Laura Dern was implanting feminist messaging in our brains as far back as 1993.
“I loved seeing it — and I really loved seeing it with my 12-year-old daughter,” Dern says, after bringing up the film herself from her home in Los Angeles. “People are like, ‘Well, you can’t turn this kind of film into a statement.’ It’s like, no. You infiltrate every story that you tell. It can be a traditional movie, but you respond to something different.”
Dern draws a parallel between journalism and acting:
“Truth and lies have become a real interesting theme, more than ever, lately...Frankly, you know better than me as a journalist; it’s a very interesting time to use our voice. So we get to ask questions right now, and where we put our energy, where we can kind of infiltrate a bit...It’s the same on a film—you never want to hit things over the head, but there’s a lot to be said right now and telling stories, whether they’re true stories that are blatant and correct about injustice and a longing for equality and human rights, or it’s disenfranchised characters who don’t even know they’re entitled to a voice – and how interesting to play people who have to make their way not feeling that their voice matters?”
Representation in media matters enormously to the people watching. An actor of Dern’s reputation has more power when it comes to choosing what sorts of voices to amplify, even if it’s just through her own instrument.
Dern will soon be appearing in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and compares how the Star Wars franchise is perceived now (diverse, full of ass-kicking women) versus in its first iteration (white boys only). She also suggests suggests Jurassic Park always had the seed of a feminist message as well:
“We did it on ‘Jurassic Park’—there was a rather feminist line in response to something Jeff Goldblum says about ‘man creates dinosaurs, and dinosaurs eat man.’ Something like that,” she says. “And then I look back and say the line, ‘Yeah—and woman inherits the earth’ and that was such a big deal. It was like here it is, we’re in this formulaic, big movie and it’s this fabulous, fun, feminist moment. Then there are 12-year-old girls watching the movie and they hear that, and it’s one line. For years it was ‘Oh, well that’s more for boys, because it’s a dinosaur movie.’ and that’s what they used to say about ‘Star Wars,’ and now because there are female icons in it, all the girls want to see it as much as boys. So yeah, it’s really exciting to consider with every story that you tell. Every film I get to be part of, [I consider] how we can make it truly relatable, to all of us.”
The clip holds up, especially the fearful acknowledgement of Dern’s sentiment from the men behind her.