Jurassic World — Pure, Perfect Capitalist Extremism
I finally got around to seeing Jurassic World over the weekend, and have to say I was actually pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it. I only see about one movie in a cinema per year and usually just go for an excuse to eat buttered popcorn. But this movie really got me thinking. Is this a film about man vs. nature, as we see on the surface with Chris Pratt? Or is it a conventional Frankenstein movie, like what happens when man meddles in God’s domain? Are we punished if we get too grandiose? Or is it a film reminding us of traditional values? I think it’s about all of those. But one thing is clear: this film is a capitalist masterpiece.
Mark Fischer, an economist advising the United States Federal Reserve, says that one of the signs of late capitalism is that you will begin to notice “parody, self-reference, and pastiche everywhere.” Nothing will feel original; everything will feel like a repackaging in an increasingly cynical society. This film is very much a reflection of that. In fact, I would argue that Jurassic World is late Capitalism’s great masterpiece — a film in which capitalism is attacked and condemned as part of a capitalist enterprise. If you look at this film in its totality, it’s a sphere of pure, perfect capitalist extremism.
In this movie, the language of business — the language of merchandising, marketing, public relations, and repeated of reference to the old Jurassic Park as a pastiche is particularly stark for a popular action movie. For example, the all-knowing guy in the control room we are meant to identify with as an audience member wears a Jurassic Park T-shirt so we can’t forget. This character’s purpose is solely to serve as a reminder to the audience, “I’m in this with you, I know we’re doing a reboot franchise, but I’m with you.” And tellingly, where does that guy sit? In the cinema, with us, watching the action unfold.
One of my favorite moments in the movie is when our friend in the control room mocks the CEO’s fanatical drive to please investors at any costs, remarking to her: “You can’t have big businesses and corporations sponsoring dinosaurs, what are we going to have next, a Pepsisaurus Rex?” Here he implicitly ridicules capitalism while himself being a capitalist product. What a curious character.
It also calls into question the extraordinary role product placement is beginning to play in films. Corporations pay a fortune to have their logos appear in movies, and this film one is no exception. It’s impossible to not notice all the Mercedes cars all around, the Samsung products at every turn, and the cups of Starbucks paraded about throughout the movie. But isn’t it fascinating a company like Starbucks would pay to have a fake franchise outlet, in a fake theme park, even though the world of the theme park is a microcosm of man’s destructiveness, particularly as a result of capitalism?
Even the cast of the film is a reflection of this agenda. The billionaire owner is an A-List Indian movie star. Chris Pratt’s best friend is film is a massive star in France. We know that when producers cast for Hollywood movies they cast big stars in major territories so when the movie is promoted those stars can carry the weight of promotion.
Domestically, Chris Pratt is a perfect star for us. He’s a aware, ironic, self-knowing, likable, funny, brilliant — the new Harrison Ford action star. The female lead is interesting because she is a strong feminist character, but the condemnation of this female character is that she has lost touch with traditional values. This is one of the themes of Jurassic World — that we’ve lost touch with traditional values — and it’s as if they directors are saying, “This woman will become a mom. We are going to force nephews on you until you become maternal, and if you don’t look after these children they’re going to be eaten by dinosaurs, so you better get in touch with your ovaries!”
In lots of ways is a super traditional movie. It centers on a pseudo family with Chris Pratt and the woman who needs to learn to become a mother with the two little kids. Notice how many times, for example, Chris Pratt stands in front of the family, standing in front of the woman and kids to protect them from danger. This film asserts very traditional values of what it means to be a man, what it means to be a woman, and what it means to a capitalist society when nature is subjugated for our amusement and entertainment to become a product.
Another argument you could make is that it’s a conventional Frankenstein film where we are warned not to meddle in God’s domain. In another way it shows an expression of one of the most ancient aspects of our nature — the primal, predatory, hunter nature of human beings. Every aspect of this film of course was made by human beings on some level. The Tyrannosaurus Rex isn’t a real T-Rex, it’s a reflection of the Tyrannosaurus nature in a human being. The same goes for the mutant dinosaur — a reflection of our own nature when it is manipulated beyond recognition. It is a film about not knowing what we are.
Importantly, in the past, we had stories, systems, societies, and structures that helped us understand that our identity was not only about our individual self, but rather our relationship with the community. It helped explain things we didn’t understand about the environment and the ecological consequences of not respecting nature’s delicate balance. Now we actually live in a time where there is impending ecological disaster due to man kind’s economic and capitalist exploitation of the environment for its own ends, yet we seem too distracted to properly deal with it.
In other words, the true message of this story is if you’re a capitalist, if you meddle with nature — human nature and ecological nature — you will create monsters and disasters. That is what the real message of this story is, but in our system corporations play on the anxieties they create by then selling those anxieties back to us in the form of media and product placement.
What’s amazing to me is we can sit and watch a film that tells us this story and think, “Wow, that was good!” But at the same time subconsciously think to ourselves, “I’d really like a fast Mercedes, I’d quite like a lovely girlfriend like that — I should be more like Chris Pratt. Boy, someone please hand me a can of Coca-Cola!” The message is jumbled intentionally by consumerism so much that we are too distracted to think “Sheesh, we better join together as one or else we’ll ruin the planet!”
So in a way the film is saying tradition will reassert, nature will reassert, but at the moment we live in an dimension of consciousness that is dominated by our reptilian lizard, ancient limbic system of thinking. We must abandon this reptilian notion of wellbeing-as-consumption and come together to realize we are all connected. At our core we are carbon based lifeforms breathing in harmony with the planet. We will always have some lizard in us, but until we decide we want to create a society that is no longer the projection of the reptilian mind, we will all continue to live in a JURASSIC WORLD.
Pardon the awful pun.