The Five Most Sexist Moments in “Jurassic World”

This ad for Jurassic World pretty much sums up the film’s male-female dynamic. 

This summer, Jurassic World shattered all financial expectations as it dominated domestic and worldwide box offices. The movie includes a lot of callbacks to the original Jurassic Park, existing in a timeline that seems to just ignore the unfortunate JP films that were made in between this iteration and the 1993 classic. In a lot of ways, Jurassic World is like the original: It’s set on Isla Nublar, two kids are our main protagonists, and silly humans who try to control nature get their rampaging comeuppance. But it’s different than the original in a major unfortunate way: It is jarringly sexist. 

Jurassic Park set a high standard, with the excellent Dr. Ellie Sattler at the center of the film and brother-sister duo Lex and Tim being equally competent and terrified at turns (remember when Lex saves the day by being a computer genius?).  I don’t ask all summer blockbusters to be as good as Jurassic Park—but it’s hard to be entertained by a film when it slaps you in the face with sexism. Not only does Jurassic World not give us a female character as competent and down-to-earth as Lex or Dr. Sattler, but the women it introduces are so poorly written that they yank you out of what’s otherwise an enjoyably escapist film. When the most relatable female character is literally a carnivorous dinosaur (go Blue!), you know the script is in trouble.

Here are the five moments from the film that made me roll my eyes the hardest. Spoilers ahead!  

1. Meet Claire, the Ice Queen

Jurassic World seemed to have some good-female-character promise because it focuses on Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) as a powerful boss lady. But sadly, everything we learn about Claire is revealed in the first five seconds we see her: she’s an ice queen trope. We know immediately that she’s powerful because she’s in a business outfit, high heels, very serious, and always on her cellphone. Instead of actually showing her personality, the movie gives us an aesthetic that conforms to a stereotype and calls it a day. It appears that Claire is a very competent numbers-oriented person—she runs the day-to-day financials for the park while the owners do… what exactly? Futz around demanding more mutant dinosaurs?  But every time in the film that Claire pipes up with an idea, a dude dismisses it immediately or starts talking over her. Hey mansplainers! This person you hired to run the park is trying to do her job! Stop prattling on about your helicopter and admonishing her for not having more fun and hear her out.   

2. The Baby Envy 

This brings us to the second problem with the way Claire is written: her baby envy. A crucial component of the ice queen trope is the idea that women who devote themselves to their careers can’t possibly be fulfilled because they don’t have children. Even if they deny it, these women must be secretly longing for children—their ovaries demand it.  Claire is shamed by her sister early on in the film, who wants to know “not if but when” she will finally have babies. Claire waves away the comment but later in the film, when she sees a baby, the camera lingers on her staring at the child. You can almost hear the writer whispering in this scene, “She stares at the baby longingly, secretly desiring to someday… someday… breed with the mighty Chris Prattasaurus.” 

Claire is also made fun of for being a non-mom during her interactions with Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson), her two nephews who come to visit Isla Nublar. She’s initially awkward with them, shuffling them off onto her assistant Zara (Katie McGrath). Later, when the shit hits the fan and the dinos run wild, Claire and raptor-whisperer Owen (Chris Pratt) save the kids from a close call. “Can we stay with you?” the kids ask. Claire is touched by their sweetness and says yes. “No, no, you!” the boys clamor, pointing at Owen. In Jurassic Park, Dr. Alan Grant didn’t like kids, either. But they liked him nonetheless and trusted him to be competent. That contrast gave the movie heart. Here, when Claire’s parenting skills are the butt of the joke, it felt more like the script is undermining her competence than poking good-hearted fun: Maybe if she’d been less into her job and more into being a mother, the kids wouldn’t be in this mess. Nice going, ice queen. 

3. The Post-Pterodactyl Kiss

Meet Owen, the Manliest Man Alive. 

The incompetence and coldness of Claire is a stark contrast to Owen. This odd couple pairing could work—but the portrayals are so unbalanced that it feels like she’s just a cold blanket to his funny, intelligent hero. In every scene where a decision needs to be made, Owen knows no wrong. When a fly is buzzing around Claire, Owen can slap it right out of the air. While Claire gets nervous even being in a helicopter, Owen rides a motorcycle neck-and-neck with velociraptors. Nothing scares Owen. Not even violent, man-eating dinosaurs, because he is a manly man. There’s certainly nothing wrong with Claire’s fear in the face of a potential death via dinosaur, but her fear is not used to create a sense of realism or to pull the audience in, it’s used to show how heroic Owen is. Throughout the film, Claire is mostly Owen’s foil. And, damn, he looks good by comparison. 

