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On Tue, 18 Feb 1997 19:03:52 -0700 (MST) Jeffrey Martz
<martz@holly.ColoState.EDU> writes:
>      So it is all right to inspire people about a real life subject 
>by giving them a bogus portrayal of it?  If the real thing is so 
>unexciting that you have to lie, why bother?  If the real field IS
exiting, why 
>can't that authentic excitement be brought to the big screen? Thanks to
>CG, special effects have finally reached that point where they can be
>COMPLETELY flawless and convincing. Seeing a _Velociraptor_ on the 
>screen that made you think "I hope the animal handlers know what they
>doing" instead of "nice special effects" would be pretty wild, even if
>wasn't a six foot genius.  Why can't we show the real thing?  Why is
>dramatic dishonesty necessary?      <

>     So why is it impossible to portray that real-life excitement on the
>big screen?  Don't tell me that screen writers, directors and actors
>aren't talented enough to do the job, if it occurred to them to go into 
>the field for a while and find out what the real excitement is all
about. > 

        No, it's not OK to be bogus, but in many cases, to inspire people
at all, YOU HAVE TO GET THEIR ATTENTION!!  There are too many things out
in the world vying for people's attention.  Sometimes creative
exaggeration gets people to focus first, get interested, and then they
begin to think about things and ask questions. 
        Why bother?  Well, why bother recruiting anybody to anything? 
Should we let a field of inquiry die just because it isn't as flashy as
another field?   I think special effects can serve very nicely to
demonstrated the reality and excitement of dinosaurs -- and they HAVE
[hasn't the caliber and quality of those TV dinosaur science
documentaries gone up immensely over the past few years?].  The dramatic
dishonesty gets people's attention; the advancement in special effects
can then be used to show the science.  That's where the documentaries
come in and can show the real excitement to a dig. 
        Tell me, how many museums sponsored public participation in digs
before "Jurassic Park?"  How many after?  I'll just bet all this
attention has paid dividends.

>     SOMETIMES they ask, if it occurs to them that it might not be 
>true.  How is a layperson supposed to tell the difference between
>"probably", "maybee", and "probably not" enough to know exactly what 
>to question? I have asked a number of people what they LEARNED about
>dinosaurs from Jurassic Park; "T.rex's vision was based on movement" 
>is a popular reply.      <

        Instead of waiting for them to ask, why not start with the movie
as a base and GO AHEAD AND TELL them what the movie got right & wrong. 
The movie has given us a golden opportunity to get people to listen to
us!!  "Remember when the Dilophosaurus in the movie spit?  Well, do you
use any bones to spit? Do venom glands fossilize? If you only use soft
tissues in the mouth to actually spit, then can we say any dinosaur could
spit poison?..."
        I would go ahead and gently correct that popular reply, "Well,
the movie said that part of the T. rex was frog DNA, so that's part of
the frog's visual system, not T. rex's...what we think rex was really

        Yes, I'm all for depicting the reality, but I for one am grateful
for the excitement and enthusiasm I see in youngsters eyes when they come
to our dinosaur classes and exhibit.  They are eager to learn because of
something like "Jurassic Park" that fired their imaginations and gave
them that tingling wonder you get deep in the pit of your stomach when
you let yourself get swept away.  These movies have their place as great
entertainment, great hooks, AND great teaching tools.
        So, chill out and don't throw out the baby with the bath water! 
Use the opportunity!

Brian (franczak@ntplx.net) wrote:
>Do you really believe that JURASSIC PARK did the billion dollars in box
it did from people who weren't already interested in the subject? People
went to see it -- repeatedly -- because they wanted to *see* dinosaurs, a
subject they already cared something about; the film only offered the
chance for dino-fans to look at a "living" representation of something
they could only find in static illustrations in books. In the last
nearly *fifty* books about dinosaurs have been published, ADULT books,
of them technical in nature; well over *one hundred* children's books
been published. Did JURASSIC PARK have anything to do with this? I don't
think so; dinosaurs are just a popular subject, ALWAYS HAVE BEEN. In
words, IMHO, the *interest* in the subject creates the market (for books
*or* movies), not the other way around.<

Granted, Jurassic Park was written to take advantage of a building
Dinosaur Renaissance that began in the 70's.  Many books and articles
appeared to bring dinosaur debates out into the realm of the six o'clock
news.  JP didn't start anything, but it was the gasoline poured on the
proverbial fire, and things took off from that.  The popular interest in
dinosaurs that was always there caused JP to be written and popular; the
movie created more interest.  The benefit that I see from JP is that this
interest is no longer laughed at by many people.

Rob Meyerson wrote:[2/19/97]
>Paleontology has an advantage over most other sciences, in that our
science gets
the most press (a rampaging lava flow is not nearly as exciting as a
dinosaur).  As a result, we get billions of dollars worth of free press
time a new dino-related movie comes out.  While the quality of the films
range from the decent (Jurassic Park) to the atrocious (Carnosaur), they
give us
an immense opportunity to inform they laypeople of the science behind the
and to show where misrepresentations have occurred.<


Jeff writes :> Again, the (in my opinion unreasonable) assumption is that
the real
thing is uncapable of sparking interest.  Why is that?<

Because, in my opinion, many of the pre-1970s paleo exhibits depicted
dinosaurs in very static, non-exciting ways.  Also, movies and other
media tended to just use them as the old monster that smashes through
town -- no thought, no complex motivations, just rampage.  What
documentaries, or stories about digs were really available before 1970
that dealt with all the ins and outs of dino paleontology? And what did
they show?  Paleontologists were depicted as stogy old taxonomists
pouring over dusty old bones, IF they were depicted at all.  That inertia
is hard to get over.  Maybe people thought that even folks who liked
dinosaurs were as cold-blooded as their subjects.  
        In my opinion, it took Ostrom and Bakker to shake everyone up and
say "Let's have another look at the bones and our assumptions."  The
flashy news about hot or cold blooded dinosaurs woke folks up.  Other
reevaluations started from there.  I wish those things were better
depicted by the media {in the genre of a good detective novel!}, but they
weren't.  Once the changes in our views of dinosaurs became common
knowledge, I think the time became ripe for JP to excite people.
        Again, look at the big boost in the dino documentaries.  The real
thing IS exciting enough to get made, but why, now that the interest is
established, doesn't someone do a movie on the level of a nature
documentary on dinos?  Like a Serengeti safari, just point and shoot
footage? I don't know.  I for one would like to see "Raptor Red" done as
a movie, to test your point.

Judy Molnar
Education Associate
Virginia Living Museum