Jurassic Park Laudato Si
Jurassic World, Laudato si', and the Faulknerian Ideal11:00:00 AMJulia Premus
“God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs.”
To which Dr. Ellie Sattler smirks, “Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth.” (1)
It’s a comical exchange in which the Jurassic Park franchise seemed to be self-aware of its own repeated story arch: Man manipulates nature, man escapes nature, nature is restored to is happily human-free state. My friends and I walked into Loews Movie Theater on June 19th imagining that Jurassic World would follow the same trusted plot, giving us a chance to revisit both our nostalgia and our childhood debate over who would be the alpha raptor. What we all left the theatre with was something I could hardly predict from a franchise built around people running away. It reminded me of a conversation from Modern Poetry class:
"Easy," a student jumped, "a place uninhabited by humans. Somewhere uncivilized."
“Well, that’s rather pessimistic,” the teacher laughed. “Certainly, the great American wilderness painters would agree completely. But it’s not what the word always meant. There was a time when our imaginations could conceive of an image of ‘wilderness’ in which humanity’s presence--even civilization--was natural rather than invasive.”
The film Jurassic World, released within six days of Pope Francis’s environmental encyclical Laudato si’ (On Care For Our Common Home), features a main character who bears a striking resemblance to Pope Francis’s Faulknerian prototype - one who lays down his weapons, lives among nature, and nurses it back to its intended health.
Sure, Jurassic World begins as all environmental commentary does - with a portrait in vivid color of innocent creatures suffering in the circus of humanity’s commercialism. From Hoskins’ attempts to militarize velociraptors to the staff-wide abuse of the park’s newest GMO dinosaur, the Jurassic World theme park has truly fulfilled its vision to “rape the natural world,” quoting Dr. Ian Malcolm. (1) But where Jurassic World and Laudato si’ are breaking new ground is in the fleshing out of a redemptive prototype - a human being humble enough to enter into a relationship with nature and heal the broken bond. And for Jurassic World, that person is Owen Grady, the St. Francis of the velociraptors.
Although Grady acknowledges the immorality of the Hammond Lab’s procreative actions - “Probably not a good idea” (2) - he nonetheless refuses to abandon his care for Mother Earth, regardless of her newfound distortions. Trivial as it may seem, the fact that Grady learns each velociraptor by name in an effort to work with them is reminiscent of Laudato si’: “the Spirit of life [dwelling] in every living creature, [calling] us to enter into relationship with him.” (3) Time and time again Grady acknowledges the raptors as a force of nature to be revered and cared for with compassion. Although the animals are seen only as killing machines by some employees, Grady recognizes their innocence and vulnerability to the forces of Jurassic World, refusing to allow the employees to abuse the creatures. As he advocates in various instances to the park overseer, Claire Dearing:
You might have made them in a test tube, but they don’t know that.
It’s probably easier to pretend these animals are just numbers on a spreadsheet, but they’re not. They’re alive.
I don’t control the raptors, it’s a relationship. It’s based on mutual respect.
Don’t shoot. Put 12 amps in these animals, they’re never gonna trust me again. (2)
It’s the first time in Jurassic Park history that we see an inkling of hope, however imperfect, for humankind’s nonviolent and permanent re-entry into the wilderness. While still not entirely perfected, Grady’s attitude is as Pope Francis advocates for in Laudato si’:
I would mention the statements made by the beloved Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew…[who] has spoken in particular of the need for each of us to repent of the ways we have harmed the planet, for “inasmuch as we all generate small ecological damage”, we are called to acknowledge “our contribution, smaller or greater, to the disfigurement and destruction of creation” . (4)
Grady demonstrates that humanity has the responsibility to re-enter into communion with nature - not to flee from the consequences of its destruction, but to actively work to regain the bonds between humanity and Mother Earth. As Grady says, “These are wild animals, Hoskins. Trust me, you don’t want them in the field. I just saw a bond. A real bond. Between man and beast.” (3) Grady’s communion with the raptors shows that the cooperation of humanity with the wilderness is not only possible with humility, but also how we were intended to live. Grady knew he could never control or conquer the velociraptors. Only by first laying down his weapons and respecting their power as creatures could he be welcomed among them. It’s this same Faulknerian idea that Laudato si’ acknowledges:
This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will...We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters. (5)
So how can we take imitate this prototype in our daily lives? Whether or not you have a pet velociraptor, you can still participate in even the most minute ways to growing in communion with Mother Earth. And for that, she will thank us by healing us alongside her.
I can't seem to read enough Ray Bradbury. When I'm not reading, I'm playing violin, Super Mario, or Super Mario songs on violin.
1. Jurassic Park. Dir. Steven Spielberg. By Michael Crichton and David Koepp. Perf. Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Richard Attenborough. Universal Pictures, 1993. Film.
2. Jurassic World. Dir. Colin Trevorrow. By Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connoly, and Michael Crichton. Perf. Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, B.D. Wong. Universal Studios, 2015. Film.
3 - Francis. Laudato si’. [On Care for Our Common Home], sec. 88, accessed July 17, 2015. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html.
4 - Francis. Laudato si’. [On Care for Our Common Home], sec. 8, accessed July 17, 2015. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html.
5 - Francis. Laudato si’. [On Care for Our Common Home], sec. 2, accessed July 17, 2015. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html.