EARLY WARNING: This post will contain spoilers about the plot of Jurassic World. If you haven't seen it yet and want to go in blind, make like a park guest and scatter.
Between its massive conquest of the box office and impressive revival of a long-extinct franchise, Jurassic World has been getting some insanely good press since its debut last weekend. There are plenty of good reasons for this glowing response: a phenomenally entertaining story, an absurdly likable cast, and, of course, plenty of dinosaurs.
But, there is one criticism that even stalwart fans are bringing up, and it concerns the park's operation manager Claire, played by Bryce Dallas Howard.
The fact that Claire never removes her high heels has inspired an outcry from critics and fans
Even when she's running from an intimidating dinosaur, Claire stays in her three-inch nude pumps, and that aspect of her character has people claiming it's anywhere from silly to sexist. When first reading about this controversy, I couldn't help but think back to the early release of the below clip. After seeing it, Joss Whedon acknowledged that the "life-force" of a guy and the "stiff" of a woman are tired, old, misogynistic tropes, but do her heels fit into that same critique?
Let's take a closer look at the controversy...
The "silliness" of an impractical shoe
Most fan comments as well as this widely-shared piece from The Atlantic place part of the problem at the feet of realism. According to this argument, it's just not practical to be fleeing for your life in a shoe that slows you down and inherently changes your mobility. You'd think that someone as pragmatic as Claire would ditch them by the time she's trying to save the lives of her nephews, or so these detractors think.
The shoes become a joke to the male characters onscreen, specifically Chris Pratt's Owen who openly mocks Claire's choice to wear such uncomfortable footwear. Indeed, there is definitely something at least a little silly about heels, as evidenced by Chris Pratt's romp in them on The Late Late Show with James Corden.
So, now the question seems to be: are we meant to think less of this character (or women in general) because of her commitment to these heeled shoes?
The other side of the outrage
Fans of Claire (heels and all) are quick to point out a few reasons explaining why the heels make sense. First of all, she's a corporate boss at her office job. Maybe it’s not exactly practical that she’s running around in heels, but she is an established, stylish businesswoman just going to work. It’s not like she planned on running away from a dinosaur onslaught that day, right?
Secondly, Claire had one of the best development arcs (if not the best one) out of all the characters. She was able to turn on the heroics and rapidly problem solve while staying true to who she is. That may be a movie fantasy, but it makes sense with her character.
Lastly, Bryce Dallas Howard has addressed this very issue, and she claims that keeping the heels on was fully intentional and even a demand that she made. Talking to The Daily Beast, the actress said:
First of all, I just believe that she’s one of those women who say they walk so much better in heels...I think where we are now, for me, it’s about embracing my femininity as my greatest strength, and a God-given strength. The thing that would have been considered the biggest handicap for her ultimately ends up being her strength. And that’s those heels. I really liked that.
She also admits that she had to specially train for the scenes where she runs in pumps, but that never made her waver on the way her character should be portrayed.
No matter what part of the discussion you sway toward, this controversy over high heels is definitely starting an interesting discussion about women's representation onscreen, from the toe up.