You have to suspend a lot of disbelief when you watch the first film of the Jurassic World trilogy (2015), a reboot of the classic 1990s Jurassic Park series. No, I’m not talking about the “science” of resurrecting dinosaurs from DNA mined from fossils. I’m not talking about the lack of evacuation procedures at the Jurassic World theme park. I’m talking about Bryce Dallas Howard’s shoes.
In the first film, her character, Claire Dearing, spends the entire movie running from dinosaurs in Sam Edelman high heel pumps. (As my colleague Jenni Avins notes, that’s not even high-end designer. An operations manager for the world’s greatest theme park could certainly afford to buy another pair.)
But in the first trailer for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018), Howard is finally wearing sensible shoes. In place of heels, she sporting sturdy boots to run from dinosaurs and, this time, an exploding volcano.
It’s common for film-makers (and the posters they eventually commission) to give leading women—even superheroes and heroines like Howard’s character—impractical outfits. “Movie marketing is about following conventions and evolving them,” explains Vivek Mathur, creative director at New York-based Indika, which designs feature film posters. “One way of showing women in jeopardy was showing them in high heels, for example, running from monsters or dinosaurs.” But he notes that the jeopardy trope is no longer credible in late 2017.
Still, it seems the folks back in Hollywood have not yet gotten the memo. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, for instance, is considered a triumph for the representation of women in film; yet even she wears a strapless leotard that leaves her shoulders, neck, and collarbones exposed. Sure, Wonder Woman may have serious super powers, but even she would need a good amount of fashion tape to stay in place while saving the world.
A generous reading of this set-up suggests that women are so strong that we can do it all in impractical and uncomfortable clothing; the filmmakers, you might say, purposely dressed their heroine to represent #feminism! A more critical reading, however, would say that women are only allowed to be strong, complex film characters if they are also sexy and feminine—and dressed the part.
Howard has argued for the former. “She’s in high heels because she’s a woman who has been in high heels her whole life and she can fucking sprint in them,” she told Cosmopolitan in 2015. “She can. That’s kind of how I perceived it. She doesn’t have to be in menswear and flats in order to outrun a T. rex. That’s what women can do.” Even her co-star, Chris Pratt, gave high heels a try in homage to Howard, but a 10-second sprint in heels is a lot more painful if you’ve been wearing those shoes your whole life.
(I’m writing this piece with a broken foot and it pains me to read this defense. High heels can be empowering, but they can also injure you. Feminism doesn’t protect you from a calcaneus fracture.)
Howard also argued that her character’s high heels were part of the plot: “She was somebody who looks like she belongs in a corporate environment for a reason, because she was someone who was disconnected from the animals and disconnected from that reality and disconnected from herself,” she explained. The high heels were so important that the writer and director of the trilogy, Colin Trevorrow, notified Howard about the sequel with one text: “#NoHeels2018.”
This time around, for the return to Jurassic World on a rescue mission, Howard’s character knows better. And more importantly, the filmmakers know better, too.