In one moment of the film, Owen is in need of rescuing from a pterodactyl. Claire saves him by shooting said flying reptile. We cheer, because Claire reversed the roles and saved him. However, this empowering moment is short-lived, and I mean very short-lived. After being saved, Owen rises to his feet and immediately kisses Claire as she’s preparing to say something. This move allows him to both assert and regain power and control. Claire is reduced to a blushing and embarrassed girl within seconds. Owen takes back his gun and retakes his role as the alpha of the group. 

4. Zara’s Randomly Violent Death

Foreshadowing!!

Claire’s assistant Zara is only in the film for a few scenes—she’s tasked with keeping track of the kids, but instead spends most of her time looking at her phone, and they run off. Later on, she reappears momentarily, right before she’s scooped up by a pterodactyl and viciously tossed around in the air, then in the water, before she and the pterodactyl are eaten by a gigantic water-dino. While most of the film is rather light on graphic violence, this is a truly horrifying scene, seeming purposely vicious because even the deaths of the worst men (those responsible for the death and chaos) die off-screen. 

It reads as randomly intense, because Zara hadn’t done anything in the film besides talk on her phone. She’s the first woman in the franchise to die on screen, which in some areas could be seen as progress, but it’s so drawn out and brutal that it feels like punishment. Like: You failed at babysitting, so you must die a grisly death. Goodbye, Zara! We hardly knew ye! 

5. In Conclusion, Let’s Talk About Heel-Gate…

Perhaps the most controversial part of Jurassic World is a small but significant detail: All over the web, people are criticizing the film for keeping Claire in high heels throughout its duration. In a story about dinosaurs, it’s hard to argue realism. But it seems strange that Claire couldn’t have tossed them off when she was running for her life through the muddy forest. In a notable scene toward the end of the film, she faces down a T-Rex and her heels are clearly in the foreground. 

In an interview with i09, director Colin Trevorrow discussed the footwear decision, in particular why Claire couldn’t have found some boots or flats to wear:

“I had that conversation with her so many times, and she insisted on wearing those heels. They meant something to her personally… She felt like surrendering the heels felt like surrendering the femininity of the character, even though women are — I don’t want to say forced to wear heels — but you’re expected to wear heels in certain environments.”

This makes heel-gate a bit more complicated. If Howard’s insistence on wearing the heels is true, does it help to criticize her choice? Just because Howard’s high heel love may seem reductive to others, it may be powerful to her. Sure, it’s admittedly ridiculous to run away from dinosaurs in footwear that’s better reserved for anything but running, but again, this is a movie about dinosaurs with spotty science at best. On the one hand, there is nothing on Earth more hard femme  than staring down a T-Rex in a killer set of high heels. On the other hand, because Claire’s character is so undeveloped, it feels like her clothes are her only personality. But because her clothes are absurd, given the situation, she seems absurd. In a better-written movie, heels could have been an awesome choice. In this one, they’re just silly. 

There is one female character in the film who fares pretty well: Behind-the-scenes park admin Vivian (played by the excellent Lauren Lapkus, of Orange is the New Black). In her several scenes, Vivian emerges as a genuine person—she’s both level-headed and scared out of her mind, she’s competent but not controlling. She’s funny! Basically, Vivian is the only female character who actually feels like a person and not a stereotype. Why couldn’t all the women in the movie be this good? 

Related Reading: In Praise of Jurassic Park’s Dr. Ellie Sattler. 

by Jayson Flores
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Jayson Flores is a freelance writer and the founder and editor of Gay on a Budget.

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27 Comments Have Been Posted

Thank you for writing this!

Thank you for writing this! These problems made a stupid but harmless movie into a really dis-heartening cultural experience.

The scene by Chris Pratt's trailer home really made his character out to be a chauvinist and took the shine right off Chris Pratt's goofy charm. Totally unnecessary.

Thank you for writing this!

Thank you for writing this! These problems made a stupid but harmless movie into a really dis-heartening cultural experience.

The scene by Chris Pratt's trailer home really made his character out to be a chauvinist and took the shine right off Chris Pratt's goofy charm. Totally unnecessary.

