Of Dinosaurs and Dames: A Feminist’s Take on the Jurassic Park Franchise – Part 2

In my previous post, I talked about the women of the first three Jurassic Park movies and how they were written. Now this time, I’m going to focus on the heroine of the latest film, Jurassic World.

Her name is Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and she’s the operations manager of Jurassic World.

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She’s been the subject of much controversy, from her choice of footwear to the way she’s been “mommy shamed” by her sister (for lack of a better word). Even Joss Whedon got in on the criticism (the one that put him at odds with The Mary Sue). I’m not going to go into every detail about what made Claire so “problematic” (according to her critics) that would go into spoiler territory (and I’ve already posted a link in part 1). But I will talk about what makes her a great character.

The more I think about it, the more I realize Claire is actually a step up from the previous female characters of the last two films. And unlike Dr. Satler, who was a secondary character, the film mostly focuses on her and the way she runs her park.

 I like Claire. She’s professional, she’s hands on and she’s not afraid to face a challenge, even if it means leaving her comfort zone. This ranges from riding in a helicopter flown by someone whose just got their pilot’s license to trekking in the jungle with Owen to find her nephews. Unlike the other women, who were supporting characters, Claire is the main character of Jurassic World. The story is about her, how she runs her park and how she handles the chaos that erupts when the I. Rex breaks loose. She even saves Owen (Chris Pratt) at one point.

So why has the film garnered so much controversy for “shaming” Claire for not having children? Well there was that scene where she’s talking with her sister and the sister is chastising her for neglecting to spend time with them. Her sister says, “you’ll feel differently when you have children” to which Claire responds, “if I have children” and her sister insists “when you have children”. This, however, is a reflection of what pressure people get from their families when they don’t start one of their own. Heck, I’ve been pressured to get married by family and friends, even though I’ve stressed time and again that marriage wasn’t for me, I still get a “you might change your mind when you meet the right man” argument. A teacher once told me about an aunt she had who never married or had kids and how family would whisper among themselves, “what’s wrong with her?!” So basically this scene is simply art imitating life. What’s also ironic about this scene is that her sister is lecturing her about the joys of parenthood while she’s in the middle of getting a divorce (after all don’t kids need a father and a mother?) And she’s keeping the news from her sons by dumping them on Claire. This doesn’t score her Mother of the Year points.

If anything, the problem was Claire’s lack of maternal instinct towards her dinosaurs. She viewed them as nothing more than theme park commodities instead of living (dangerous) creatures with needs and feelings. Maybe if she had been more in touch with her nurturing side, she would’ve never created the I. Rex.

Speaking of I. Rex, I’ll end this post by asking all you Jurassic gals to be honest with yourselves: what impressed you most about the films, the humans or the dinosaurs? Were you impressed when the I. Rex tricked security by camouflaging herself? Did you spend most of your sleepovers engaged in T.Rex vs. Velociraptor debates? Did you ever pretend that you were the Spinosaurus and your little sister was the T. Rex so you could have an excuse to kick her butt? Did you imagine yourself as a Dilophosuarus when you pulled out the pepper spray on your would-be assailant as he tried to attack you? Did you feel sad when the I. Rex was defeated by being pulled in the sea by the Mosasaurus (I was)? And remember, all these dinosaurs were female and deadly, the most feminist aspect of the Jurassic Park franchise. So while I’m not offended with the way Claire was written, I was offended that Hasbro turned all the dinosaur toys male. No really.

Note: If you need further convincing of Claire’s awesomeness, here’s a link to an article on bustle.com.

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4 Comments

Filed under dinosaurs, feminism, Jurassic Park, Jurassic World

4 responses to “Of Dinosaurs and Dames: A Feminist’s Take on the Jurassic Park Franchise – Part 2

  1. As a male who considers himself a feminist (though, as that Mary Sue article pointed out, there are still widely varying ideas of what that even entails), it was Owen who made me more uncomfortable than Claire and even he has a lot of good moments.

    I think the problem is that people live in extremes. They either don’t see the problem or they see it when it’s not there. We need to have serious, rational discourse, but people in this country seem incapable of that these days.

    Oh, and equal rights all around. I still can’t fathom why that’s not a thing yet.

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    • Yes, even Colin Trevorrow didn’t understand why Universal released that scene first and he agreed with Whedon’s criticism. I think Claire handled it well by sticking to the purpose of her visit (another reason I like her, she’s focused on what needs to be done). Fortunately Owen never acted that way again. I wish femgeeks would have more two-sided conversations about female representation in sci-fi and fantasy because what may seem “sexist” to one woman is “liberating” to another.

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  2. [“Maybe if she had been more in touch with her nurturing side, she would’ve never created the I. Rex.”]

    Claire never created I.Rex. It was Dr. Henry Wu. It was Claire’s job to use I. Rex as a means to attract new sponsors for the park.

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    • Thank you for the correction. While Claire was not directly involved in the creation of the I.Rex, she could’ve expressed disapproval in its creation, whether privately or publicly. But because she saw the dinosaurs as “merchandise” instead of life forms, she didn’t bother to ponder the ethics behind cloning a new species of dinosaur.

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