A Feminist Defense of Claire Dearing in ‘Jurassic World’

[Spoilers Ahead]

Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World seems to have issues with its female characters. First off, there’s a weird insistence that Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the highly career-motivated operations manager of the film’s titular dinosaur theme park, could solve all of the problems in her personal life by giving in to the urges of her biological clock and mounting Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), the park’s dashing Velociraptor trainer. There’s a conspicuous absence of women of color in both leading and supporting roles. And the film takes an almost pornographic glee in giving Howard’s female assistant such an over-the-top death that it would shock an 80s slasher villain. But the internet, in all of its infinite wisdom, has bravely focused on the true feminist issue in the film: Howard’s choice of highheeled footwear.


Yes, Bryce Dallas Howard spends all of Jurassic World wearing high-heeled shoes. Yes, it seems absurd that anyone would willingly choose to keep their heels on while being pursued by building-sized prehistoric hell-beasts. But I do hope that the internet realizes that they are literally reducing the most complex and interesting character in the entire film to her choice of fashion accessory.

Here’s the thing: despite all of the film’s problems with women, Claire Dearing is a feminist character. Oh, I could go on a multi-page rant about how high-heeled shoes were invented and originally worn by Persian horsemen in the 15th and 16th centuries and how, if anything, Howard is reclaiming them as the footwear of choice for proactive heroes and heroines. But that won’t do because I doubt Trevorrow or Howard were very interested in 500-year-old Near Eastern fashion trends.


Claire Dearing is a feminist creation because she is a complex, three-dimensional woman with a powerful character arc. To begin with, Claire is wholly defined as a character with her own motivations and desires well before Grady is introduced: she is a workaholic, a perfectionist, and a control freak. She has emotionally distanced herself from the realities of keeping and maintaining a park full of living dinosaurs, but not because she’s a “frigid bitch”; it’s because her job is easier to do if she views the dinosaurs as “numbers on a spreadsheet.” Combine this with the fact that the park is owned by an eccentric billionaire who couldn’t care less about the day-to-day demands of operating a theme park filled with extinct, potentially lethal lizards, and you have the perfect explanation for why Claire is the way she is: she is the de facto ruler of the park, destined to have a fraction of the salary and credit that she deserves. Emotionally distancing herself is a survival mechanism that affords her her sanity.

Her journey to save her two nephews after the Indominus rex breaks loose is one of rediscovering her own humanity. Her and Owen’s discovery of the slaughtered Apatosaurus herd marks the film’s emotional high-point and the apex of her character arc, as she literally comes face-to-face with the realities of life and death on the island. From that point on she becomes equally as proactive Owen. And curiously, most commenters and reviewers seem to have missed the fact that by the end of the film, Owen and Claire switch roles as Damsel-in-Distress and Knight-in-Shining-Armor. When Indominus “becomes the new alpha” and gains control over the Velociraptor pack, Owen is essentially neutered as an action hero. Eventually, he ends up squeezing next to Claire’s nephews as they desperately hide from Indominus and the Velociraptors. It is Claire who figures out that the only chance they have of defeating Indominus is adding a new figure into the equation—one with more teeth. She frees and baits the park’s Tyrannosaurus rex, leading it to the rampaging dinosaurs and tricking it into fighting them.


In this moment, all of her character “flaws” from the first half of the film become her greatest strengths. If she hadn’t been an obsessively focused administrator she wouldn’t have remembered that the Tyrannosaurus rex was close enough nearby to be a possible asset. If she hadn’t been highly, almost neurotically intelligent she wouldn’t have known that the Tyrannosaurus rex would instinctively challenge and fight Indominus upon contact. If she hadn’t been headstrong, she wouldn’t have dared confront one of the park’s most dangerous creatures when all the men could do was cower in fear.

And, hey, she did it all in heels, too.

