Jurassic Park is a science fiction media franchise that produces a series of films. Every film is centered on an attempt to create a theme park of cloned dinosaurs that escape their confinements, only to seek and attack the visitors. In 2015, the franchise released their fourth movie titled Jurassic World. In this movie, Claire who’s the park manager is a single woman with no other priority in her life but the park. Regardless of her adequate ability to run this park, she fails to save herself without the help of the manliest man, the protagonist Owen, whom she later falls in love with.
Looking at this film with a critical lens, the female is portrayed as either the mom who looks like a mess and can’t wait to get a day off, or the ice queen, the workaholic and has no time for family, friends, essentially life outside of work.
Claire is the ice queen. She is running around the entire park (forest and mud included), while in heels and business attire. Her ideas frequently get dismissed because she’s in a man’s world, and she couldn’t possibly know what she’s saying. When she has a moment of saving the manly man Owen, Claire’s heroic act gets quickly covered by a kiss, which re-asserts his power and control over her, reducing Claire to a blushing and embarrassed girl.
This film stereotypes women as weak. The woman needs a hero, her opinions aren’t helpful, she is only good for producing children, she can’t have a balanced life, she must be pretty regardless of the circumstances, etc.
Let’s say this movie was played in a mainstream classroom. Stack and Kelly suggest that:
“Educators need to engage students by analyzing that which is playful as well as engaging in an ideological analysis of that which is serious.” (Stack and Kelly, 2006, p.13) A film as such could be playful, yet contains the means of a serious ideological analysis. That would be teaching critical media literacy.
“Indeed, teaching critical media literacy should be a participatory, collaborative project.
Watching television shows or films together could promote productive discussions between teachers and students (or parents and children), with emphasis on eliciting student views, producing a variety of interpretations of media texts, and teaching basic principles of hermeneutics and criticism.”
(Kellner and Share, 2007, p.5)
In watching popular media in a collaborative way, students get the “opportunities to inquire into, and debate, who controls the media system and whether a predominantly corporate commercial media system is compatible with democracy.” (Stack and Kelly, 2006, p.9-10). How much choice do we get with the media system?
Murphy states: “post-feminism, which would claim that the female characters in these stereotypical roles chose to be where they are” (Murphy, 2015). It’s important to relate choice with the point of democracy when dealing with critical analysis. Nevertheless, is it really choice, or it a result of preconceived biases that led Claire to choose this role?
According to Durham, “Mass media representations of adolescent girls constitute a facet of the cultural shaping of girls' training in femininity, and they are particularly effective at that developmental stage” (Durham, 1999)
Who’s developing our children? Are the individuals making their own choices, or is it the mass media forming them?
Durham, M. G., (1999) Articulating Adolescent Girls' Resistance to Patriarchal Discourse in Popular Media, Women's Studies in Communication, 22:2, 210-229
Kellner, D., & Share, J.(2007). “Critical Media Literacy Is Not an Option.” Learn Inq, Kluwer Academic Publishers
Murphy, J.N., (2015). “The role of women in film: Supporting the men -- An analysis of how culture influences the changing discourse on gender representations in film" Journalism Undergraduate Honors Theses. 2.
As a society, we’ve come a long way in regards to representations; people have learned to become more inclusive. That being said, there is still much work to be done and that starts in the classrooms of the children. As Stack and Kelly mention in their journal: children are inundated by the media with all kinds of advertisements - good and bad. Media influences their ideas. Therefore, it is important that schools become the hub for informed representations that are unbiased.
“If we set as one of our goals the ability of our students to read the world in multiple ways – to see things through a variety of lenses – we need to acquaint them with the lenses of colonialism and postcolonialism.” (p.87, Columbus did What?)
As a student, I was not misrepresented. However, I do recall some of my classmates experiencing ‘different treatment’ due to their race and gender. “Girls have the tendency to be better in art, whereas the boys are better with math. White kids are the best students and the best at sports, anyone else, especially the black kids don’t compare. Black kids are the trouble makers.” (Excuse the language, but that’s what was heard)
“Although we are far from living in a truly participatory democracy, many everyday acts of resistance go unnoticed and unreported by mainstream media.” (p.11, Stack & Kelly)
Based off that quote, there could have been some students who tried to resist these misrepresentations in my school, but were censored.
Ironically, it is also through the media that we can learn the different lenses to view the world with. For instance, there’s a video on YouTube from a Ted Talk (a nonpartisan non-profit devoted to spreading ideas) called “The danger of a single story” (link below) which demonstrates the consequences of always promoting the same lens. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian immigrant who was frustrated from seeing all the literature showcasing the picture perfect Caucasian girl who was good at everything. She wondered about the African-American girl who was just as talented. This literature is so prevalent, that her university roommate was so concerned about Chimamanda being uneducated and always listening to tribal music. When really, she was educated at the top schools and shared the same taste in music.
To sum up, media may provide misrepresentations, but it’s important to constantly search for the right ones. We must put out critical lenses to view the world.