When it comes to choosing outfits for female characters in action movies, it doesn’t take very much to create a controversy. Two years ago Jurassic World found itself in the middle of a fire-storm over Bryce Dallas Howard’s high heels, and now there’s a similar controversy bubbling over Karen Gillan’s arguably gratuitously skimpy outfit in the upcoming reboot of Jumanji.
Fans got their first look at Gillan’s Jumanji character last year when Columbia released a promotional photo of her and co-stars Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black and Kevin Hart. The first thing anyone noticed was that, while the males were attired in a way that seemed perfectly appropriate for a family-friendly adventure movie, Gillan was dressed in an outfit that would have looked right at home in a Tomb Raider flick aimed at teenage boys with raging hormones.
For some people, this was the Bryce Dallas Howard high heels controversy all over again. But Karen Gillan has addressed the outfit backlash in an interview with THR (via Comicbook.com) and assures the public that her skimpy attire indeed serves a purpose in the story:
“I’ve experienced something similar when I worked on Doctor Who and there was such an uproar about my costume when that was first revealed, so I thought it was happening all over again. But I have to say, I’d never take on a role that was truly gratuitous for no reason. There’s a really valid reason why she’s wearing that. My character is really not happy about it!”
The plot of Jumanji involves a quartet of teenagers being transformed into characters from the title board-game and trying to survive inside its fantasy world filled with dangerous creatures and hazardous traps. Gillan’s character inside the game is an “Amazonian warrior” named Ruby Roundhouse but her teenage incarnation is a character named Martha who is described as “unathletic.” One presumes from Gillan’s remarks that Martha is not the kind of girl who would ever consider dressing like Lara Croft, but inside the game she’s forced to wear a skimpy outfit and is not pleased with this development.
Considering the way female characters have traditionally been objectified in the male-dominated world of on-screen fantasy, you can understand people being leery after viewing Gillan’s outfit. Raquel Welch prancing around the caveman world of One Million Years B.C. in a bikini may have been considered fine in the ’60s, but nowadays people view that kind of stuff as demeaning, and with good reason. Concerns over Bryce Dallas Howard’s high heels touched on the same issues of how women are depicted in male-leaning fantasy and worries that young girls are getting bad messages from such depictions.
Fans can rest-assured that Gillan is not being objectified or demeaned in Jumanji, but that her skimpy outfit is apparently part of an attempt to satirize the way women have traditionally been depicted in such movies. At least that’s what we get from Gillan’s remarks. Whether that joke flies or not, we’ll find out when Jumanji opens in theaters.