How Netflix’s Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous Subverts What It Means To Be A Kids Show
The Netflix animated show, set during the events of 2015’s Jurassic World, is supposed to be aimed at children.
While bright animation, simple humour and a major toning down of the often extreme violence found throughout the Jurassic Park franchise back this up, the show did a lot to subvert expectations.
Through a clever shot towards the start of episode one, we learn the outline of each character in just a couple of seconds.
On the whole, it’s a relatively stereotypical (if incredibly diverse) bunch of personalities: popular, sporty, arrogant, quirky, nerdy and relatable.
It’s how each character develops that flips expectation on its head.
First of all, Kenji. He introduces himself as a rich alpha-male and exudes toxic masculinity.
However, rather than his strength and arrogance turning him into a knight in shining armour, the entire camp immediately thinks he’s ridiculous.
It doesn’t take twenty minutes for Brooklynn to directly call out his toxic masculinity. How many shows have you seen that tackle the subject head-on? Let alone a kid’s show.
Very few of his pseudo-heroic schemes work, and it is typically left to the rest of the group to save Kenji from his own failures.
At times, it’s a genuinely poignant commentary and a great message.
While we eventually find out about the loneliness that underpins his arrogance, his character arc doesn’t exactly see him change his ways.
Then we have Brooklynn, the ‘Daphne’ of the group.
We knew she’d be separated from her phone eventually, but it didn’t have anywhere near the impact on her as we’d expected.
In fact, most of the time she is the most level-headed and genuine of the bunch.
Her massive social media following and obsession with her phone are cliché, but she is rarely the damsel in distress like we see so often in things like Scooby-Doo.
Sammy starts the show quite annoying, as a relatively uninteresting, excitable character.
However, about halfway through, she turns into the show’s biggest mystery.
We’d already seen a mysterious figure handing a flash drive to a drone, so when a video on Brooklynn’s phone showed Sammy taking DNA samples from a dinosaur, we were hit with a genuine game-changer of a twist.
Kid’s shows don’t typically try to trick their audience, but it was like David Fincher himself had walked into the room.
A child wants to know exactly what they’re seeing, and have a nice time watching.
By this point, many kids had probably found common ground with Sammy.
The fact that she is revealed (a few episodes later) to be a spy, is genuinely quite incredible.
Your mouth might be open, but at least you can rest easy in the knowledge that her character would eventually be redeemed, right?
Well, not exactly.
She spends the rest of the show being ousted and never fully forgiven by the other campers.
There is no heroic sacrifice or dramatic change of behaviour, and the show ends before she can be redeemed to the level you’d want/predict.
Darius, the show’s main character, is much more of a relatable everyman.
A little shy, but kind, resourceful and bloody obsessed with dinosaurs.
However, every now and again, we get fragments of a truly tragic backstory.
The show does incredibly well to keep things subtle, not allowing Darius to become a source of non-stop sympathy, while also shining a light on his dad’s battle with what seems to be Parkinson’s disease.
Children’s entertainment is normally light and fun, but they sneak in some truly devastating moments via Darius.
Ben’s character is a little more of a stereotype. If you remember Horrid Henry, he’s comparable to Weepy William.
He’s constantly scared, questioning and, for some reason, travel sick (which goes nowhere), and eventually placed in a situation where he has to prove his bravery.
What you absolutely do not expect, is for Ben to be pushed to his death before he can be reunited with the group.
In a moment of slow-motion anguish, we literally see Ben fall from a monorail in the opening moments of the final episode.
From then on, he does not reappear.
Yes, one of the main characters in a children’s show makes (almost) no further appearance in its final episode, as they dramatically succeed in fighting their way to dock.
This has so many implications.
Not only does this mean that the group themselves are continuing under the impression that their new friend has just been brutally killed, but the children watching have to try to comprehend that as well.
The final shot of the show is Ben’s hand twitching, reassuring us that he isn’t dead and that he’ll be back for season two (which is now confirmed).
However, I can’t help but feel like this might be too subtle for a young child to fully understand.
There are a lot of children who probably went to bed that night thinking that their favourite character’s bravery is what killed him…
Annoyingly, the only big moment of development for Yaz as a character is an ankle injury that impacts her athletic prowess.
It’s a bit of a let-down in comparison to the subversive journeys of the others, especially when everything else about her character is great.
Still, there is a lot of insanity going on even beyond the main six.
There are at least three actual deaths shown on screen, with two unnamed Jurassic World staff and an assistant called Eddie being eaten by dinosaurs.
The two main adult characters, Roxie and Dave, might mean well, but in general, they’re quite useless.
When they’re told that they’ll be forcibly evacuated on the final boat, you expect the pair to come up with some sort of dramatic plan to remain on the island to help the kids.
Nope. They’re just driven off into the sunset, leaving the kids to fend for themselves.
Beyond that, pretty much every episode ends with a genuinely intense cliff-hanger. Imagine trying to put your child to bed after they’ve just seen Ben hanging on by his fingertips?
I think the fact that I’m genuinely excited for season two makes me really question whether you can truly call Netflix’s Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous a kid’s show.
What do you make of this feature on the new Jurassic World animated series on Netflix?
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