I remember exactly the moment I found love with Laura Dern. She was bursting in to a caravan, calling Richard Attenborough a jerk and Sam Neil said this is “Dr – “ and she didn’t let him finish, wanted to own her own blustering introduction, so she said “Sattler” and it sounded like shut up and tell me why I should listen to you when I’m so busy and smart. I fell fast after that, lowdown.
In 1993 I was ten years old and Jurassic Park thrilled me. There were parts that were so intense for my primary-school-brain that I purposely dropped Cadbury Eclairs wrappers so I could take a moment to look away from the screen and pick up shit from the cinema floor. It’s on ITV2 all the time but still whenever I watch it I’m enthralled. And since seeing the travesty that is Jurassic World it’s even clearer to me what a stunning badass Ellie Sattler is because Claire Dearing (played by Dallas Bryce Howard) is not.
One step forward, twenty-two steps back
Jurassic World takes us back to Isla Nubar and we find dino-tourism flourishing. It’s like being at Sea World and no can see the Black Fish-ing that’s about to happen despite the place being made of cardboard and the kind of glass that goes on top of clip frames that cracks when you sneeze in its direction. Where are the health and safety guidelines people? Plus security is seemingly run by a group of pacifists with spud guns. And guess who’s come a knocking on those famous face-lifted gates? It’s only the bloody armed forces with a diabolical plan.
The ‘let’s militarise dinosaurs’ plot is particularly barmy because I’m pretty sure that a couple of big guns could kill a dinosaur, so what use is that? Plus hippos/lions/wild dogs/baboons/whatever are probably as fast/strong/aggressive, so why not use them? Oh that’s right. Because it’d be STUPID.
No one says ‘charge!’ in combat anymore unless they need to plug in their iPhone so under what scenario do they imagine using Raptors in modern defence? Sniffing at the dark web or flying a drone with their stubby little dino-arms? This is just one of the ways that Jurassic World is seriously regressed despite being set twenty-two years after the original.
Women and work place attire
Claire Dearing is Jurassic World Theme Park operations manager so I completely understand why she’s dressed the way she is (business-cas, buttoned-up). Ellie Sattler is a paleobotanist going to a jungle island animal reserve near Costa Rica so it makes sense why she’s dressed the way she is too (boots, shorts and shirt). Both women find themselves out of their element in a threatening environment and Claire even acknowledges this.
Roll up your sleeves Claire, because cuffs can really get in the way when you’re trying to dodge a flock of pterosaurs.
What doesn’t make any sense at all is walking through the jungle in high heels, outrunning a T. rex in high heels, driving a van in high heels or avoiding Indominus rex attacks in high heels. Let’s be clear here, I wear heels sometimes because they make me feel good. I like being tall, I like the length of my legs, I like bright coloured cool-looking leather and solid wedges. If you know why you’re wearing the things you’re wearing then wear whatever you want if it makes you feel good. But let’s not deny the physical realities of high heels. They hurt sometimes. They sink in mud. Athletes don’t run the 100m in them for a reason. They skid about on smooth surfaces like pedestrianised walkways and tiled museum flooring. And if Claire Dearing truly is a manager there’s no way she doesn’t have a pair of trainers under her desk, along with a bag of trail mix in a drawer with her emergency glasses for when she forgets her lens solution. So the only reason she has heels on throughout the entire film is because we’re supposed to care more about how she looks than what she does. What’s weird about this is that no one comments on it. Ellie Sattler is constantly calling out sexism in Jurassic Park.
But Claire is defined by her job; she runs a huge, incredibly successful theme park, she’s super busy and she knows her shit so when she ties her shirt at the waist to trudge through the jungle that’s her going to WORK to salvage a PR disaster. Those clothes represent what she knows and what she’s good at. So what seems way worse than making her go through this ordeal in high heels is the pervasive idea that this job isn’t her calling, kids are.
Don’t let a good uterus go to waste
Claire has a strange kind of story arc considering she has no serious partner/works 60 hour weeks/has expressed no interest in children. She starts off as a preoccupied aunty to her two nephews but through fear of loss and fortitude finds the maternal strength from within to save these two children blah blah blah BLEURGH. For this character, in this role, in this film, this is such a simplistic narrative based entirely around stereotypical gender-expectations and it’s just plain boring.
Jurassic Park’s Alan Grant had a similar storyline, grumpy man doesn’t get why he should care about kids, but his arc was much more nuanced because the plot of JP dealt adeptly with much bigger scientific and philosophical problems with each character experiencing a certain amount of negotiation of their core beliefs. (Editor’s note: Also, in JP3, Alan Grant hasn’t birthed any kids – instead, him and Ellie have split up, and she’s had a family with someone else. His core beliefs, though thawed, are not changed completely by DINO FEAR. Will the same be said for Claire in the JW sequels? Guessing not, like.)
I would contend that had Claire focused on managing the park’s evacuation and the hunt for the escaped mutant rex then perhaps disaster might have been averted. That would have made for a dull as shit film of course because there’d be no conflict. Claire is basically JW’s Gennaro (the lawyer from JP), thinking of the economy of the island and its inhabitants before concerning herself with any of its moral and ethical dilemmas. But she isn’t allowed to scrutinise this thinking because some dingbat kids get involved. Wouldn’t her story have been way more interesting had she been given the space and depth to consider what this park was and what it was doing? If she was challenged to explore this hyper-real eco-intervention contending with the constructed rather than passively letting Chris Pratt take charge how might her perspective have changed? I’m pretty sure she would have at least taken her shoes off.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Laura Tansley’s creative and critical writing has been published in a variety of places including Short Fiction in Theory and Practice, The Island Review (with Jon Owen), Kenyon Review Online (with Micaela Maftei), New Writing Scotland and is forthcoming in NANO Fiction. C.J. Cregg is her TV inspiration, Jonathan Ames’ insecurity is her reality.