by Camela Thompson
I was thirteen when Jurassic Park came out and it blew my mind. The dinosaurs were terrifying and lifelike. When I saw the previews for Jurassic World, I jumped at the chance to go with my friends. I wanted to bask in the nostalgic glow of raptors eating people. The premise was a little absurd--who would open a theme park after the first attempt failed on every level--but I was willing to overlook a lot in terms of logic and science. What I wasn’t expecting were the frustrating writing choices for the female lead in the movie. I couldn’t help the disappointment I felt as I walked out of the theater.
When I first drafted this post, the frustration sang through. I articulated this in a conversation with my brother and was presented with an opportunity to approach this piece a different way. My brother was immediately irritated with my impassioned plea for change and viewed it as a fringe opinion because of my tone. His eye rolling demonstrated my need to take the emotion out of the argument and frame a logical critique with suggestions for improvement. Challenge accepted, bro.
The hiring process for the chief position in a park that houses dangerous dinosaurs would involve an evaluation of risk management capabilities. This is especially true when the first park failed epically and a subsequent attempt on the mainland also failed. Someone as interested in park statistics as Claire would also understand how long it would take to get so many guests to comply with initial safety protocol. Poor attitudes and compliance were realistically illustrated when the relocation was finally ordered. Where I take an issue with the writing is that Claire didn’t even argue with the man who hired her to run the park. If she had insisted on initiating safety protocol, she would have realistically represented the position she had been hired to do, and there still would have been more than adequate time for carnage. No gore or film time would be compromised.
A stereotype illustrated repeatedly for female executives is the barren ice queen: A woman who foregoes nurturing a family in order to climb the corporate ladder and embrace her inner control freak. Claire was no exception and the trope was embraced with enthusiasm. She didn’t know her nephews’ ages, delegated the responsibility of watching them to an assistant with zero qualifications, and printed up an itinerary for a date with the rebellious alpha dino-wrangler. Even when she was presented with a field of slain herbivores, her last articulated thought was concern for her nephews. There is nothing wrong with electing to not have children (it’s the decision I made), and we’re still human. A reasonable response would be check-ins with the kids at the hint of an issue, and a level of elevated concern once she discovers the nephews are missing and the ultimate predator is killing for sport. Just because we don’t have children doesn’t mean we don’t love our family.
As an executive, it is imperative to learn how to effectively delegate. A successful business leader knows their weaknesses and how to balance them out with strong employees. Since Claire is running a multi-billion dollar operation, I will make the leap that she was successful prior to being hired. Arguing with the behavioral expert because of personal friction during a major emergency was grating. Instead of yelling everything short of, “You’re not the boss of me!” have Claire display frustration at her inability to fix the situation. It’s potentially amusing, but the motivation is a function of the situation and not her inability to defer to an expert. Also, sexual tension was understandable, but pausing to make out during a pterodactyl attack was asinine.
The final point I will harp on is minor next to the others, but I found it grating because it was easily avoidable. Especially in a city like Seattle with a lot of hills, women tend to wear functional shoes and switch them out at the office. Even those of us who drive usually wear flats and switch to heels in the parking lot. In New York, where people are more fashion forward, women carry their heels in their bags and wear cute flats on public transit. A woman who has spent considerable time running a park and walking on heavy gravel would have functional shoes instead of risking ankle fractures. Cars and bags would be a great place to store these flats. I will admit I was impressed by how fast she ran in the heels. I wouldn’t have thought it possible.
I wanted to love this movie. There were a lot of things I enjoyed. The dinosaurs (!!!), the youngest brother’s enthusiasm, and Jake Johnson’s character was wonderful among other things. Please don’t misinterpret the critique of the writing as criticism of the acting. Bryce Dallas Howard did a great job with what she was given. It wasn’t just Claire I took issue with--tropes were relied upon with multiple male characters.
If I could change one thing, I would ask that the writers spend time developing depth in their main characters. As it was, the impression was that the writers believed the audience needed nothing more than special effects. Intelligent decisions are more complicated to execute, but that extra attention may have made the movie something really special.
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.