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Jurassic World and the stereotypes of being an aunt

By Victoria Fryer 

Let’s talk a little bit about stereotypes, shall we? We childfree and childless humans get saddled with a lot of them—cold, kid-hating, career-driven, selfish… the list goes on and on. I think we’ve done much to counter those ill-founded perceptions, including by making our voices heard on sites like this one. But media still get it wrong so very, very often.

This past weekend, I went on a little afternoon girls’ date with some friends to see the new American blockbuster, Jurassic World. It was everything you’d expect it would be: lots of action and noise, dinosaur teeth and slobber, and cliched characters.

But there was something that bothered me. The main character, Claire—played by actress Bryce Dallas Howard—is a stereotype that makes me uncomfortable. She’s the typical childless aunt.

Okay, I say “the” typical, but there are a couple different childless auntie stereotypes, aren’t there? (This article in The Guardian is an interesting dive into the variety of stereotypes.) Some of them are endearing and dote on their nieces and nephews; others are more clueless and career-minded. Jurassic World’s Claire is the latter.

The movie opens with two boys leaving their kind, warm parents to spend a winter vacation with their aunt Claire, who’s the director of the Jurassic World theme park. When the boys arrive, instead of meeting them herself, she sends her assistant to pick them up from the airport and get them settled in. When she finally greets them, she receives their hugs with a kind of cold confusion.

Too focused on her work to spend time with the kiddos (or to take her heels off in the face of disaster—but that’s another issue!), Claire represents so much of what some people often perceive when they think of the childfree.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the movie. On the contrary, it was a fun movie to see in the theatres. There’s something about seeing action movies on the big screen that makes for a fun activity, even if it’s not a cinematic masterpiece. And I don’t think that the media—particularly not Hollywood, which is largely built on storylines that incorporate familiar tropes to appeal to a wide audience—has a duty to make sure they’re breaking the mold with their characters.

But I do think it’s worth us noticing when movies, books, television shows, or other media turn us into stereotypes. I see you, Jurassic World! I liked your dinosaurs, but your female lead could have used a little bit more complexity. Maybe in the sequel?

Victoria Fryer is a 31-year-old writer and content strategist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two pit bulls. You can find her on Twitter @extoria.

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