The Jurassic Park and Jurassic World series of films have long featured iconic female characters.
Laura Dern’s Dr Ellie Sattler from the 1993 original has been lauded as “a female heroine unlike any other”. Julianne Moore’s Dr Sarah Harding from 1997’s The Lost World was equally as competent and compelling.
Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing in Jurassic World (2015) initially provoked different reactions, critiqued for wearing in heels while deep in the jungle.
But we think these heels – and the rest of her outfits – are actually one of the most interesting things about Dearing, neatly tracking her character arc across the three films.
When audiences first meet Dearing she is presented with two major characteristics: she is a bad aunt, and she is in charge of major components of the dinosaur theme park’s operations.
Dearing ignores calls from her sister to schedule a visit to the park by her nephews, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins), and then palms the boys off to her assistant.
Meanwhile, she is entertaining park investors, leading them on a rapid-fire tour of lab facilities while pitching the introduction of a new attraction.
Over the course of Jurassic World and its sequel Fallen Kingdom (2018), Dearing went on to become an action star. The soon-to-be-released Jurassic World: Dominion promises more of the same.
A boss in heels
The first shot of Dearing in Jurassic World pans up her body – heels, a white skirt, a neat shirt – as she arrives for a meeting with the three investors, repeating her speaking notes in a detached tone.
In the following shots, Dearing commands the space and attention of both the investors and the camera. She rattles off facts about the park’s turnover and coming attractions.
This is a woman in charge.
Throughout the film, Dearing largely remains in charge of responding to the chaos unfolding as the fearsome Indominus rex escapes. She commands the park’s staff, makes the decision to shut down and evacuate all guests and, eventually, to release the Tyrannosaurus rex in a bid to combat the Indominus.
The white suit that Dearing wears when introduced in Jurassic World becomes increasingly dishevelled as the film’s dinosaurs make their presence felt and her role moves from office to jungle.
In a somewhat comedic scene, she makes a point of altering her clothing to a form more “acceptable” to raptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) – tying her shirt off and rolling up her sleeves before he will allow her to help find her lost nephews.
But those heels remain.
They feature as Dearing, no longer in a white business shirt and instead wearing an improbably clean lavender tank top, lures the Tyrannosaurus to confront the Indominus.
This is the outfit Dearing wears as she closes out the film, now with a few carefully placed scraps of dirt and dust from the action that has unfolded around her, as she reunites with her sister, nephews … and Owen Grady.
No longer the white-clad businesswoman, Dearing is now more in tune with her family and the people around her, having reckoned with the dangers of nature.
The making of an action star
In Fallen Kingdom, Dearing has established the Dinosaur Protection Group, a charity devoted to protecting the creatures at the centre of the Jurassic films.
In this role she is managing staff, running lobbying efforts, and directing missions to capture and transport dinosaurs in the face of pending doom for their island home.
Early shots of Dearing in Fallen Kingdom also have her in heels.
Howard insists the choice was hers, telling USA Today:
It was originally written for me to wear sneakers. And I was like, ‘No, no, no, no. I am going to wear heels.’
In revisiting the heels, the character (and actor) claims typically feminine traits, even as she transitions more into the action hero role.
As the film develops, Dearing leads an expedition to the island to save its dinosaurs despite the dangers. Here, she wears a jungle-green shirt and tank top with a khaki jacket and boots.
Still later, Dearing dons a heavy gun designed to lure the new hybrid dinosaur – the Indoraptor – and helps Grady lead the creature to its death.
Dearing’s clothing in the sequel is more suited to the running, jumping, driving and shooting role than the white business suit from Jurassic World. She is no longer the uptight business woman; she is now a saviour.
This evolution appears set to continue in Dominion.
She appears jumping across rooftops and crawling through the jungle in a green shirt and versatile pants while pursued by dinosaurs new to this film.
Jurassic World: Dominion features multiple strong female characters. Laura Dern’s Dr Ellie Sattler returns, joined by teenager Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) and pilot Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise).
We no longer have one woman in heels. As Dearing sheds her unsuitable footwear and is joined by a team of women, the films finally show us female action stars can be featured for what their bodies can do – rather than what they look like.
Also published on Medium.