‘World’ under fire over sexism claims
Critics are taking issue with the dino-action film and what they see as retrograde scenes.
“Jurassic World” may have had a record-setting box office opening, but claims of sexism are chasing after this movie like a giant T. rex. For a film that intentionally surrounds itself with scads of glorious female dinosaurs, many accuse director Colin Trevorrow’s “Jurassic” of having surprisingly little idea what to do with a human woman.
A lot of the fingers point at the film’s depiction of leading lady Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the no-nonsense corporate head and manager of the movie’s titular dinosaur park. Even though she’s a woman in charge of a multibillion-dollar company, film critics, culture writers and even major movie directors seem frustrated with how “Jurassic World” handles her incompetence, her childlessness and her high heels.
Director Joss Whedon struck the first blow before “Jurassic World’s” premiere, commenting on Twitter that the first, dialogue-heavy clip between Claire and Indiana Jones-esque raptor wrangler Owen (Pratt) was “70’s era sexist.” (Whedon later told Variety he regretted the statement and deleted his Twitter account, though not over this matter.)
We asked Trevorrow what he thought of Whedon’s comments, and the director responded that the retro feel was exactly what he was attempting to channel, but for future character development.
“He was seeing the beginning of a slow deconstruction of those archetypes,” Trevorrow said. “All I could feel was, ‘Look, yes, it’s designed to be this way.’ I don’t feel that we need to surrender a woman’s femininity in order for her to be a badass action hero. That was something I was interested in. I feel like I’ve seen a lot of women who are made to look very masculine and tough — and that’s awesome too. But this felt like someplace I could go that might actually be new in how retro it is. So we embraced it.”
But not everyone embraced this idea. The Daily Beast’s Marlow Stern wrote that “Jurassic World” was “about a woman’s ‘evolution’ from an icy-cold, selfish corporate shill into a considerate wife and mother.” Vulture’s Jada Yuan said, “There is no feminism to be found in the ‘Jurassic World’s’ genetic code.” And Kelly Lawler from USA Today labeled the movie “aggressively sexist” and dubbed Claire one of the main (though likely unintentional) villains in the film.
Should “Jurassic World” be more aware of the pressures women are held to in society? Is that really something directors such as Trevorrow need to consider, especially when their motive is an admitted attempt to hijack the very stereotypes people are complaining about? We broke down the biggest concerns and surveyed various critics. Here’s what we found. (Warning, spoilers ahead.)
For a boss at a huge corporation, Claire commands remarkably little respect. Other characters are pretty keen to tell Claire to lighten up, correct her, or just make her look like a joyless drone. Claire’s an icy contrast to Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), the playful billionaire theme park owner (the new John Hammond).
But nothing compares with the lashing Claire takes for being a bad surrogate mother to her nephews (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins), who are flown in for a few days of fun.
Claire’s refusal to prioritize family time is a big deal, Guardian U.S. film critic Jordan Hoffman told The Times via email: “When Claire’s sister [Judy Greer] basically says, ‘When you become a mother, you’ll understand,’ and Claire’s response is to look guilty, it’s pretty damning. As if women who do not reproduce are incapable of being good hosts to visiting relatives. I know, ‘If you choose to become a caretaker, perhaps your attitude toward work versus family may alter over time,’ doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but that’s why these folks get the big bucks, right?”
When the action kicks in, Claire gets her whites dirty, literally. However, she’s consistently robbed of character victory moments. She gallantly saves Owen from an attacking f lock of f lying dinos, but the moment flips from a scene of personal glory to a pause for romance when Owen rewards Claire’s valor with a kiss.
“I keep thinking about the scene where Claire beats up the pteranodon that is attacking Chris Pratt’s Owen after witnessing that the two kids want to hang out with Owen, not Claire,” said Birth.Movies.Death film critic Devin Faraci via email. “It’s like the kids are speaking for the filmmaker — no matter how cool Claire gets, Owen is always cooler because he’s a tough man.”
Not all critics are down on the film. Slate writer Gabrielle Moss wrote in defense of Claire’s hotly discussed high heels. Instead of seeing them as an unnecessary shackle of femininity, Moss said the heels are an off beat and interesting decision in a film, “largely dedicated to propping up old-school action movie tropes.... In the end, the heels aren’t a symbol of the values that made Claire weak; they’re a symbol that she isn’t going to have to change every single classically ‘feminine’ thing about herself in order to redeemed.”
LA Weekly chief film critic Amy Nicholson has a differing opinion about “Shoegate.”
“In last summer’s ‘Lucy,’ Luc Besson had Scarlett Johansson choose to wear impractical stilettos and a mini-dress to a gun fight — and she was supposed to be the smartest woman in the world,” Nicholson said over email. “Clearly, that was a male director caring more if his female character looked sexy than made sense. Where were the outraged think pieces about that? ‘Jurassic World’ is less offensive because Bryce Dallas Howard’s character is just stuck wearing the professional outfit she wore to work. It’s not ‘Jurassic World’s’ job to battle society’s sartorial pressure. ‘ Jurassic World’ has the bad luck of stumbling right after ‘Mad Max’ showed us what a real female hero looks like.”
One thing is certain: “Jurassic World” offered a seemingly competent female lead. The park was running smoothly for years, after all. Whether or not to cheer on Claire as she bests the beasts of the prehistoric age is up to the audience.
and Bryce Dallas Howard dive into action in “Jurassic World.”