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Bechdel Blockbusters: Female Representation In ‘Jurassic World’

Bechdel Blockbusters: Female Representation In 'Jurassic World'

For one very mighty reason, “Jurassic World” has been the most anticipated cinematic event of the season. Unlike the other action-packed extravaganzas that came before it — box-office-obliterating “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Furious 7″ — this fourth, unpunctual installment of the “Jurassic Park” series that Steven Spielberg brought to life a prehistoric 22 years ago has some severe cases of nostalgia as its selling point. The dino tale (which was directed by Colin Trevorrow, the filmmaker behind indie “Safety Not Guaranteed”), struggled to make its way through the birth canal in 2004 before suffering a decade of development hell to eventually wind up, for better or worse, on screens before us today. Modern movie theaters are no strangers to franchise reboots and sequels popping up sooner than the previous film’s credits can finish rolling, but there was a lot more riding on the outcome of a series so beloved, and initially successful, as this one was.

So it goes without saying that, riding on the triceratops tail of the former trilogy, whether “Jurassic World” aligns with gargantuan expectations is purely subjective. But then, in this glossy expansion of the wildlife park that presents it as something of a postmodern Sea World, on what frontier does the movie update itself to approach gender equality? Let’s take a look at the Bechdel test’s criteria on the next page.

1. The movie has to have at least two women in it.

The fossil-fueled sci-fi’s one true hero isn’t all so defined, and many would vouch for Chris Pratt’s beefcake Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady — and I mean, he is the incontestable knight in shining armour who several times over handsomely saves the day. But I’m more apt to say that workaholic park manager Claire Dearing, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, is our real protagonist. She’s no tenacious Ellie Sattler, and she may be the cause of the story’s plight because her hubristic mind oversaw the creation of the havoc-wreaking Indominus Rex, yet it is through her perspective that we learn the moral lesson. 

And for femme number two? Well, there’s Katie McGrath playing Zara, Claire’s British personal assistant who doesn’t get up to much besides failing at caring for the boys and getting swept off her feet by a vicious pteranodon before being swallowed by the humongous sea monster thing… so that’s a no-go. In slightly better form, comp technician Vivian — played by Lauren Lapkus of “Orange is the New Black” — possesses a distinct personality, appears to be a pro at her job, and even provides some comedic relief when she turns down a colleague who has the hots for her. 

Two women? Check.

2. who talk to each other,

In very brief spurts that are hardly integral to the movie at large, sure…

Check?

3. about something besides a man.

This is where “Jurassic World” has its colossal landslide. Of those aforementioned rare occasions that don’t really contribute shit to the direction the storyline is headed in — the rest, if my memory doesn’t betray, are procedural check-ins by Claire on her assistant and control room subordinate, ordering them either to take better care of her nephews or deal with the disaster at hand — a short phone conversation encapsulates our diagnosis of this film’s male-mindedness. 

Karen, played by Judy Greer, the mom of the siblings whose visit to Jurassic World launches the entire adventure, calls her sister Claire with a mother’s worry that her sons aren’t having the time of their lives. When she hears they aren’t seeing much of their busybody aunt and being deprived of the family vacation that had been arranged, she breaks down in tears and tells Claire that maybe she’ll understand one day, too, if she ever has kids of her own. This closing comment is essentially the closest two women come to speaking about anything that doesn’t blatantly have to do with men. 

So something besides a man? Nope.

But hold on. Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire does, in fact, already have a daughter of her own — and like mother like daughter, is the reason for all the commotion. She was genetically designed to be a dangerous spectacle to draw in crowds and investors who’d grown tired of the old dinos, christened ‘Indonimus Rex’ and raised in isolation in a remote corner of the island theme park in a way that sorrowfully calls “Blackfish” to mind. And, for the most part, it’s all Bryce Dallas Howard’s wicked doing. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian even lightly suggested that given the reptiles’ genders, the movie’s completely in the clear as far as Bechdel is concerned. 

The final verdict? 

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian lightly suggested that given the reptiles’ genders, the movie is completely in the clear. While the jungle thick of Jurassic World may ultimately be overtaken by female dinosaurs once humanity flees, in the world of cinematic representation it doesn’t make our Bechdel cut. 

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