Thursday, June 25, 2015

Jurassic World Accused of Promoting Mommyhood (and other things)

Sometimes the feminists get it right, sometimes they just like to crap on things, and sometimes they do both at the same time.  Molly Fitzpatrick makes great points about how much more feminist the movie Jurassic Park is than Jurassic World, but sometimes her argument falls a little short.

Jurassic World does not offer a well-rounded, capable female character for us to look up to in Claire Dearing.  The mucho macho Owen Grady rescues her on multiple occasions, which struck me as nothing new in a movie culture that loves the knight in shining armor.  However, Claire’s arc is hardly about, as Fitzpatrick describes it, being taught "the importance of motherhood."

True, when Claire says "if I have kids," her sister Karen changes it to "when," as if motherhood will come whether Claire likes it or not.  Is it annoying to women who don't want families, myself included, if people assume that we want kids or that we're good with them because of our gender?  Oh yeah.  But we shouldn't base all of our interpretation of Claire on one piece of dialogue.

Fitzpatrick discusses how Alan Grant’s "discovery of his fondness for children is joyful,” while "Claire's is colored with shame and anxiety."  Grant doesn’t have children with Ellie Sattler, or anyone else, after the events of Jurassic Park.  Even though he did start to like Hammond's grandchildren, he apparently didn't consider it a path to actual fatherhood.  Meanwhile, Claire becomes protective of her nephews when she realizes how much danger they're in.  Is that really mothering?  Claire doesn't know her nephews' ages, and she hardly speaks to Karen.  Because of her workaholic tendencies, she's not just disconnected from children, but from her family in general.  Is she supposed to learn how to be a mom?  How about she learns to be an aunt or a sister?  I think that's closer to what the movie was aiming for, especially since Claire gives no indication that she wants her own kids at the end of the movie.  All she does at the end is run off with a hot guy.  What character growth!

Claire also doesn’t get to play the hero like Owen.  Fitzpatrick rightfully points out the unfairness of her nephews saying, "We want to stay with him" even though they just saw Claire take out a Pteranodon.  However, Fitzpatrick becomes unfair herself when she asserts that Claire's "genuinely heroic moment" of summoning the T. rex is "swiftly undercut by the fact that she must then flee from the animal in her heels."  Honestly, what did she expect Claire to do?  Punch the dinosaur in the face?  When you call out a T. rex, even if it's purposeful, you run for your life.  Truthfully, Fitzpatrick should commend Claire for running in her heels.

Wanting a female character to kick ass with no questions asked is one thing.  However, expecting her to do the impossible or to show no weakness is another.  That's expecting her to be a super-woman.  Headlining women are in short order among movies, especially blockbusters, but we must take care not to heap all of our hopes and dreams for feminism onto a single character.  Feminists besides Fitzpatrick have unfortunately done that to plenty of female characters that overall are pretty fantastic but aren't absolutely perfect.

When I first came out of the movie theater, I thought that, while nowhere near Jurassic Park's excellence, Jurassic World had some cool mythology, awesome dinosaurs, and, let's face it, eye candy that made it entertaining and enjoyable.  Then people like Fitzpatrick pointed out all its anti-feminist ways.  I never considered it feminist, but I still felt guilty for not catching the more minute misogynies throughout the film.  How dare I even call myself a feminist when I can't uncover all the ways a movie reinforces sexism and shout "Down with the patriarchy!"?  I'm only partially kidding.

Lately I've wondered what feminism is supposed to be about.  As I pursue my bachelor's degree in a highly liberal college environment, I've learned a lot of the words and ways to criticize society for oppressing women and other groups of people.  To be honest, I've heard less (not none, but less) about actual things to do about it.  Which is easier: typing away about how much this author or that director mistreated a female character, or getting involved in grassroots organizations that work for women's rights?  Perhaps one can do both, but as feminist lingo runs around my head, I can't help but think I haven't done much besides the former option.  I wonder how many people like me are out there, saying all the right things and receiving all the appropriate praise and yet feeling a distinctive lack in their convictions.  Do we just say feminism, or do we do feminism?  The answer may not be as easy as we hope.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe, feminist writers like you need to take the lead in writing great female characters. Who are the writers and directors that you do admire and how can you start walking that path?