Clever Girl

30 Years Ago, This Spielberg Movie Villain Showed Me How To Mother

The Jurassic Park velociraptor is a feminist icon.

I loved Jurassic Park as a kid. I was 10 when it came out, too old to be terrified of the T-Rex but young enough that going to see a PG-13 movie felt very grown up. Months later, when it came out on VHS (Google it, youths), my siblings and I all but wore out the tape. We set up a “Jurassic Park” in my brothers’ bedroom complete with dinosaur toys in different paddocks made of Megablocks. I read the book by Michael Crichton. (The movie is better.) We collected Jurassic Park trading cards. I dressed like Dr. Sattler and thought, albeit briefly, “I should probably study paleobotany in college.”

Jurassic Park is apparently celebrating its 30th anniversary this week. (I’ll pause for a moment to give all the Gen-X folks and Elder-Millennials who, like me, saw this in the theater a minute to contemplate their own mortality for a bit ... Welcome back. I’m sorry.) I recently watched the movie with my own children and was struck by three things:

  • Just about everything about this movie holds up. The special effects, the writing, the pacing (this is something that kills a lot of older movies, especially old Spielberg movies, for more modern audiences, I find), Jeff Goldblum’s confusing and quirky sex appeal. It’s marvelous.
  • I remembered absolutely everything, which may seem reasonable considering I’d watched it about 100 times as a kid, but my childhood was quite a while ago at this point so I was still impressed.
  • So much of this movie revolves around the concept of parenthood.

From grumpy Dr. Grant forced into a position of caregiver to two children and warming to the idea of fatherhood to eccentric billionaire John Hammond’s paternal feelings for the creatures in his park, to the colony of all-female dinosaurs, uh, finding a way to reproduce, concepts of procreation and care run throughout the movie. I could probably write a whole “In this essay I will,” deep, analysis of what those things mean and what Spielberg is saying about how modernity and parenting are profoundly at odds. Or something. But what I really want to talk about is the big velociraptor and why she is my feminist icon and mothering role model.

She is stunning.MovieClips

Look at this clever girl. A bold leader, the big raptor rallies her two comrades to outplay (and eliminate) any man who stands in their way. She’s methodical (testing the electric fences systematically for weaknesses), cunning, tenacious, and wholly fixated on her goals. She also has fantastic nails. Like other dinos in the park, the raptors find a way to lay eggs and breed despite geneticists’ best efforts to render them sterile, so it’s safe to theorize that the raptors we see taking up their space and feeling in their power are, in fact, moms.

This makes perfect sense to me: nobody can get shit done quite like a mother with a plan. Have you ever met a hardcore PTA mom? Did she seem familiar in a way you just couldn’t place? OK just now imagine her with leathery green/brown skin and a six inch talon on her toe. The way she’s chasing you down to try to get you to volunteer for the Teacher Appreciation Brunch (not to be confused with the Teacher Appreciation Ice Cream Social or the school’s celebration of National Appreciation of Teachers Day) suddenly feels an awful lot like the famous kitchen scene doesn’t it?

They’re out there in full force sniffing out their prey and you’re Tim or Lex, skittering on hands and knees to avoid detection. (Has anyone made a TikTok of this? Free idea: you should.) You can try to outwit her, try to get away, but she will find you and start imperiously barking commands. Speaking of which: the sounds made by the velociraptors in the movie are a combination of horses breathing, “annoyed geese” (which is, as far as I can tell, any goose at any time), and mating tortoises, who apparently get extremely vocal while in the throes of passion. (To be clear: we’re not here to kink-shame the tortoises. We love this journey for them.)

And just as the obnoxious child in the beginning of the film underestimates the velociraptors, dismissing them as “six foot turkey”s, mothers, too, are often a punchline: we’re pushy and hysterical and, because we’re so fixated on what others perceive to be trivial or domestic matters, ineffectual. But homes, companies, schools, houses of worship, and communities fall apart without our assertive leadership skills and ability to work as a pack. Underestimate us and, the point is, you are alive when we start to eat you.

If Jurassic Park is about the futility of man’s desire for control in the face of nature, it’s as least as much about the unstoppable power of motherhood, to which I say roar that’s a combo of a horse, a goose, and a mid-coital tortoise.