Jurassic Park still stands as one of Steven Spielberg’s most visually stunning films. Since 2015, Jurassic World and its sequels have attempted to recapture the magic, which they’ve largely done if you’re judging them by the quality and quantity of dinosaurs seen on screen.
While the giant monsters were always going to be a crowd-pleaser, the characters were another story. In particular, one character — or, more accurately, an aspect of Bryce Dallas Howard’s character — drew a bit of ire when the first Jurassic World film premiered. But was this criticism really warranted? Howard doesn’t think so.
One seemingly silly aspect of ‘Jurassic World’ received a lot of criticism
During the first Jurassic World film, viewers and critics identified a particular aspect of Howard’s character, Claire, that the movie wanted us to focus on: her shoes. Specifically, she wears a pair of heels throughout the entire film — even in situations like trudging through jungle terrain or running from a T-rex.
As one might imagine, this seemingly strange decision was immediately remarked upon. Plenty of people quickly pointed out how impractical it would be to continue wearing shoes like this during all of these dangerous events.
The movie itself draws attention to them, with several shots pointed directly at the characters’ feet. Chris Pratt’s Owen even makes a joke about this at one point. Claire responds by removing her jacket rather than her shoes and continuing on for the rest of the movie.
Bryce Dallas Howard defended her character’s wardrobe choice on several occasions
While it was hardly the movie’s biggest sin, Claire’s decision to wear the heels when most characters or real-life people wouldn’t did cause a bit of a stir. Why, then, would the filmmakers make such a point of including this in the movie if they likely predicted the backlash?
Turns out, it was Howard all along. In a Daily Beast interview, the actress explained why she wanted this character detail. She explained, “For me, the heels were a metaphor.”
She saw the heels as emblematic of femininity. And Howard viewed Claire’s active refusal to remove them as a refusal to have to become less feminine in order to survive dangerous situations. “The thing that would have been considered the biggest handicap for her ultimately ends up being her strength.”
Howard went on to discuss how her perspective on this was informed by her reading of feminist theory, particularly her issues with some early ideas within the movement.
“There was this idea with my parents’ generation that in order to find equality, a woman would need to behave like a man.” It’s a succinct summarization of the overcorrection that could happen at times. The choice to break away from stereotypes was taken to mean that rejecting all things associated with traditional femininity was paramount to women’s liberation.
‘Jurassic World’ heels conversation raises a lot of good points about choice and presentation
While some may not be convinced by Howard’s explanation, it’s undeniable that it opened the door to an interesting conversation. The trend she’s highlighting of women in action-focused films needing to defeminize in order to be taken seriously is certainly pervasive. Examples range from Aliens to Kill Bill to Pirates of the Caribbean.
Conversely, there are just as many examples of the inverse, with female characters portrayed as capable and badass, but designed or acted in such a way as to transparently appeal to the male gaze. If nothing else, Howard herself is a conclusive example that neither of these has to be the definitive take given how hard she’s worked during filming, and all while still in heels.
Impractical as the heels may be in a realistic setting (but what’s realism matter to a movie about non-feathered dinosaurs eating people?), they do seem like a fair compromise between both camps. What’s more, it’s possible people wouldn’t have even thought twice about them if they weren’t highlighted so much.
After all, characters like Wonder Woman run around in heels while smashing through waves of gun-toting strongmen, but there’s barely a comment most of the time. Why are heels passively accepted in some situations as just something female characters should have, but rejected if they’re actually acknowledged within the text?
The heels, along with Howard’s commentary and defense of the decision, have also brought up questions about why certain media still seems to feel the need to force its female characters into specific molds.
Essentially, why do so many things feel like people will only take their women seriously if they reject elements of their character associated with femininity? It’s a question many have asked before and no doubt will continue to ask in the future as the third film draws nearer.