The dinosaur disaster sequel is the latest Hollywood movie to hide a character’s queerness.
Dinosaurs are not the only thing defying extinction in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. The latest installment in the Jurassic series is also reviving the unfortunate trend of cutting out gay scenes in franchise films. Actress Daniella Pineda, who plays dinosaur doctor Zia Rodriguez, recently revealed to Yahoo that a line of dialogue in which her character reveals that she only dates women was cut from the film’s final version.
“I look at Chris [Pratt] and I’m like, ‘Yeah, square jaw, good bone structure, tall muscles,'” goes the line as Pineda remembers it. “I don’t date men, but if I did, it would be you. It would gross me out, but I’d do it.’ I love that I’m looking at Chris Pratt, the hottest guy in the world, and I’m like, ‘It would gross me out, but I guess I would do it!’ It was also cool, because it was a little insight into my character. But they cut it.”
This isn’t the first time a character in a blockbuster film has had their queerness edited out or scaled back in a movie. A scene illustrating that Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie was bisexual was omitted from the final cut of Thor: Ragnarok, as was a kiss between Sulu and his onscreen husband in Star Trek Beyond.
Even when queer representation isn’t left on the cutting room floor, it’s often so paired down in blockbusters that audiences miss it altogether. Solo: A Star Wars Story screenwriter Jonathan Kasdan’s announcement that Lando Calrissian is pansexual was met with surprise because his sexuality isn’t directly addressed within the film itself. Nor is the gayness of Beauty and the Beast‘s LeFou, whose much-hyped queer moment is merely a split second of the character dancing with another man.
This bizarre trend in recent tentpoles has created a contemporary cinema landscape filled with Schrodinger’s gays, characters whose queerness is not acknowledged but nevertheless subtly implied, and characters who are both queer and not queer depending on how you want to read them.
Although her lesbian dialogue was cut from the film, Zia’s queerness in Fallen Kingdom wasn’t entirely erased. Pineda’s character remains queer-coded by the pretty conspicuous signifiers in her costume and styling (she’s got a definite K Stew vibe). In this way, her queerness becomes an aesthetic quality in the movie, not a part of the character that the storytellers need to engage with.
This type of queer-coding of movie characters that is heavy on aesthetic indicators but light on story is extremely common, especially in children’s or mainstream Hollywood media (think Ursula from The Little Mermaid or Ryan from High School Musical or the original animated LeFou). By creating characters that look queer but don’t talk about their queerness, filmmakers get to wink at audiences without directly acknowledging the queer representation that they are putting on screen.
Queer-coding is a holdover from the golden age of Hollywood when production codes and social taboos made making films about gay characters impossible. Savvy viewers knew the significance of Marlene Dietrich’s tux or the nefarious roommates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, but to most, the queerness on screen was entirely invisible.
The particular danger of this type of pseudo-representation is that when a queer character cannot be openly represented, their queerness often becomes a signifier for something else, usually something negative. Characters in old Hollywood movies who were coded as queer were most often also coded as comic buffoons or villains. This is why the queer-coding and hinting going on in modern blockbusters feels not only out of date, but downright uncomfortable.
What makes the retro representation in blockbusters even more absurd is that we are currently experiencing a mecca of queer representation within television and art house film. Indie movies as well as many TV shows, especially those on cable and streaming platforms, have the freedom to appeal to a niche audience and tell very specific stories about queer characters. From recent breakout films as different as Moonlight and Princess Cyd to series as varied as Transparent and Rupaul’s Drag Race, queer stories are now available en masse in a way that they have never been before, without all of the winking and nodding that filmmakers once felt compelled to do.
It’s time for blockbuster movies to catch up to the pace that TV and the art house world have set. Here’s to hoping that if Daniella Pineda’s character returns in the third Jurassic World installment, her character’s queerness will be more fully realized. Who knows, maybe then the sixth installment of a rebooted franchise about living fossils will be able to offer us something fresh.