The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Jurassic World

Jurassic World. What is it about? Well, the basic premise of the film is that a killer hybrid (which was created for an amusement park full of live dinosaurs) escapes its habitat and a series of progressively bad decisions are then made by the people in charge of Jurassic World (in fact, the leaders make so many poor decisions that it makes you wonder how they are even in charge). Oh, and also, Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard (not Jessica Chastain) are in the film, respectively, as the dinosaur whisperer and the over-the-top, anal retentive, inept leader. And if this synopsis sounds dumb to you, it’s probably because it is.

A lot of fuss has been made over this new Jurassic Park installment but it’s hard to imagine why as the writing is mediocre so no matter how hard the actors act the hell out of the material, their lines still suck and fall flat (especially the jokes); there’s no clear motivation or reasoning (that makes sense) behind the characters’ actions (e.g., Claire doesn’t care that she doesn’t know what the hybrid is composed of, Simon owns Jurassic World but is completely unaware of what is going on at his own park, and Hoskins is convinced that using raptors for war purposes is a good idea); the characters are empty tropes (e.g., Pratt’s character Owen is the man’s man who knows better than everyone else, Howard plays the in-charge ice queen and the damsel, and Hoskins is the crass dude who is inexplicably war hungry);  and the epic-ness that the director and writers try so hard to create simply doesn’t pan out (though the visuals are cool, and the man who flees from the dinosaurs while clutching his margaritas does make up for many of the film’s shortcomings). Jurassic World doesn’t fare much better when it comes to the representation of diversity either.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Jurassic World passes the Bechdel and race test but does not pass the Russo test.

Jurassic World passes the Bechdel test because there are three named women in Jurassic World and there are two occasions where these named women speak to each other without mentioning men (e.g., Zara reminds Claire of a prior engagement and Karen asks Claire if she’s alright). The film also passes the race test because there is one instance where non-White characters talk to each other without mentioning White people (e.g., Simon talks to Dr. Wu about the hybrid project), but Jurassic World does not pass the Russo test since there are no LGBTI characters in the film.

Jurassic World, despite passing the Bechdel and race test and having a woman (Claire) as a co-lead, is not a feminist film. At all. For example, women, overall, are pretty inconsequential to the plot of Jurassic World. Claire, for instance, is the only woman who really plays any part in the film, and while she is a co-lead, she is more of a damsel in distress who needs to be constantly saved by Owen than anything else. Plus, of the few women who are in the film, only one is depicted in a positive light (Vivian) and the rest are depicted as either overly emotional (Karen), a bitch and unreliable (Zara) or cold and stuck-up (Claire). Though, to be fair, the men also aren’t depicted in a very positive light as most of them are either depicted as being careless (Simon), dumb (Hoskins), a mansplainer (Owen) or as having a God complex (Dr. Wu). And the film’s portrayal of non-White characters isn’t any better.

The very few non-White characters who do appear in Jurassic World play very minor parts (though it can be argued that Dr. Wu is not a minor character since he did engineer the hybrid), and the non-White characters are also (generally) depicted as not being very capable. For example, it is completely Dr. Wu’s fault that the hybrid even exists as he was the one who created the hybrid, and only two non-White characters survive the hybrid (Dr. Wu because he flees to safety and Barry because Owen [a White dude] saves him). And Jurassic World’s depiction of diversity only gets worse, as when it comes to LGBTI characters, there are none.

Let’s be truthful. No one goes to see a Jurassic Park film expecting to see a feminist film with diverse and complex characters. This, nonetheless, does not excuse the fact that the film just barely passes two of the diversity tests and that its overall portrayal of diverse and complex characters is pitiful. We and they (the director and writers) should have higher expectations than this – that is, we deserve more than just one funny scene where a man is clutching his margaritas while he’s running for his life. What we deserve is to be able to see a film where there are both 3-D dinosaurs and diverse and complex characters, not a bunch of tropes and halfhearted punchlines. That being said, though, the margarita man is pretty fantastic. Seriously. He is the true unsung hero of Jurassic World.

*The Bechdel test entails three requirements:
1. It has to have at least two (named) women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man

*The Vito Russo test entails three requirements:
1. The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex and/or transgender
2. The character must not be solely or predominately defined by her sexual orientation, gender identity and/or as being intersex
3.The character must be tied into the plot in such a way that her removal would have a significant effect

***The race or people of color (POC) test has three requirements:
1. It has two people of color in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something other than a White person

****Just because a film passes the Bechdel, Russo and race test does not mean that it is not sexist, heterosexist, racist and/or cissexist, etc. The Bechdel, Russo and race test is only a bare minimum qualifier for the representation of LGBTI individuals, women and people of color in film. The failure to pass these tests also does not identify whether the central character was a woman, a person of color or a LGBTQI individual and it does not dictate the quality of the film.