Nathanael Hood is a 27 year old film critic currently based out of South Florida with a passion for all things cinematic. He graduated from New York University - Tisch with a degree in Film Studies. He is currently a writer for the Turkish Journal of American Studies, TopTenz.net, and his personal film blog http://forgottenclassicsofyesteryear.blogspot.com/. You can contact him via email at nathanael@theyoungfolks.com. Follow him on Twitter: @natehood257 and Tumblr: filmsfoodandfandom.tumblr.com
  • RiftWitch

    Even if you discount the all-female dinosaur cast as characters – which is an absolutely terrible perspective, and you shouldn’t do it – Claire is still definitely the most important human character, being *at worst* half of the human story. Starlord is definitely a close second, but Claire had the biggest story arc, the most growth, and ended up doing the single coolest thing any human in the series had ever done.

    The lack of women of color is definitely something to consider, but ‘Jurassic World’ is absolutely a feminist piece.

    • Nathanael Hood

      I couldn’t agree more.
      The tagline for this movie should have been: “Women: Getting Sh!t Done Since 67 Million BC.”

    • sdrake

      ALL people are people of color. White is a color, too.

      Claire is the most important character? Excuse me, but her male counterpart was the one with the brains that saved so many people. He had to teach Claire to get off her high horse.

  • Fernosaur

    I know the way Claire’s assitant dies is very horrible, but at the same time, it’s also a big step forward for the franchise in a perhaps twisted way. This is because it’s the first time a female character has ever been killed in a Jurassic Park movie. In the first, Genaro gets eaten alive in a horrible fashion, Samuel L. Jackson is mutilated and only one of his arms remains, and Muldoon gets his face literally ripped off by a raptor. In Lost World, Eddie gets torn in half by the two rexes in one of the most gruesome deaths, and in JP III, the way Udeski dies is also pretty horrifying, since the raptors leave him paraplegic (or something) to use him as bait and then snap his neck. I know violence against women is terrible, but in a series such as Jurassic Park, the fact that women had never been harmed significantly in a movie seemed like a weird act of reverse sexism. As if they had to be protected by the plot in order to stay alive. The way Zara dies in JW is horrible as well, but it’s, in a way, one of the reasons I too consider JW to be a feminist film when you put it in contrast to the other movies. It’s saying “Yes, women get shit done, and they can be eaten too. Everyone is in for the ride in this park.”

    • Ryan

      A good defense, but may I offer my own. I saw this on another blog and I kinda feel like elaborating on it. The thing about slasher movies is… well… everyone is open season. Do women die a lot in those movies? Yes, but in the most popular ones both sexes are targets. Look at the body count in Elm Street’s first outing. Most of the kills are in fact boys. This isn’t so much as to make the murderers equal opportunity slashers, but also because of another thing: Violence knows no gender. Violence is cruel, violence is brutal, and nature is inherently violent. The flying reptiles didn’t attack Zara because she was a woman, they attacked her because she was food. Did she did in a horrible brutal way? Yes, but being eaten alive isn’t meant to be pleasant. Nature is unforgiving and it will kill you without mercy. We didn’t mind watching a lawyer be brutally torn apart on camera did we?

      Besides, we didn’t really see much of Zara’s death, only that she was swallowed whole. It’s not like we watched the Mosasaurus bash her against a tree seven times before pulling off her head and swallowing the corpse. Women have been killed in far worse ways in other films, this one was just more vicious to us because it happened over a more prolonged period of nature being what it is, very cruel.

      Look at the killer whales hunting for food and you’ll see how they could’ve made this way worse. Those bastards play with baby seals before they eat them and like bashing them off ice flows with successive waves. You want horrible? They could’ve done something like that.

      So yes, women shouldn’t be immune to being killed in a movie, least of all in a giant monster film. But more importantly it’s more about nature in JW’s case, that nature doesn’t give a flying F who you are and it isn’t funny or cute. We laughed at the lawyer because it was a target who we felt deserved his fate. We were supposed to cringe at what happened to Zara because nature didn’t care about her honest efforts to look after children for her boss. It just saw her as meat, and that’s all we are in the eyes of the world… meat. We best remember that when we decide to abuse nature and consider ourselves its master.