Why Everyone is Wrong about Claire Dearing’s High Heels

Why Everyone is Wrong about Claire Dearing’s High Heels

(Standard spoiler disclaimer applies to Jurassic World.)

For a cynical bitch, I am quite a sentimental sot.

15 - 1 (2)These are the shoes I wore for my wedding.  I don’t normally wear heels, but the height was necessary to avoid expensive alterations of the dress.  They’ve lived in the closet since then, but for our fifth anniversary bash in Las Vegas, I thought it might be nice to break them out.

Our plan was to walk from our room at the Bellagio to the Mirage for dinner, then to the High Roller at the Linq and back to the hotel for our Cirque du Soleil tickets.  It’s a distance of about two miles all told.  No big deal, right?

I collapsed into our table at Carnegie Deli in excruciating pain.  We ended up taking a cab to the Ferris wheel, and would have done again to get back to the Bellagio except by the time we got back to the Strip to hail a cab we realized we were right there, so I tottered painfully across the pedestrian bridges until we reached the sanctuary of the hotel.  Yes, I was that girl walking through the casino with high heels in hand, except I was doing it at 9pm, because that’s how long I lasted.  The lovely blister I earned for my troubles covered most of the ball of my right foot.

So going into Jurassic World, I could kind of get why everyone was making such a big deal about the fact that Bryce Dallas Howard’s theme park executive Claire Dearing spends the entire movie in a grossly impractical pair of stilettos.  Many have bemoaned the fact that she doesn’t ditch the shoes when danger arises.  (Because running through a jungle barefoot is safer, apparently?)  It’s just unrealistic for an operations manager to be wearing those sorts of shoes at all, let alone doing what she does in them, right?

Well, tell that to the actress who did it all for real, across multiple takes.  The damn shoes are pretty much the only thing in the movie that isn’t CGI.  Far from judging her, I was in awe of someone who could dominate Isla Nublar in shoes I couldn’t even walk normally in.  I can attest to the sheer physical intensity of what she’s doing and can say unequivocally that she is by far the toughest person there.

What everyone, both the critics and her fellow characters, seems to be missing is that Claire doesn’t need to take off the shoes.  Everyone assumes that the shoes will be a liability, just like everyone assumes that she doesn’t know how to run her park or that she’ll eventually come around to wanting motherhood.  But the glorious thing about the movie is that everyone is completely wrong on all of those counts, and the frustrating thing about the movie is that this is never quite acknowledged within the text.  It seems like Claire’s arc is less about her own growth than about forcing those who’ve belittled her to take her seriously, but it doesn’t actually pay off.  I mean, Owen (Chris Pratt) reacts to her competently and efficiently saving his life by kissing her, rather than, say, thanking her.  (In a testament to the generally solid acting on display, Owen does seem to treat Claire a bit more as an equal after that point, a performance choice too understated to come across in a movie that is Sharknado levels of unsubtle.)  His gobsmacked expression as she lures a T. Rex into battle–thereby decisively accomplishing what he could barely convince his raptors to do–is satisfying, but that character development really needed a better coda than his lame line at the end.

One of my favorite moments is when Owen stops and reaches back for Claire to help her down some steps, since going down stairs is one of the most difficult parts of walking in heels, and she bolts right past him without hesitation.  His action shows that his heart is in the right place, but hers shows just how thoroughly he’s underestimated her.  From the second she steps on screen, Claire is fighting dinosaurs while effortlessly rocking a pair of heels.  It really shouldn’t be surprising that she’s just as comfortable when the dinosaurs of gender politics get swapped for the scales-and-teeth kind.

An Evening with Chuck Palahniuk

An Evening with Chuck Palahniuk

Rainy Day Books, a local indie bookstore (whom you might have heard about when they got plugged by Stephen Colbert) puts on phenomenal author events.  Seriously, I’ve been to more talks and signings since moving to Kansas City than I did the whole time I was living in Los Angeles.  On Friday night, they hosted Chuck Palahniuk (he of Fight Club fame) at the Uptown.

When we picked up our tickets, we were given our goodie bags: they had the promised copies of Fight Club 2 Issue #1 and Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread, conveniently pre-autographed.  But there was also a pair of glow sticks and a strange white package…

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This turned out to be a beach ball, which we were instructed to inflate, insert the glow sticks into, and inscribe with our names.  And that’s when I knew we were in for a good time.

It was, put simply, one of the most delightfully insane nights it has ever been my pleasure to experience.  The glowing beach balls were a scheme where the auditorium was turned into a giant colorful bingo cage, and certain people whose balls made it up to the front were given handsome prizes.  (I would have done unspeakable things for the leather-bound signed first edition of Fight Club.  Like, I wouldn’t have been able to quite meet your eyes afterward, but it would totally have been worth it.)  Bags of candy were hucked into the audience–not individual pieces, but the entire bags.  An ambulance arrived for someone who passed out during the reading of “Guts”.  He brought gifts for random people’s pets.  We sang along to “The Star-Spangled Banner”.  At the end of the night, dozens and dozens of dismembered hands–grisly foam props, realistically detailed and each one autographed–were thrown to the rapturous crowd.

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Now make no mistake, the night also had the trappings you expect of an author event.  “Guts” was flanked by “The Facts of Life” and “Zombies”, and the audience was by turns rolling with laughter and struck dumb with horror.  He took questions from the audience and delivered thoughtful answers about following your passions, forcing a visceral connection with the story, and being honest with your work.  And he gamely attempted to get through the massive line of people wanting to take pictures with him pre-show.  (Pictures in which each fan had to wear bunny ears, because reasons.)

But it definitely made me rethink what these sorts of promotional events can be.  Granted, it certainly helps to have a massive backlist, loads of critical acclaim, and a sizable crowd of enthusiastic and devoted fans.  And I wouldn’t want to steal ideas wholesale, especially given that the atmosphere of anarchy and a hint of violence (my neighbor took a bag of Hershey Nuggets to the shoulder) seems to be rather uniquely suited to Palahniuk.  But still, I think there are general takeaways that can be applied.  Rather than doing one topic at a time, the night bounced rapidly around between Q&A, neon beach ball raves, readings, and high fructose projectiles; breaking things up kept the energy high and the audience engaged.  Everyone walked away with something extra, even if it was just a bit of candy or a beach ball with someone else’s name on it.  And best of all, there was the sense that he was there to do something special for his fans, beyond just gracing us with his presence.

“Author event” is a kind of generic term, but this really felt like an Event.  It was something riotous and unique and far more memorable than all the other polite, congenial interviews and autograph sessions.  It’s the sort of thing I think more authors should aspire to.