I was also surprised that

I was also surprised that there wasn't even the token "tough" woman character that is the norm in action movies these days (see Michelle Rodriquez). The "tomboy" military violence-obsessed woman who can be used to say, "see we have strong women characters who have agency".

Overall the whole script isn't just sexist but just plain dumb with no characters to root strongly for or against unlike Jurassic Park. I wouldn't care so much except that it is now one of the highest grossing films ever.

I was also surprised that

I was also surprised that there wasn't even the token "tough" woman character that is the norm in action movies these days (see Michelle Rodriquez). The "tomboy" military violence-obsessed woman who can be used to say, "see we have strong women characters who have agency".

Overall the whole script isn't just sexist but just plain dumb with no characters to root strongly for or against unlike Jurassic Park. I wouldn't care so much except that it is now one of the highest grossing films ever.

The heels

If I were Howard, and had read the script and saw all the shots of the shoes (I'm assuming they were written in), I'd sure as hell fight to wear them the whole time too. So many shots of the shoes, before even shots of her, that they seemed like more of the character than the character. It was all she had to hang onto.

The heels

If I were Howard, and had read the script and saw all the shots of the shoes (I'm assuming they were written in), I'd sure as hell fight to wear them the whole time too. So many shots of the shoes, before even shots of her, that they seemed like more of the character than the character. It was all she had to hang onto.

Now that I've seen the

Now that I've seen the film....yeah, you're not exactly wrong. Though the heels are the least of my problems. You nailed just about everything I saw wrong with the film. I admit, I was more invested with Claire besides the dinosaurs though. But that's only because I preferred her over the douche she hooked up with and really, so she's career focused, so what? It'd be one thing if her arc was not caring for dinosaur but suddenly cared as the I-Rex is on the loose more and more but all the other stuff just demonizes her, not cool.

Now that I've seen the

Now that I've seen the film....yeah, you're not exactly wrong. Though the heels are the least of my problems. You nailed just about everything I saw wrong with the film. I admit, I was more invested with Claire besides the dinosaurs though. But that's only because I preferred her over the douche she hooked up with and really, so she's career focused, so what? It'd be one thing if her arc was not caring for dinosaur but suddenly cared as the I-Rex is on the loose more and more but all the other stuff just demonizes her, not cool.

Great Critique *Minor Correction*

"Water Dino" = Mosasaurus = Aquatic Reptile

Great Critique *Minor Correction*

"Water Dino" = Mosasaurus = Aquatic Reptile

Ngh.

I'm all for feminist critiques of movies, but some if this was just ridiculous. We should be criticizing things that are actually problematic, not searching for things to be mad about. Ice Queen is an annoying trope, granted, but so many of these little things that this article nitpicks about comes off as more of an overreaction than anything.

Ngh.

I'm all for feminist critiques of movies, but some if this was just ridiculous. We should be criticizing things that are actually problematic, not searching for things to be mad about. Ice Queen is an annoying trope, granted, but so many of these little things that this article nitpicks about comes off as more of an overreaction than anything.

Good to know

Thank you for your analysis. Good to know about these films wheather they are misogynic or not. Save my money to another film. Have to check screenwriters and director so could avoid these womenhaters also in the future.

Hope you will sent this analysis also to film makers of this film!

Good to know

Thank you for your analysis. Good to know about these films wheather they are misogynic or not. Save my money to another film. Have to check screenwriters and director so could avoid these womenhaters also in the future.

Hope you will sent this analysis also to film makers of this film!

My one grievance about this

My one grievance about this are the heels thing. I don't personally wear heels and would definitely fall on my butt and die if I had to wear them in this kind of scenario... but have you ever actually tried to walk around in the forest without shoes on? It's not exactly more comfortable than wearing heels which, clearly, Claire was comfortable walking in as she wears them for her job every day.

The concept that wearing heels makes you somehow unfeminist plays into that whole bs mentality that if you're a feminist then you can't care about your looks or give into the beauty standards!! women who wear makeup and dresses and heels are ANTI-FEMINIST!!! and that kind of mentality is harmful to the movement more than it is patriarchy. If a woman chooses to wear these things, that's her choice (just as it was Claire's and her actress's choice).

