In my introduction to this series, I presented my thesis. The Jurassic Park movie series is about the sexual revolution in Western culture. De-extinction of dinosaurs is a symbol. It represents an unnatural, hubristic, and dangerous act perpetrated by man in rebellion. The motto “God creates dinosaurs” captures this conviction. This use of scientific power for consumerism is a metaphor for the sexual revolution. And the everyday signs of the sexual revolution are pervasive in the plots of the movies. They reinforce the connection. And the agency of functional family saves the day.
Signs of the Sexual Revolution in “The Lost World” (1997)
The movie opens with a rich family and their yacht crew anchored and vacationing on the beach of Isla Sorna. Mr. and Mrs. Bowman are squabbling over little daughter Cathy. She leaves their sight and is attacked by compsognathuses.
The story transitions to Dr. Ian Malcolm responding to a summons. He witnesses another rich family feud over control of the InGen Corporation. It’s another fight over that which has been birthed and its fate. And as we know about InGen Bioengineering later in the movie, their motto is:
We Make Your Future
What an ominous comment from those in the business of manufacturing this metaphor for the sexual revolution.
Nephew Peter Ludlow is maneuvering to seize control away from Uncle John Hammond. InGen “has been on the verge of chapter 11 ever since that incident in the park.” Some in corporate leadership want to exploit the dinosaurs on Site B as assets to bail the company out of debt. The corporate moneymen want to get back in the business. And we all know “sex sells” as they say.
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Hammond’s new direction might not be the redemption he’s hoping to find. He’s “gone from capitalist to naturalist” in a very short time. And this may represent not so much a change for the better as a change for an other. When he presents his plans in light of his new philosophy, the following exchange ensues.
John: Don’t worry. I’m not making the same mistakes again.
Ian: No, you’re making all new ones.
Hammond made a name for himself with the de-extinction of dinosaurs. And that turned out to be a disasters. Now he wants to make a new name for himself with the preservation of dinosaurs. It’s as if what now is must be good and worth preserving simply because it is. As though somehow now it has the status of a thing resulting from the natural course of the natural order. Its mere persistence in our world has normalized it.
Ian, still the voice of warning about the unnaturalness of it all, says this move is no better than the last one. And he rebukes John for endangering more people after having caused the deaths of others.
You want to leave your name on something? Fine. But stop leaving it on other people’s headstones.
Following the symbology, perpetrating the beginning of sexual revolution was bad. And Ludlow’s vision for a second wave of sexual revolution is bad. But Hammond’s vision to preserve the results of the first wave as if they’re now good is also bad. Once a bad thing has gotten a foothold, that doesn’t make it a good thing.
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There’s the struggling family dynamic of Dr. Ian Malcolm, his daughter Kelly Curtis, and his independent girlfriend Dr. Sarah Harding. They pull together as a family, and it saves them through the films’s dangers in a manner similar to Dr. Alan Grant and the Murphy kids in Jurassic Park. Not much need to belabor that point.
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Dr. Sarah Harding is a prominent figure for exploring key themes of the sexual revolution in our society. She tests female agency and the struggle and status of women coming into the working world shaped by men.
Harding has a feminist chip on her shoulder. She sees herself as a heroic challenger in the academic world. Her colleagues are rivals. Their work is an outdated obstacle. She wants to prove dinosaurs were nurturing parents rather than vicious lizards. And this seems laid out along lines where men as men are the purveyors of the old view. So there is either an irony or a fitting inevitability in this situation. A woman who’s not pursuing motherhood herself is arguing for idyllic motherhood in her research. This irony sets up a further irony (the reversal between human and dinosaur) in the fabric of the movie.
There’s a moment where Sarah’s struggle in her male-dominated working world becomes most clear. Sarah, Ian, and Nick are in the mobile headquarters dangling off the cliff. The vehicles plummet to the ocean below. The three ascend the rope in the pouring rain and darkness. Sarah takes the lead. She’s the first to reach the ledge. She pulls herself up over the rim. And who’s there waiting at the clifftop? Bending down (condescending) with an outstretched hand to pull her the rest of the way? Roland Tembo. The great white hunter. The man. And his company of men. The flashlight’s in her face, i.e. the spotlight is on her. And her look is one of frustration, exhaustion, and failure.
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So, let’s face it. There’s only one intact functional natural family featured in this film. And it’s the Tyrannosauruses. The parental behavior of Mama and Papa T-Rex drives much of the plot in the movie.
Harding draws special attention to the importance of tyrannosaurs as good parents. She wants to stick it to fellow paleontologist and rival Dr. Robert Burke by name. He’s the one who called the T-Rex “a rogue who would abandon its young at the first opportunity.” By a happy coincidence, Burke’s on the island advising the InGen rivals who are rounding up dinosaurs. The parental behavior of the tyrannosaurs leads to Burke’s eventual death by Mama T-Rex. A poetic end to a man of the old order destroyed by his foolishness?
That parental behavior proves to be very reliable throughout the film. Roland relies on it to trap his prize, Papa T-Rex. Ian and Sarah rely on it to recover the rampaging father on the streets of San Diego. It gets Peter Ludlow killed as Daddy teaches Junior how to hunt.
One of the final shots of the film is Mama, Papa, and Baby Tyrannosaurus reunited at last. They’re together in a field like it’s a picturesque afternoon picnic in the park. Happy T-Rex family life has been restored.
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It’s not in the movie, but there’s a noteworthy point about animal parenting in the novel. The velociraptors are the premier examples of dinosaurs lacking parenting. They have no social skills. These lab-grown clones never had a family and a community to impart their natural order to them. And they’re killing each other because of it.
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Roland Tembo the big-game hunter gives the moral of our story. His long-time hunting companion Ajay Sidhu has been killed by velociraptors. The hunter has tranquilized the male tyrannosaur he intended to kill. He turns to leave. He and Ludlow exchange words.
Peter: There’s a job at the park in San Diego if you want it.
Roland: No, thank you. I believe I’ve spent enough time in the company of death.
Roland has seen what happens with these de-extinct dinosaurs and figured out where all of this will lead. The pursuit of ongoing sexual revolution is a death wish.