We need to talk about Bryce Dallas Howard’s high heels in ‘Jurassic World’
ICYMI, Jurassic World is finally in theaters. The reboot of the classic Jurassic Park has everything a 2015 dino-centric blockbuster needs: Chris Pratt running a raptor squad, a park preternaturally lush and utopian (until disaster hits), and all kinds of running in the mud as giant dinosaurs wreak havoc. But despite all that, do you know where most viewers’ eyes gravitate? To Bryce Dallas Howard’s high heeled shoes.
Howard plays Claire Dearing, the operations manager of the dino-themed park Jurassic World, and no matter what action-packed sequence the movie throws her way, Claire faces each potentially deadly scenario all while wearing a pair of nude pumps. The businesswoman-turned-heroine wears heels for the entire movie, even when running for her life.
It doesn’t take much insight into the film to see why putting the main female character in perma pumps is problematic and unrealistic at best, and straight up sexist at worst. Let’s be honest, if threatened by a dinosaur bent on eating you, chances are you’d ditch the heels pretty fast and just go barefoot if you couldn’t hit up a Foot Locker en route to safety. Not Claire though, Claire keeps that chic, sophisticated, understated pair of heels on from the film’s beginning to end.
So what’s going on here? Is it part of the age old argument that women have to look vixen-worthy at all times on screen? Was an outfit change just not part of the budget? Or could Claire’s heels exist harmoniously within her role as a strong woman here to save the day?
The backlash over the heels was swift. Over at The Dissolve, a piece on the footwear argued that if the filmmakers were making some sort of a meta joke with the footwear, they didn’t go far enough: “The film’s script utilizes Claire’s wardrobe to tell a part of its story—and to make a joke—but it doesn’t go all the way with it. In this one tiny but maddening detail, Jurassic World sets itself up to fail.”
Cast members from the film have poked fun of the heels (both in the film and out) suggesting that they were an intentional, pointed, and comical choice. During the movie at one point Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) asks Claire if she’s going to change. She makes a few adjustments to her outfit but the heels stay firmly on. Outside of the film, Pratt mocked the shoes as well by running in heels (a la Claire) on the Late Late Show.
Howard, for her part, has dealt with the whole heel controversy in a pretty straightforward way. She told Variety, “At the beginning I was kind of against the idea of wearing them, but then one day while looking at the terrain prior to a shoot, I just looked at [director] Colin [Trevorrow] and said, ‘I think I’ll keep the shoes on.’” She elaborated to the Daily Beast, “I just believe that she’s one of those women who say they walk so much better in heels.” This is also a character who happens to be wearing a white dress in the jungle, so perhaps heels make sense for Claire Dearing.
Others are taking the heel-wearing a step further, and rather than seeing the heels as a sign of traditional gender stereotypes, or a personal choice for this character, they are instead seeing them as a modern iteration of feminism.
Over at Racked, Susana Polo, the entertainment editor of Polygon, had a pretty girl-power take on the whole heel thing.
“I do remember when she’s running from the tyrannosaur thinking this is super impractical. But at the same time, the movie never has her roll an ankle and have to get rescued. It never has her break a heel. It never shows her stumbling in mud. It never does the whole ‘let’s laugh at this dumb woman in her dumb woman clothes’ thing. She’s dressed appropriately for what she has to do that day. I just thought, you know what, why wouldn’t she be wearing heels the whole time? She doesn’t have quick, easy access to any other shoes and she wants to save her nephews. She’s just toughs through it.”
Polo has a point. In the narrative of the movie, in which Claire has stopped by the massive dinosaur amusement park for a business meeting, her wearing heels makes sense. And it’s hard to say what the adrenaline of running for your life could do to a woman’s heel longevity. Maybe we’d all have kept our nude pumps on while trying to save our loved ones from a T-Rex.
Gabrielle Moss makes a similar point at Slate writing, “given that films so often require a heroine to drop her high heels in order to be deemed likable (think Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone, or even Jennifer Garner at the end of 13 Going On 30), or use heels as a way to signal that a woman is bait for a predator (think half the horror movies currently streaming on Netflix), I’d argue that the stiletto backlash has been grossly overblown. The way Claire’s heels support her, rather than fail her, throughout her journey is actually one of the most interesting, offbeat decisions in a film largely dedicated to propping up old-school action movie tropes.” That’s actually a pretty kickass point.
Megan Garber also sums it up nicely writing in the Atlantic, “Jurassic World’s heels . . . are a commentary on feminism and femininity for a character whose arc intimately involves those two things.”
At the end of the day, Claire kicked ass and did it in heels. Whether or not it makes sense, matters less than how the film makes her look while wearing them: Strong, capable, feminine, no nonsense. Are the heels realistic? Absolutely not. But remember, this is a movie about building a theme park out of cloned dinosaurs. If a kickass heroine wants to outrun those dinos in heels, so be it.