Recently, my girlfriend convinced me to watch the feature film Twister (1996). My acquiescence was a great display of either sheer tenacity (hers) or love (mine). For the entirety of our relationship, I have refused to watch the feature film Twister due to my intense fear of extreme weather but especially tornadoes. Anyway, I probably should write a separate piece entirely about Helen Hunt being so hot in Twister that she made me briefly (BRIEFLY) overcome my fear of the worst thing about the sky, but now is not the time. Now is the time to discuss Jurassic World: Dominion, the movie we watched as a sort of exchange. I am afraid of tornadoes, and my girlfriend is afraid of dinosaurs. I maintain that my fear is worse given that it is of something that can reasonably happen to us, but I will for now entertain the idea put forth by the Jurassic World universe: that dinosaurs can indeed happen to us.
We settled on the couch with our takeout Thai and selected the extended version of Jurassic World: Dominion offered exclusively on Peacock, because apparently I like pain. An extended version of a movie that’s already over two-hours long should be expressly forbidden by, I don’t know, GOD???? At its expanded length, Jurassic World: Dominion comes in at two hours and forty minutes or ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY MINUTES. That is, simply, too many minutes.
The first thing you should know about Jurassic World: Dominion is that it is not a very good movie. Yes, Laura Dern is in it, and sometimes all I need as a barometer for whether a movie is worthy of watching is the simple fact of Laura Dern being in it. You’ve got your old-school Jurassic Park characters and your newfangled ones. Everyone’s working together to either save the dinosaurs or kill the dinosaurs — depends on the day. But let’s not get bogged down by plot details, because plot-wise this movie is a snoozefest. One hundred and sixty minutes that might be better spent taking a very long nap.
The second thing you should know about Jurassic World: Dominion is that it features a bisexual pilot played by DeWanda Wise. Her name is Kayla Watts, and had I known there was a queer character named Kayla in this movie, I would have walked my self-obsessed ass directly to the theater rather than waiting for its digital release. The fact of the matter is that I should have known this detail due to the fact that we included it in a link roundup right here on this very website where I work. But nay, I entered Jurassic World with very little knowledge of even the prior movies (I had only seen them ambiently on my girlfriend’s screen on airplanes — also I think it further proves my point that her fear of dinosaurs is not as great as my fear of tornadoes if she’s able to face said fear on a SEALED CANISTER IN THE SKY but I digress) let alone of ones of its newest characters, Kayla Watts. Now, when Kayla first appears in the movie, did I immediately think to myself: oh, she’s queer. Absolutely. But mainly because Wise has played queer characters throughout her career (the She’s Gotta Have It series and Someone Great).
For a bit, there’s nothing necessarily concrete to go off of other than the undeniable BQE (Big Queer Energy) wafting off of Kayla. Then, there’s a moment that is, I guess, meant to be a little wink wink nod nod to the character’s queerness. After Chris Pr*tt’s Owen Grady expresses affection for Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing, Kayla replies: “I get it. I like redheads, too.”
Now, this absolutely is the kind of subtext that pings for queer viewers. I was picking up what she was putting down. But I like redheads, too as a “coming out” line plays it incredibly safe, and after so many years of yearning for queer representation in the blockbuster movies I grew up loving, I really have reached a point now where these kinds of little wink wink nod nods just make me tired. I know some queer viewers push for characters who are not defined by their queerness, and I get that. But I also think that if a character’s queerness can be easily excised entirely from a narrative without it really changing anything about them, then it isn’t real, meaningful representation. Whenever I hear about queerness being “cut” from a movie, it makes me think that that queerness wasn’t taking up enough space in the first place.
BUT THAT’S JUST ME!!!!!!!
None of my critiques of this character and her love of redheads (relatable; I had photos of Marcia Cross on my wall as a teen) has anything to do with Wise, who has been vocal about Kayla’s bisexuality to press in a way that does touch on meaningful conversations about queerness. A lot of what she says isn’t exactly supported by the text, but as an actor she doesn’t really have control over that. Here’s what she told comicbook.com:
“It’s important, and it’s also important to me that we continue to expand the conversation beyond looking for the kiss,” Wise explained. “If you’re queer, you’re queer … I said what I said. All the time. You don’t turn it off. It doesn’t matter if your partner’s in the cockpit with you. It just is a statement of being.” She added, “So that was one of the things just in her DNA, in her dino DNA, ensuring that she is who she is. Kayla is bi, and that’s just, it is what it is.”
Yes! I agree! Queerness doesn’t have an on-and-off switch, and it’s not just about kissing. But…I like redheads, too…also is just hollow representation, the kind a lot of straight viewers would miss tbh. Redheads can indeed be any gender in case you didn’t know.
Again, I’m not trying to fight Wise here. She’s ultimately right. (She’s also the main reason to watch the movie — though DEAR GOD DON’T WATCH THE EXTENDED VERSION.) The movie, though, doesn’t contain the type of nuanced depiction of queerness she’s talking about. When it comes to big action blockbusters, there’s still just so much homophobia in Hollywood. I get what Wise means by saying it doesn’t have to be a kiss, but there’s a lot of straight kissing in this movie! It’s not like it’s a movie without kissing! And in addition to the redhead line, we also get some very implied history between Kayla and a woman named Denise and see Kayla speaking to a redhead at the end of the movie with their faces very close to each other. That’s all!
If Jurassic World: Dominion was always going to leave Kayla’s bisexuality to one simple line, well, then I have some proposed alternatives they could have gone with that in my opinion are better and more to the point than I like redheads, too:
- “Dinosaurs? More like Binosaurs!”
- “I’m not a pilot……….I’m a bi-lot.” (ok, I’ll stop with these)
- “My entire closet is just Dickies and Carhartts.”
- “Dr. Ellie Sattler meant a lot to me when I was growing up.”
- “I like redheads, too, like for example, Marcia Cross whose photos I had on my walls as a teen.”
- “That velociraptor reminds me of my ex-girlfriend.”
- “I gotta land this plane so I can get home and watch A League Of Their Own!”
- “I’m bisexual.”
For the record, I almost titled this piece Notes From One Queer Kayla to Jurassic World’s Queer Kayla. I will save that one on my back pocket for if Kayla Watts ever gets her own Jurassic trilogy centered on her — WHICH SHE SHOULD. And hopefully it comes with a redhead gf who can go toe-to-toe with her.