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Why Your Friends Don’t Deserve to be Eaten by Dinosaurs} ?>
There were few events I anticipated as a kid as much as the opening weekend for Jurassic Park. The excitement around that movie was palpable and all the news and entertainment shows on television—not to mention my friends—were clamoring for it. All the enthusiasm persuaded me to read the novel on which it was based, which was a big deal for me. It was the first book I read for fun, and I enjoyed it fully. Michael Crichton’s work made me feel like an adult, with all its multifaceted characters and scientific context. Well, that and the curse words.
I was full of adrenaline when I finally made it to the theater to watch Spielberg’s film. The opening scene with the unseen velociraptor capturing a terrified worker mesmerized me, but soon afterwards, confusion set in. The plot differed greatly from the book and the characters weren’t quite the ones I remembered. I was most confused by the absence of lawyer Donald Gennaro. A major figure in the novel, I wondered why he was missing from the movie. There was an attorney in the film, but that couldn’t be Gennaro, who the author described as strong and stout, who had his faults but also showed scruples. This attorney was thinner, balder, and older than the one in the book, and far more befitting of the “evil lawyer” stereotype.
In Michael Crichton’s version, Gennaro is a corporate lawyer looking out for his employers’ investment and his own well-being, but through the course of the story, he changes. Once put into life and death situations, he focuses on his own safety rather than his greed, and later, also on the safety of the other survivors. When it requires courage to approach the fearsome dinosaurs, Gennaro faces his fear and helps save the group.
In the film, the attorney—who, it turns out, is Gennaro—does the opposite. After power cuts out and the Tyrannosaurus Rex escapes from its paddock, Gennaro abandons Tim and Lexie, two children, and runs for cover to an outhouse. The rest is cinematic film history, of course, as the greedy corporate lawyer gets his comeuppance and becomes dinner for the dinosaur.
That scene, where Gennaro was lifted off the toilet by the huge dinosaur, exemplified how society felt towards attorneys at the time. They were considerably more villainized as a whole than they are today, an oversimplification of who lawyers are and what they do. As Gennaro was swallowed, theater audiences cheered because a fictional lawyer suffered the fate that attorneys “deserved,” forgetting that plenty of wonderful people serve in that profession and that their jobs are often essential, while there are bad seeds even in the ranks of law enforcement, civil service, medicine, and yes, paleontology.
But I wasn’t laughing along with the rest of the audience during that scene. I was a little angry. How could they do this to that character? While Dr. Grant was the primary protagonist of the novel, it was Gennaro I related to. He was selfish like me, but he ended up doing the right thing like I hoped I would. And to be reduced to T-Rex fodder in the movie?
But I realize that’s pretty much what I do every day. I look at people as linear objects who are simple to figure out, when in reality they live in 3-D and all its complexities. I take the novel Donald Gennaro and treat him like the movie version often.
I’ll do this even with those closest to me. I have a friend who had trouble sleeping and reduced his problem to staying up too late playing video games, when there was more to it than that. I realize he struggles with anxiety and grew up without the advantage of parents who knew how to help him cope through his challenges. There’s more to his insomnia than just video games—in fact, he probably turned to playing those at night because of his insomnia, not the other way around.
My own willingness to jump to conclusions frightens me, because it suggests that even though I know that people are complex, I choose to treat them otherwise. I judge them without considering their full stories. I reduce them to cautionary tales that are wrapped up in a ribbon and bow rather than loving them as people, in all the messiness that entails.
When I’m aware of these tendencies in myself, I’m motivated to love other better. My actions lie along a spectrum—I don’t always do good, but I don’t always do bad, either. And I’m motivated by all manner of desire and need, and the choices I make are loaded with all sorts of considerations. I would hate it if people made quick decisions about me without having all the information. I want to be understood and loved regardless of what I do and say, because it’s not so easy to always make the right decisions and I need support no matter what I do.
Sometimes, when I’m at my best, I’ll have a discussion with a friend about something he’s struggling with; as I converse and listen, I can see in his eyes that he feels understood, or at least listened to, as we’re receptive of each other’s words. I want to care more and show the people around me that I know they are intricate and wondrous and enigmatic. I want them to know that I see them as full, well-rounded characters of depth, that they’re Donald Gennaro from the novel, developed through hundreds of pages. They’re not sleazy lawyers best summed up as snacks for a T-Rex. My loved ones are not simple stories or funny punchlines; they are the full story treatment and when I acknowledge that, I am better able to love them.
He can also be found, however, feeding his other nerd habits, including A Song of Ice and Fire. Charles also remains hopelessly stuck in the 90's, maybe best demonstrated by his unexplainable passion for The Phantom Menace.
A historian and director at a government agency by day, Charles joins in the work of college and digital ministry is his off-time, while growing each day in the round-the-clock charge of being a husband and father.
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