Monday, June 29, 2015

What Happened to the Women of Jurassic Park?

When I was in grade school I was enamored with science. While I did have my share of Barbies, I also had a super-special rock and fossil collection carefully stashed in the garage inside a cardboard box (hidden from the world since the gems were surely worth millions). I was glued to every Bill Nye the Science Guy episode and anytime we visited Seattle I begged for a visit to the famous Pacific Science Center.

I don't remember the first time I learned about dinosaurs as they had quite a name for themselves in my childhood. Movies like The Land Before Time and We're Back were all the rage. But it wasn't until I saw Jurassic Park that I think I really believed they could be real. The blockbuster film released when I was only five years old and I'm sure it took me another three years to actually see it (and probably still without my parent's permission). I don't remember feeling afraid while I watched it or suffering from weeks of bad dreams afterward. What I do remember is the following days and weeks, spending hours in my backyard, hands and knees in the dirt, sweeping it with a household paintbrush.

I was searching for dinosaur bones.

Whether I believed what I was doing was real or if dinosaurs really existed at all, I don't know. But that didn't stop me from daydreaming all day about being a scientist, checking out every dinosaur book in the library, and discovering the histories of earth's past.

Last weekend, after several months of great anticipation, I settled into my seat to finally enjoy Jurassic World. In a crowded theater I cheered, screamed and laughed along with everyone else (Jimmy Buffet grabbing his margarita before running from dino-death FTW), but for me something seemed to be missing. Where was all of the great educational information built into the plot? And what in the world was up with the female characters?

Besides Chris Pratt's character being a little bit too 1980s Harrison Ford for me (give me my Andy Dwyer!) I thought his character of Owen was the only thing keeping us connected to the great nature of these prehistoric beasts. Also, if you are going to be sliding through nearly closed doors, Chris, you might as well have a hat like Indy.

As for the ladies, I wonder why 22 years later Hollywood felt the need to suddenly put these Jurassic heroines in healsBryce Dallas Howard's character of Claire just crumbled in comparison to strong characters like Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) in the previous films. Female characters who weren't the least bit afraid to be armpit deep in Triceratops dung or to carry a screaming baby T-Rex into a trailer for surgery. I was also disappointed with the details of Claire being childless, career focused and uninterested in romance being so focused on, especially so negatively. These were completely unimportant plot pieces to play on for previous Jurassic women, so why now?

Laura Dern, Jurassic Park 1993
Julianne Moore, The Lost World: Jurassic Park 1997
Again, while I really enjoyed the film, maybe you noticed these differences too. If there are to be sequels in the future, which I hope there are, I put my vote in for a larger focus on the dinos, the science we know about them, and how about at least one bomb-ass female lead with a cinematic focus on the sharpness of her mind, not her heals.

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