Karen Gillan and the “Jumanji” Problem

I could be here all day pointing out sexist depictions of females in film and continue to expound on the predominance of the male gaze in mainstream cinema. But I think I’ve just reached the point when it comes to stuff like this that I have to laugh because the other alternative is to cry. I have no idea what this new Jumanji reboot is going to be about, but today the powers that be released a picture with all the characters in costume. Kevin Hart looks like a boy scout, The Rock looks like The Rock but sweatier, Jack Black looks like he’s LARPing as an imperialist, and then there is Karen Gillan… Karen Gillan… Karen Gillan looking like the girl who was too cool for school in 2002, all that is missing is her tattoo choker necklace.

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The Hypable article laments that she looks like a 90’s stereotype, but let’s look at what that actually means in the most 90’s jungliest jungle movie of all time, the 1995 masterpiece, Congo. The girl in that movie, Laura Linney, wasn’t prancing about like Kelly Bundy lost in the rain forest. She’s wearing clothes that are fitting for someone who is out there hunting after a giant gorilla, or a lost temple, or Tim Curry’s acting talent. It’s not fair to pin the failing of Karen Gillan’s costume on the 90’s, as those were simpler, pre 9/11 times. It was still fashionable to wear fanny packs. This is a 2016 problem, where people drop the words “ empowered” and “strong” and attach it to a female and pat themselves on the back as they continue with their hypocritical practices.

I enjoy costume design, and while I’m not a professional by any means, I do know something about what goes behind the conception of clothing for a character. If the clothes can help us determine something about the character then what on the surface does Karen Gillan’s finger-less gloves, bare midriff, and legs inform us? Visually it attempts to tell us that Karen Gillan can be feminine and sexy, but can still be a bad ass. But when compared to her other fully clothed co-stars, the contrast becomes painfully obvious and her appearance is meant more for titillation than actual character.

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There is no doubt that in the world that the 1995 Jumanji film established, the jungle is full of dangerous fauna and flora. Could it be that her character doesn’t care or is ignorant of the risks associated with tick bites?  Perhaps her character has exposed herself to the elements because she has grown immune to the dangerous plant and animal life in Jumanji, or maybe, like Quiet in Metal Gear Solid V she breathes through her skin. I doubt this Jumanji reboot will be that creative concocting an excuse for her wardrobe.

I’m not supposed to sit for an hour and critically muse what any of this means for Jumanji; this isn’t like watching a David Lynch film, this is just another cynical capitalization on millennial nostalgia. Jumanji, the lushly illustrated children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg, has more artistic value than the 90’s film adaptation. Those behind the artistic direction of this film reboot are attempting to make art, but they still have to adhere to their financiers and therefore have to compromise and use stock archetypes to fit the formula for successful films. So it’s not shocking that Karen Gillan’s character looks like this, it’s just business as usual. At the very least I just hope Karen Gillan is getting paid fairly, and not being paid as a woman.

What do you think of the first images from the new Jumanji movie? What about Karen’s outfit? Give us all your feelings in the comment section below. 

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2 thoughts on “Karen Gillan and the “Jumanji” Problem

  1. I think that Gillan’s costume is the only one appropriate for strenuous activity in a tropical jungle. The comparison with the movie Congo is unreasonable because that presumably set in the forests where the Mountain Gorillas live, which is at an elevation of around 3000m, and thus is quite cool. The biggest danger in lowland tropics is hypethermia, particularly if you are paled skinned. It is common practice to wear long pants or even long shirts – but these are always lose and never protect against parasites (interesting that the author mentions tick bites, which are typically one of the least worrying things in the deep tropics, but it is the most worrying in temperate USA). Liberal use of insect repellent, and close monitoring for parasites (eg pick leeches off by hand) is the only safe method. Plants can be a problem which is often why long pants are used, but it is not always the best solution as clothes can often be caught on the vines making progress extremely tedious. The shins are the most vulnerable area so long boots or gaiters or usually best. But this depends entirely on the type of fauna, which can be quite varied. By personal preference is always to wear as little as possible, a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent and some good shoes.

  2. Well said. Happy to see her, but I really don’t see any reason for her midriff showing. Or so much leg. Among other things. Sigh. Kids movie?? Sad example.

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