Pretty much the one thing you don't want to happen during the lead-up to your highly-anticipated (and very expensive) summer blockbuster is to have a well-respected filmmaker cast aspersions upon your product before anyone even has a chance to see it. And yet that's exactly what happened to Colin Trevorrow, the director behind Universal Pictures' 14-years-in-the-making sequel Jurassic World. Trevorrow found himself in anyone's worst nightmare when revered geek god Joss Whedon — he of The Avengers, Firefly, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer — tweeted to the masses that he was "too busy wishing this clip wasn't 70's era sexist" in answer to a promotional clip for Jurassic World . "She's a stiff, he's a life-force — really? Still?" He said. Now, almost two months later, Trevorrow has responded to Whedon's Jurassic World criticisms.
During an interview with Bad Taste, the director was asked directly about his reaction to Whedon's tweet. Here is Trevorrow's response in its entirety:
I wasn’t bothered by what he said about the movie and, to be honest, I don’t totally disagree with him. I wonder why [Universal] chose a clip like that, that shows an isolated situation within a movie that has an internal logic. That starts with characters that are almost archetypes, stereotypes that are deconstructed as the story progresses. The real protagonist of the movie is Claire and we embrace her femininity in the story’s progression. There’s no need for a female character that does things like a male character, that’s not what makes interesting female characters in my view. Bryce and I have talked a lot about these concepts and aspects of her character. Joss received an incredible amount of anger and vitriolic comments and he doesn’t deserve that. Because if there is someone who has always paid due respect to the women of his movies that guy is Joss. I think he should be the last person in Hollywood to be accused of sexism and if you’ve seen something like that in his last movie it’s not his fault. [Whedon] is too kind and polite to tell all his detractors to go to hell. But I'll do it in his stead.
Here's the clip in question, in case you missed it:
There's a lot to unpack here. First, it's incredibly refreshing to see a filmmaker not evade a difficult question but rather respond to a detractor head-on. And not only did Trevorrow acknowledge Whedon's complaints, he didn't "totally disagree with" them! So far so good. But, to me, the director's next comment reads as defensive, blaming Universal's marketing department for choosing this particular clip. While it's true that they could perhaps have chosen a more exciting scene to get audiences riled up, he can hardly blame the publicists — barring some masterfully tricksy editing on their part — for a scene that he himself created. Not only does Trevorrow, as director, have to accept ultimate responsibility for all aspects of the film, but he also had a hand in the movie's screenplay, which he wrote alongside his Safety Not Guaranteed screenwriter Derek Connolly as well as Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes' Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver.
Trevorrow then moves on to admit that his characters are "stereotypes" who are deconstructed throughout the film. That's all well and good — we won't be able to prove or disprove this assertion until we see this film for ourselves. But, a stereotype that's eventually deconstructed is still a stereotype. Of course, we'll all have to see the movie to ultimately pass judgment on the way it's set up, but I have to wonder, if this is the case: Couldn't the film have already started with these well-trod archetypes broken down in surprising ways? Do we really have to wait 124 minutes for Bryce Dallas Howard's "stiff" park operations manager to let her hair down?
The director makes perhaps his best point when he points out that women acting like men is not necessarily what makes them interesting. It's an oft-used narrative shortcut, especially in action films, to have a woman behave just like "one of the guys" as a signpost declaring, "Look! She's a strong female character!" Feminism doesn't mean more women acting like men (an expectation that's sexist in and of itself), but rather more diverse portrayals of women of all types, personalities, demeanors, shapes, and sizes.
For the fanboy in me, one of the most intriguing aspects of Trevorrow's response is that he refers to Claire as the "real protagonist of the movie." Thus far, all of the promotional material has centered around Chris Pratt's roguish raptor trainer Owen Grady. It makes sense; the former Parks & Rec star is hotter than ever (in both senses of the word), fresh off the runaway success of Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy. But the trailers didn't read like a bait-and-switch — Owen truly seemed like the main character. Is Trevorrow simply blowing hot air here or is Jurassic World about to pull a Mad Max: Fury Road , with its nominal male "hero" playing second fiddle to a badass lady?
Inevitably, Trevorrow soon turns to the topic of Whedon's own encounter with accusations of sexism. The Age Of Ultron director received his fair share of criticism from fans who didn't appreciate Black Widow's relationship with the Hulk in this summer's supersized sequel, bemoaning the portrayal of the badass Russian assassin as both lovestruck and baby-crazy. I'm not here to address whether or not those accusations have merit (though many fans certainly disagree with them), but rather to highlight the parallel between Trevorrow's and Whedon's positions.
It's notable that Trevorrow has Whedon's back when it comes to accusations of sexism, while Whedon was the one hurling those same accusations at Trevorrow two months ago. This doesn't necessarily lower my opinion of Whedon; many of us have said things we ended up regretting, and as Trevorrow himself points out... Whedon had a point. But it is a classic example of throwing stones while living in a glass house.
For the record, Whedon quickly apologized for his tweet, telling Variety that, "I shouldn’t have tweeted it. I don’t ever say things about other people’s work that are negative. That’s bad form. It’s not what a gentleman would do. I forgot that I don’t do that because I was frustrated. I felt like I was seeing something that was problematic. What I said is pretty clear, but I think it was the wrong venue for me to be saying that. That’s dinner party conversation." (Whedon has since deactivated his Twitter account.) But, this being the Internet — where everything is written in ink — the damage was already done.
While these are all valid concerns to have about the upcoming Jurassic World, though, it bears repeating that it's only fair to Trevorrow and the cast who worked on this film that we, as viewers, reserve judgment until the film is actually released. Jurassic World opens everywhere Friday, June 12.
Images: Universal Pictures (2); Warner Bros. Pictures; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures