By now everyone knows that Jurassic World is a huge summer hit, but I’d like to take a moment to share my two cents on a tiny, brilliant, apparently polarizing part of the film: Bryce Dallas Howard (as Claire) runs her ass off in a pair of high heels for half the film. It is amazing.
There has been quite a lot of media attention paid to this wardrobe choice. Most commentators seem to be fixated on how it would be impossible to run on the park’s terrain in high heels. This is a ridiculous argument–it’s a movie about genetically engineering dinosaurs and housing them in a theme park as tourist attractions. Disbelief has already been suspended to an incredible degree, so why quibble over some shoes? Why not just see Claire own her wardrobe choices, watch her run away from dinosaurs in them and believe she can do it? Frankly, I dig it.
I confess that the initial scene where Owen (Chris Pratt) gives Claire a hard time about her outfit when they’re out in the park looking for her nephews made me cringe a little. The scene is trite, clichéd and makes Claire look naive as well as silly as she rolls up her sleeves and ties up her blouse. But then the film, from director Colin Trevorrow, turns the uptight, “girly girl” cliché on its head as Claire proceeds to show just how badass and ready to kick ass she is in her supposedly insensible heels. Never once does she trip or hurt herself because of her shoes and Howard runs all out.
Claire sadly isn’t a three-dimensional character but neither are any of the other characters: they’re all props in service of the spectacles and thrills. Nevertheless, Claire does everything Owen does except she does it in high heels and a skirt. This may be a small, seemingly inconsequential part of the film, but its simplicity speaks volumes. Jurassic World is by no means a feminist film*, but those heels are another kind of small step toward better and more varied portrayals of women in film because they’re not used as a gimmick or to further a stereotype but are instead used to uproot that stereotype.
Sometimes the small things are more important than the obvious because they’re indicative of the changing perceptions of women in society: when the type-A, high-powered, prudish female stereotype kicks just as much ass in an action movie as the alpha male hero stereotype AND it’s portrayed as natural, not out of the ordinary or extraordinary, then there’s hope that societal constructs of femininity and gender roles are shifting. The fact that this occurred in a high-profile, mega blockbuster is all the better for how many people have seen and will see it and be influenced, either unconsciously or directly, which I think is a victory, no matter how small, for challenging and breaking down those constructs.
In addition, most of the comments I’ve read disparaging the shoes focus on the environment the character is in, not whether Howard is physically capable of the feat. I count this as a win.
Brava, Bryce Dallas Howard. Work it.
(Now if only she wasn’t the only substantial female presence in the movie… I did say it was a small step, right?)
*As far as I’m concerned, Jurassic World has no agenda other than pure entertainment–it’s not smart enough for that. But it sure is a fun watch.