler took that torch and carried it high in the ‘90s.
Ellie was smart, a paleobotanist, an equal to her male peers - Dr Alan Grant isn’t some superhero who saves the day and mansplains things to Ellie, they are of equal merit. She bats away the ‘rockstar’ Ian Malcolm, “dinosaurs eat man, woman inherits the earth.” And it is Ellie who must go alone to turn on the park's power, Hammond implying he should go as he’s a man, “We can discuss 'sexism in survival situations' when I get back.” Ellie quips.
Seems that Ellie should have had that discussion with the Jurassic World writers. One look at the character of Claire and you can see she’s a stereotype, sharp suit, high heels, resting bitch face and that’s all you need to and will know about her.
Like Ellie, she too is smart and successful, she’s a workaholic, devoted entirely to her job - Park’s Operations Manager, but she’s given little else in terms of a personality, she is literally a suit and heels. She doesn’t know the age of her nephews and has chosen her career over having children and being close to her family, which is made out as the be all and end all of being a woman.
Claire’s character arc is supposedly meant to be her softening and wanting a family, she is shown to look longingly at a mother hugging her child. But ultimately, no one cares, she’s such a 2D character that it’s hardly of interest what her arc is.
Similarly, in Jurassic Park, Alan is shown to dislike kids but he is warm and educational, the kids want to be around him. With Claire, her nephews even say they want to be left with the male hero Owen and not her. She’s got no survival or maternal instincts she will be of no help in this dangerous situation, she’s a woman, she’s of no use here.
The other women in Jurassic World are treated with equal contempt. Claire’s assistant is distracted and Claire’s nephews go missing, she is then given a brutal death, the most memorable thing about her character. But again, she’s not given enough of a personality for the audience to feel sad that she has been killed in such a way.
Contrast this to Jurassic Park’s other female character of Lex. She’s a computer whizz, “I prefer to be called a hacker”, and like Ellie saves the day by going into the computer system and getting the door locks connected. She’s rarely shown to whine or be a stereotypical teenage girl. She’s smart, distracting the raptors in the kitchen scene, and caring, a doting sister to Tim.
We had faith in Jurassic Park’s women that they could do the job, they are written as tough and resourceful but Claire is given none of these traits, always seeking the men’s assistance “I need your help”, “What do we do now?” she can only succeed when Owen shows her what to do.
One of the main points of discussion, when the film came out, was that Claire ran around the jungle in heels. Rather than reading this as a badass feminist move like the famous quote “Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels” it’s simply impractical.
The writers couldn’t give up her heels as they are her personality, she’d rather run about it them than do a better job at surviving. At one point she unbuttons her shirt and ties it at the bottom, showing Owen that she was ready to go, but hey writers, character progression ain’t tying your shirt Ellie style and realising you want children after following a hunk around the jungle for an hour.
Here’s hoping that Jurassic World 2 fleshes out these characters a bit more, it’s fine to be a straight-up boss bitch, you don’t need to want to have kids or fall in love with the hero, just any smidge of a personality is all that’s needed. It’s poor writing using easy stereotypes and that goes for the heroic, rugged male hero too.
The feminists, now in their 30s, can give thanks to the likes of Ripley and Ellie that shaped their ideas but what about the girls watching Jurassic World?
42% of the audience for Jurassic World were women and 50% of all attendees were under 25.
Are they going to take away from these films that you have to choose kids or careers? That you have to always listen to the man as he knows what to do? It will be great for the franchise to bring back Ellie but it would have been greater for Claire to be written as a rounded human and not a stiff, defined by her shoes and womb.
“I feel so proud to have been in what has become this iconic blockbuster, and have a feminist female in the middle of it. She’s the real deal: Kickass goes on her own to get the power back on, fights off dinosaurs. She’s not taking the boys’ BS.” Laura Dern