Recently, I had the unique pleasure of attending “Flicks from the Hill”, an outdoor movie screening series hosted by the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. “Flicks from the Hill” had a great line-up of films this season, including Back to the Future, Hugo, and Star Trek. The film I had watched, however, was unique. It featured both dinosaurs and electric vehicles. Where do these two unrelated subjects show up in cinema together? The classic blockbuster Jurassic Park, of course!
For those who are not familiar with the plot, Jurassic Park is about a wealthy philanthropist who creates a theme park featuring real-life dinosaurs. The dinosaurs are cloned from genetic material preserved in amber via prehistoric mosquitos. (If you’ve never watched it, save this article for later and watch it now…spoilers ahead!). As I was watching the movie, gripped by its fantastical plot and life-like creatures, I had a realization: Jurassic Park sends a negative message about electric vehicles.
Let’s make a few observations. The aforementioned philanthropist, Hammond, proudly boasts to the visiting archaeologists that the jeeps in the theme park are all-electric and “totally non-polluting, top of the line!” As he says this, we see the self-driving cars crawl forward on a metal track. Jurassic Park’s first visitors don’t seem impressed, but they get into the vehicles anyway for the tour. Despite his enthusiasm, we find out later in the movie that using electric cars ends up being one of the many mistakes Hammond makes. The park’s electricity fails, rendering the electric cars useless and, worse, the electric fences not operational. This leaves everyone at the mercy of the dinosaurs. When his grandchildren are stranded in the park while on the tour, Hammond is sure to specify that he wants his employee to drive the “gas jeep” to save them. While the electric vehicle is mercilessly attacked and crushed by the t-rex with the grandchildren still inside, the gas vehicle is miraculously able to out-drive the angered dinosaur, keeping all members of the car safe. This scene assumes that gas-powered cars are faster, more resilient, and somehow more heroic than the electric models. The gas vehicle acts as a foil to the painfully slow, flawed, and dangerous electric car, which is confined to its metal track, never allowing the passengers to drive for themselves, even if there’s a life-threatening event on hand. Presenting electric vehicles in this way inherently ties them to Hammond’s other choices, such as the folly of genetically engineering dinosaurs for a theme park: it’s considered an irresponsible mistake.
Admittedly, it’s a crazy idea and an obscure observation, but entirely relevant. Think of all the times movies have influenced your thoughts about real-life objects, events, and actions (Have you ever believed these movie tropes to be true: that cars blow up dramatically like bombs or that hacking a computer system takes just a few seconds of fervent typing? Or worse, have you ever believed a stereotype that is presented repeatedly in pop culture?) It’s important to identity the misconceptions that are perpetuated through popular cinema so that we can educate ourselves about the truth.
In reality, EV’s are fast, safe, and reliable. If we were to travel back in time with an electric vehicle, I’m doubtful that we’d be safe from a fearsome t-rex, but neither would the gas-powered car—although, we’re probably going to need an all-electric DeLorean to find out for sure.