Jurassic World has so far been a fairly polarizing movie. While the film has broken records and found massive success at the box office, many people have criticized the plot of Jurassic World for being sexist. Even reputable director Joss Whedon scolded Jurassic World for centering around two predictable, stock characters Hollywood has used many times before.
“I’m too busy wishing this clip wasn’t 70’s era sexist,” Whedon wrote. “She’s a stiff, he’s a life-force – really? Still?”
Many others took to the internet to label Jurassic World a “sexist mess,” such as Marlow Stern from the Daily Beast. Stern breaks down the implications of the two main characters, Owen Grady and Claire Dearing–Owen as the manly, confident “life-force” and Claire as the “stiff” and unfeeling career woman. As Jurassic World progresses, the eminent danger of escaped dinosaurs forces Claire to shed her career-obsessed persona and resort to the basic instincts of survival and protection–namely, protecting the nephews she previously neglected in order to fulfill her work duties. Marlow Stern cites this change in Claire’s character as an example of the blatant sexism in Jurassic World. The events of the plot teach Claire to abandon her career goals for the sake of motherhood (protecting the children) and shack up with a man (Owen).
While this is a decent interpretation of Jurassic World, I think it’s unfair to label the entire film sexist simply because it falls victim to a formulaic plot. As an outspoken feminist myself, I would say it’s irrational to expect every single new film to follow the rigid guidelines of a newly-molded feminist zeitgeist, simply for the sake of perpetuating feminism. While I do believe many movies exhibit sexist undertones, I don’t believe every single new story that comes out of Hollywood is obligated to frame its characters progressively.
Slamming Jurassic World with a negative review simply because Claire Dearing was not a gender-defying, free spirit without any flaws is unreasonable. As important as feminism is, we can not allow it to make certain character traits off-limits to writers. To suggest Jurassic World was at fault for using familiar stereotypes is fine, it’s guilty of that. But it’s not an issue of sexism–it’s an issue of Hollywood resorting to the same story structures that have worked in the past. Jurassic World is cliche at worst, not sexist.
Is gender equality so important to us now that a huge percentage of potential film plots are no longer suitable for public viewing? Any story that involves a man in charge–throw it out! Any story where a woman aspires to be a mother or a wife–get it out of here! I find these plots as annoying as the next person, but we can’t universally forbid movies like Jurassic World from using them. It’s not sexist, it’s just an arrangement of traditional gender roles that we’re all tired of seeing. Should characters like Jurassic World’s Claire Dearing become extinct simply because they contradict the lifestyles of more progressive women? I say no.
People are diverse. Some men are wise, handsome raptor trainers who ooze sexual confidence; but some are effeminate, introverted, nurturing caretakers who defy traditional masculinity. Similarly, some women embrace traditional female roles, and others reject it. Some women are weak, some are strong. Some want to be mothers, some abhor the idea. Expecting Hollywood to eliminate all flawed protagonists who exhibit traditional female attributes is to ignore a substantial portion of the population. It’s ignoring the complexity of women and men for the sake of proving a point, and that’s silly. Writers are free to create any characters they want, smart or stupid, weak or strong, predictable or wild, of any race, sex or creed they please. And writers like those responsible for Jurassic World shouldn’t be called sexist for writing some more traditional characters every now and then.
That said, I too would love to see more scripts with strong female characters depicted as equals to their male counterparts (as is the case in Jurassic Park and the Lost World), but it’s simply unrealistic to expect every Hollywood movie like Jurassic World to do that. Especially since it’s nowhere near representative of the real population.
Also, the implicit sexism that many like Stern have found in Jurassic World is not even necessarily accurate. Claiming that Claire is accepting a traditional role as a mother and wife simply by falling for Owen at the end of the film and deciding to protect her nephews is a huge logical leap. As Cloture Club suggests, the audience has absolutely no reason to believe that by prioritizing the lives of two young boys over her job, Claire is accepting her fate as some kind of mother, shackled to a family life. Who’s to say she doesn’t move on from Jurassic World to be the operations manager of some other park? Who’s to say she doesn’t simply date Owen casually without getting married?
John Hammond goes through a nearly identical character arc in the first Jurassic Park film. Like Claire, he starts off obsessive over his park, protecting its reputation and maintaining the operations at any cost. By the end of the film he realizes the lives of his grandchildren and guests are far more important and resigns to the fact that Jurassic Park will never be. Neither of these changes in character suggest that Hammond or Dearing are no longer ambitious, career-oriented people. They’ve just forfeited their allegiance to the park for the sake of human life. That’s all.
There are plenty of other films being made that shatter gender norms, like Divergent or The Edge of Tomorrow. Jurassic World is just one side of the coin–even if it’s the side we’re tired of seeing. Hollywood is heading in the right direction with female-driven movies like Pitch Perfect 2. Jurassic World is just an example of Hollywood treading water.
Others say Jurassic World actually supports the feminist cause. What do you think? Is Jurassic World sexist or not?
[Image credit: Universal]