Everything else in this article is top-notch, but ending this article on the "heel-gate" is just juvenile and borderline slut-shaming, because how DARE she wear heels when running for her life! Again: have you ever tried to run for your life barefoot? I assure you that if a T-Rex were running you down, you'd probably find a way to RUN LIKE CRAZY regardless of your wardrobe choices.

Also the idea that Vivian was somehow the most "real" of the female characters is laughable. Just because she fits the article writer's image of what a "real character" is doesn't make it true. She had two seconds of screentime, smiled awkwardly, reacted awkwardly to an almost-kiss, and then that was that. The true question: was she wearing heels?

My one grievance about this

My one grievance about this are the heels thing. I don't personally wear heels and would definitely fall on my butt and die if I had to wear them in this kind of scenario... but have you ever actually tried to walk around in the forest without shoes on? It's not exactly more comfortable than wearing heels which, clearly, Claire was comfortable walking in as she wears them for her job every day.

The concept that wearing heels makes you somehow unfeminist plays into that whole bs mentality that if you're a feminist then you can't care about your looks or give into the beauty standards!! women who wear makeup and dresses and heels are ANTI-FEMINIST!!! and that kind of mentality is harmful to the movement more than it is patriarchy. If a woman chooses to wear these things, that's <i>her</i> choice (just as it was Claire's and her actress's choice).

Everything else in this article is top-notch, but ending this article on the "heel-gate" is just juvenile and borderline slut-shaming, because how DARE she wear heels when running for her life! Again: have you ever tried to run for your life barefoot? I assure you that if a T-Rex were running you down, you'd probably find a way to RUN LIKE CRAZY regardless of your wardrobe choices.

Also the idea that Vivian was somehow the most "real" of the female characters is laughable. Just because she fits the article writer's image of what a "real character" is doesn't make it true. She had two seconds of screentime, smiled awkwardly, reacted awkwardly to an almost-kiss, and then that was that. The true question: was she wearing heels?

Yep, agreed. I had a lot of

Yep, agreed.

I had a lot of eye roll, holy sexist moments while watching this movie, but the heels were not involved. I was actually thinking that one of the ways they actually made that character a badass was by making sure she could run away from a dinosaur in heels. And not just run away, but haul ass in heels. It made me think of this badass feminist I knew who wanted to make sure she could do everything she would do normally in heels, including sprints and "self-defense", just in case.

Yep, agreed. I had a lot of

Yep, agreed.

I had a lot of eye roll, holy sexist moments while watching this movie, but the heels were not involved. I was actually thinking that one of the ways they actually made that character a badass was by making sure she could run away from a dinosaur in heels. And not just run away, but haul ass in heels. It made me think of this badass feminist I knew who wanted to make sure she could do everything she would do normally in heels, including sprints and "self-defense", just in case.

Claire and Zara

My problem with Claire and Zara was that they were such high level professionals but acted like morons or were treated like morons. We see Claire as a high level executive. She must have made many tough decisions and worked really hard to get to that position. So why does she second guess herself at nearly everything she does? Why does she seem so incompetent? Why does everyone shrug off her suggestions?

Same thing goes with Zara. You don't get to be an assistant to a huge executive by not paying attention to your charges. Especially an assistant to someone in charge of the most expensive and fascinating zoo/theme park in the world. I'm an assistant to a summer camp director and I feel like I pay more attention. I would have loved to have Zara's job. I feel like if she was that irresponsible she would have never gotten a job there. I was also really turned off by her unnecessarily violent death. From a scientific standpoint, a Pteranodon would not have the leg strength to pick up a human nor would it want to since its diet would mostly consist of fish. From a feminist standpoint, why did Zara need such a brutal death? Half of her screen time was devoted to her death. It just didn't sit well with me.

Claire and Zara

My problem with Claire and Zara was that they were such high level professionals but acted like morons or were treated like morons. We see Claire as a high level executive. She must have made many tough decisions and worked really hard to get to that position. So why does she second guess herself at nearly everything she does? Why does she seem so incompetent? Why does everyone shrug off her suggestions?

Same thing goes with Zara. You don't get to be an assistant to a huge executive by not paying attention to your charges. Especially an assistant to someone in charge of the most expensive and fascinating zoo/theme park in the world. I'm an assistant to a summer camp director and I feel like I pay more attention. I would have loved to have Zara's job. I feel like if she was that irresponsible she would have never gotten a job there. I was also really turned off by her unnecessarily violent death. From a scientific standpoint, a Pteranodon would not have the leg strength to pick up a human nor would it want to since its diet would mostly consist of fish. From a feminist standpoint, why did Zara need such a brutal death? Half of her screen time was devoted to her death. It just didn't sit well with me.

