Jurassic Park: Unabashed Propaganda

Posted: 08/01/2010 in Retakes
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Jurassic Park: Unabashed Propaganda

(Spielberg, 1993. US)

***FULL SPOILERS***

 

You may be forgiven for incredulity, but there is a powerful irony at play in the inherent messages and values of Jurassic Park. Bear with me, I’ll prove it.

Let’s start with the figurative. Dinosaurs are, of course, a well-exercised and widely accepted metaphor for the past, for obsoletion, for the blundering remnants of bygone times and values. Now hold that thought.

 

Okay, to the meat of the issue. What, precisely, was this groundbreaking, blockbusting CGI and animatronic tubthumper trying to say?

 

We begin with a child-hating curmudgeon palaeontologist fellow (Dr. Alan Grant), his conscience: the blonde haired, blue eyed botanist assistant (read: latent love-interest), and the all-American moppet grandchildren of park creator and billionaire bampot John Hammond. That’s our core cast. Surrounding them, amongst others we have the brooding and cynical serial divorcee mathematician and chaos theorist Dr. Ian Malcolm; Genarro, the token Soulless Lawyer who is endowed with all the character depth of Random Totty or Gay Best Friend; Nedry, the weaselly, thieving double agent and two named but expendable park employees.

 

These predictable and reliable stock characters duly carry out their duty thus:

 

In the beginning, Man was proud and arrogant and thought himself God. But he was Dickie Attenborough so he can be excused for the mistake. He is joined by a host of generics on his island of atrocity against nature. The woman out of the David Lynch films shows how compassionate and nurturing she is by forgoing the safari trail of godless wonder, in order to assist the vets with a sick triceratops. The remaining assortment of obvious victims and potential survivors continue upon their merry way. Almost immediately technology, on which the entire enterprise is woefully over reliant, fails them spectacularly. This is due in part to sabotage by the weaselly double agent. It’s okay though; he’s killed horribly- blinded by a venom-spitting dilophosaurus. How apt. Cos he couldn’t see the error of his ways. Couldn’t see…Moving on.

 

The Soulless Lawyer promptly abandons the children to a T-Rex attack in order to save himself and is duly despatched by the aforementioned beast. Sitting on an outdoor toilet, to the great amusement of my six year old classmates at the time of release. Oh the indignity. Master Chaos is gravely wounded in punishment for his serial defilement of the sanctity of marriage. He, however, heroically redeems himself by luring the T-Rex away from the hapless moppets and is thereby permitted to live. For the time being at least.

 

Meanwhile, back on the farm, Granddad God meets up with Mother Earth and they set out in a Jeep to rescue everyone. When they get there though, everyone has inconsiderately left. Eventually they find Master Chaos and bring him back to base. Oh, the island is being lashed by a fierce tropical storm too. This is in no way to be interpreted as a manifestation of the wrath of an omnipotent Judaeo-Christian deity. So the bone collector and the moppets are forced, by some convolution or other, to spend the night together up a big tree, where he (reluctantly) watches over them in a Protector fashion. They are awoken by gentle, giant, herbivore brontosauruses, which is nice. He then tells moppets Precocious and Pantwetter all about Brontos and encourages them not to be afraid of the creatures. This is carried out in a Nurturer type way. All of the above lead to inadvertent ‘bonding’ and other such Hollywoodisms.

 

As they wend their merry way back to ’safety’, Mother Earth and The Expendables are heading through ‘Raptor’ (which is Yankspeak for velociraptor) territory in order to restore power to the base, re-electrify the fences, seal the doors and generally restore man-made order to this inexplicable resurgence of animal anarchy. Daddy Bear and the cubs are going cross country, Pantwetter is up a fence. In painful slowmotion all the fences in the park are reactivated. His comes on and the current throws him to the ground several metres away. It’s okay, he’s fine. Doctor Grant comes over all concerned and comforts him. Aaw. Sadly, yet heroically, The Expendables sacrifice their lives for the preservation of the Main Characters.

 

 Eventually Daddy Bear, Mother Earth and the moppets are thrown together in the control room where they overcome peril through teamwork. Pantwetter is no help whatsoever, but they let him off.  Then Granddad God and Master Chaos rock up in a Jeep, Dickie having presumably patched old Jeff up en route. They drive to the waiting chopper and everyone lives happily ever after. Warms your cockles does it not?

 

So what have we learned?  The child-hating alpha male is forced to dredge up his repressed paternal instincts and protect his involuntarily adopted brood. He also notices that a very good woman, who happens to be rather younger and more attractive than he is, loves him, possibly against her better judgement. So he sensibly opts to love her back. As a result of this they all manage to survive a seemingly insurmountable threat against harsh odds. Hurrah for the nuclear family! It can bring civilisation out of the prehistoric [That would be those metaphor-riddled dinosaurs] and save society from its bleak, permissive future [reckless cloning practice*]. Those who threatened the stability or completeness of the unit, those who did not prioritise family values, were swept aside by the double edged sword that is the cruel indifference of nature and man’s undoing by his own design.

 

Therein lies the aforementioned irony. While dinosaurs are traditionally a metaphor for the past [Still holding that thought? You’ll need it now], for archaic values, their creation here- through genetic tomfoolery- means they actually represent perversion of nature and that traditionalism of which Republicans are so fond. Their existence is therefore anathema to good Americanism and the destruction they wreak, the threat they pose to Daddy and the moppets, an indictment of contemporary attempts to reimagine the family. It is only by uniting as a monogamous, heterosexual nuclear unit that our heroes are permitted to survive**. Learn this lesson heathens, learn it well!

*I’ll admit that is a weeny bit tenuous, but go with it, I do make good on the point I’m labouring towards- honest!
** What happens to their actual parents is anyone’s guess.
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Comments
  1. Magul says:

    Wow. What a mind-trip. I’ve never looked at this movie in any way other than the “I can’t believe the T-Rex just ate that man clean off of the toilet” mindset. You really dissected the themes here, even if I might argue that you must have been predisposed by deep-rooted viewpoints to fuel your arguments. But then again, that’s really what having an opinion is about! And yours definitely reveals itself as one that you have thoroughly considered and developed over some years.

    side note: You have a hyper-literate writing style. I had dictionary.com open in a second window the entire time to help me sift through some of your verbiage. Be careful not to lose the casual reader in some of your more complex ideas by using even more complex structure and word-choice.

    • Solo says:

      Hey Magul,

      Thanks for your comment. The real question is- do you agree with my argument? That’s what Film Studies is really about, someone taking a strong standpoint and everyone else trying to disprove it!

      Sorry if my writing style is a little dense;, my main target audience is people who have studied film, so I will use specific termiminology and I’m working on a glossary to help casual readers decipher the theory. As for structure and adjectives and whatnot, I’ll admit I don’t often get the chance to really let loose with my language skills; the free reign of self-publishing was too tempting to resist! If it really makes no sense I’ll try and dial it back, but I like to think I’m providing my readers with a complementary vocabulary-enriching service 😉

      I liked your post on Sarcasm by the way, I’ll be by to comment on that soon.

      Sx

  2. […] Jurassic Park: Unabashed Propaganda January 2010 2 comments 4 […]

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