Lex from Jurassic Park is an underappreciated nerd-girl icon

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Dec 12, 2016

In the nerd girl pantheon, there are certain fictional characters who are acknowledged by all and sundry to be The Best. The girl geek royalty, if you will: enduring, beloved women who are strong, complex and thrive in adverse circumstances. Scully. Buffy. Ripley. Storm. Xena. Wonder Woman. Michonne. 

There’s a reason we love them. They’re rad as hell.

But.

Look. I’m just going to come out and say it. We, as a girl geek collective, have been sleeping on Lex from Jurassic Park, and I’m not going to stand for it anymore.

Historically, when nerds are represented in popular media, either positively or negatively, they’re usually guys. There are exceptions. Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a big one. More recently, Bernadette and Amy from The Big Bang Theory come to mind. But conjure up an image in your head of the archetypal movie nerd, and the same thing comes to mind—bad fashion sense, socially awkward, encyclopedic knowledge of weird subjects, and oh yeah, probably male. Girls are allowed to be social outcasts—they’re allowed to be weird—but they’re rarely allowed to be nerds. And oh yeah—whatever they are, they should probably still be conventionally attractive, at least once they take off their glasses.

 

Easy A's version of a nerdy, "undateable" guy vs. a nerdy, "undateable" girl. pic.twitter.com/edDP3ad08H

— Caroline Siede (@CarolineSiede) November 6, 2016

 

Female nerds—I’m talking Stranger Things, Freaks and Geeks-style überdorks—exist in the real world, but not so much in the male-centric world of movies. There, a male nerd can be an underdog hero, but even for him, his female counterpart is an object of derision: It’s part of his great revenge narrative against popular culture that, in the end, he still gets to suck face with the hot chick. This leaves female nerds in the dust. Myra Monkhouse from Family Matters, Steve Urkel did not deserve you.

OK. So nerd girls are few and far between, especially in the cinema and TV of the ‘80s and ‘90s, before the Great Mainstreaming shuffled superhero movies and sci-fi epics into the eyeballs of an increasing number of people. When we talk about fictional female nerds, especially younger fictional female nerds, who do we have, really?

I’ll tell you who we have. We have Lex from Jurassic Park, and I would not give her up for the world. Lex is a Nerd Girl Supreme. 

Not only is Lex a hacker, my God… she’s a hacker and pedantic about it.

Tim: She’ll just sit in her room and never come out and play with her computer.

Lex: I’m a hacker.

She nerds the hell out about technology. And, OK, “technology” when Jurassic Park came out in 1993 was a janky car touch-screen (and, you know, cloning dinosaurs), but she was there. for. it.

She hates the outdoors.

This is not explicitly stated, but as a kindred spirit, I know it when I see it. Little brother Tim is all “ooh, dinosaurs, what an adventure, even though I will probably die.” Lex’s idea of a fun time is not bushwhacking through any damn dino herds. She has a Kirk/Spock WIP saved on a floppy back home and a plot bunny that refuses to die. This nature crap can go screw.

Her crush on Dr. Grant.

Now, I’m not saying it’s a “nerd thing” to have a crush on the mature, older, crotchety Dr. Grant over the hot, flashy Ian Malcolm. Insofar as nerd law is a thing that exists, it is a nerd law to have a crush on Jeff Goldblum, regardless of your general sexual preferences. But I’m speaking for myself here: As a nine-year-old baby nerd watching Jurassic Park, Dr. Grant did it for me more than Malcolm ever did. I don’t know if it was the khakis. It was definitely the hat. I have no scientific proof of this, but I know in my heart that nerd girls have a tendency towards weird crushes. J.T.T. was not for J.T.Me—adolescent Rebecca was all about some Rupert Giles.

Lex is smart.

You remember the kitchen scene? (Pffft. Who am I talking to? Of course you remember the kitchen scene.) Lex outsmarted a velociraptor, and that ain’t tough.They can open doors. While Little Timmy was busy freaking out, Lex tricked a raptor into attacking her reflection, giving the two of them a chance to escape. That’s problem-solving skills under pressure, man. That takes gumption. 

And you can tell me, “Waah waah, Lex is annoying and weak, she spent the whole movie screaming, waah waah.” Reader, I don’t know you, and I don’t know your life, but I am 99 percent sure if you went to visit your grandfather and suddenly found yourself under attack by dinosaurs, you would scream, too. You might think you’d maintain the relative calm of an Ian Malcolm—“Must go faster. Must go faster.”—but I’m here to tell you that no one but Jeff Goldblum is Jeff Goldblum. You would be one long Muppet scream.

Fashion. 

Trends were not particularly on my radar as a child—I became vaguely aware, after a while, that Delia’s was a thing, but that was the extent of it—but I am pretty damn sure that a paisley tank top tucked into high-waisted jeans and a purple ball cap was no one’s idea of a fashionable look ever.

I’m just saying. Jurassic Park gave us tenacious Dr. Ellie Satler, who won’t take no BS about poisonous prehistoric plants and will stay with Dr. Harding and the trike thank you very much and saves men left and right and isn’t interested in yo love triangle and will discuss sexism in survival situations when she gets back. And it also gave us Lex: A teenage hacker who isn’t expected to be conventionally pretty or conventionally girly. She’s not “cool.” What she is is smart and capable and able to help save the day with her mad hacker skills.

When I went to a midnight screening of Jurassic Park a few years ago, there were precisely two moments when the audience lost their damn mind. The first was shirtless, glistening beefcake Jeff Goldblum, because obviously.

The second was Lex’s awestruck exclamation when she realized she was about to science the snot out of something.

It’s a Unix system. I know this.

All hail Saint Lex. May you never be underappreciated again.