Hell in Heels

I appreciate how you framed your last critique, as I also think it's worth noting the "logic" behind keeping the heels. From a certain standpoint - as you point out - these shoes could have been a compelling affront to the default "warrior woman" image that crops up in action movies. Often, women who can kick ass in such movies are written as having higher priorities than their apparel; after all, the default "baddass" woman is based on the male definition of strength, and what action male hero cares about his clothes? Claire's aesthetic, then, could have challenged this nicely if it had been handled better, perhaps with the takeaway message that "women can run from dinos AND nurture a typically feminine attribute!"

The way that JW handles, this, however, does not also take into account the very nature of the movie, which at its bare bones is all about humans running - and running fast - away from dinos. The scenes that show Claire running are extremely distracting, not because you're worried about her being eaten (she's a main character, you know she'll be fine) but because you know that NO ONE can run very fast in heels, or at least not as fast as you can without them. These clips are laughable because you can easily see the rest of the characters slowing their stride so that they don't get too far ahead of Claire. Whereas the other films show the characters running as fast as possible, this film seems to suggest that high-heeled Claire is somehow movie just as fast as leather-booted Owen because...she's just that amazing? Sure. Okay.

I love the idea of Claire retaining her femininity, and if that's truly the overall message here then I appreciate the effort. But surely the bigwigs of Jurassic can suggest as such without also being unnecessary distracting. The audience members in my theater were literally laughing out loud when it showed Claire's shoes as she was running away from the t-rex. That's really not something you want to happen during your female protagonist's most climactic scene.

Hell in Heels

I appreciate how you framed your last critique, as I also think it's worth noting the "logic" behind keeping the heels. From a certain standpoint - as you point out - these shoes could have been a compelling affront to the default "warrior woman" image that crops up in action movies. Often, women who can kick ass in such movies are written as having higher priorities than their apparel; after all, the default "baddass" woman is based on the male definition of strength, and what action male hero cares about his clothes? Claire's aesthetic, then, could have challenged this nicely if it had been handled better, perhaps with the takeaway message that "women can run from dinos AND nurture a typically feminine attribute!"

The way that JW handles, this, however, does not also take into account the very nature of the movie, which at its bare bones is all about humans running - and running fast - away from dinos. The scenes that show Claire running are extremely distracting, not because you're worried about her being eaten (she's a main character, you know she'll be fine) but because you know that NO ONE can run very fast in heels, or at least not as fast as you can without them. These clips are laughable because you can easily see the rest of the characters slowing their stride so that they don't get too far ahead of Claire. Whereas the other films show the characters running as fast as possible, this film seems to suggest that high-heeled Claire is somehow movie just as fast as leather-booted Owen because...she's just that amazing? Sure. Okay.

I love the idea of Claire retaining her femininity, and if that's truly the overall message here then I appreciate the effort. But surely the bigwigs of Jurassic can suggest as such without also being unnecessary distracting. The audience members in my theater were literally laughing out loud when it showed Claire's shoes as she was running away from the t-rex. That's really not something you want to happen during your female protagonist's most climactic scene.

lol, the heels were a

lol, the heels were a laughing stock for me, and my husband after i pointed that out how stupid it was. When i see death in the eyes and can run away from it, i kick out the heels. It would be very empowering if she did too. Like that she didn't give a f@ck, gasp, how she looks like whwn shit goes down. And driving a motorcycle in the woods without hitting anything? To me the movie was a dissappointement. Sorry for my bad english (belgian)

lol, the heels were a

lol, the heels were a laughing stock for me, and my husband after i pointed that out how stupid it was. When i see death in the eyes and can run away from it, i kick out the heels. It would be very empowering if she did too. Like that she didn't give a f@ck, gasp, how she looks like whwn shit goes down. And driving a motorcycle in the woods without hitting anything? To me the movie was a dissappointement. Sorry for my bad english (belgian)

Great article!

Great article!

Great article!

Great article!

What about that teen

Why does no one mention what a gigantic scumbag that teenager was? He starts off with a girlfriend that loves him more than he cares about her and agressively hits on other women throughout the movie. I wanted to punch him in the face!

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