Document Sample
					     Representations of Dinosaurs Lab 2 – EAR 65: The Natural History of Dinosaurs
           To get credit, questions must answered before you come to section.

     Last week in lab, we started to talk about dinosaurs in popular culture. We read about why
dinosaurs are so popular – S.J. Gould said that dinosaurs were “big, fierce, and extinct . . .
alluringly scary . . . sufficiently safe.” W.J.T. Mitchell disagreed; he thought that dinosaurs, as
symbols, were more ambivalent. So, last week was an introduction to dinosaurs as cultural-
historical objects, rather than just pre-historical objects. Now that it’s established that people
imagine dinosaurs and that dinosaur images are products of their times, we can ask a different
     What can we learn about people from dinosaurs? The first reading is chapter another chapter
from Mitchell’s The Last Dinosaur Book , “The Totem Animal of Modernity” (76-85). Pay
attention to how Mitchell uses the terms, “modern” and “modernity” to talk about dinosaurs, and
answer these questions:

1) What is a totem? What are four roles that totems play?
2) How are dinosaurs “clan signs”?
3) How are dinosaurs our “ancestors”?
4) Are dinosaurs taboo objects?
5) What was Mitchell’s prediction for “the second extinction” of the dinosaurs? The Last
Dinosaur Book was published in 1998 (e.g., the Raptors aren’t in Toronto anymore; he didn’t
know about Walking with Dinosaurs; he had only seen the first two Jurassic Park movies)?
6) Do you think his prediction has come to pass since then? If not, will it?

     Many of the dinosaur representations that Mitchell discusses are characteristically Western
(i.e. European or North American) in origin. But “modernity” is not something that has happened
to only Europe and North America; neither are Westerners the only people for whom dinosaurs
are meaningful objects. In “Monster Island: Godzilla and Japanese sci-fi/horror/fantasy” Philip
Brophy discusses Japan’s – possibly the world’s – most famous dinosaur in terms that are very
different from Mitchell’s. Brophy cla ims that Godzilla and the Toho Studios monsters are
something like symbols of “cultural scarring” – a way for Japanese movie audiences to work
through the anxiety of living on a relatively defenseless and overcrowded island in the shadow of
the nuclear bomb and American occupation. Pay attention to how dinosaur images – vis-à-vis
Godzilla – changed in Japan throughout the 50s and 60s.

7) Brophy writes that American monster movies used rubber suits only for monsters that were
supposed to be sexually threatening. Rubber suits had a different effect for Japanese audiences,
which is key to understanding the importance of Godzilla to Japanese movie audiences. What was
it? (40-41)
8) Godzilla movies that were made after American occupation, which ended in 1958, a re different
from the ones that were made earlier. How? (41)
9) How might Godzilla be a totem of Japanese modernity?
10) Spencer G. Lucas, the author of your textbook, is generally disappointed by the idea that pop
culture dinosaurs are so far removed from real-life dinosaurs. According to our textbook,
Godzilla is a very bad dinosaur with a mix of theropod and thyreophoran traits, plus “an overlay
of a few novel features of the atomic age, including its appetite for radioactivity.” He’s “A Lousy
Dinosaur” (259). Remembering last week’s reading (especially “Seeing Saurians” 48-50), would
Mitchell agree? Why or why not?
     “Godzilla” by Blue Oyster Cult (Spectres – 1977)

      With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound
      He pulls the spitting high tension wires down

            Helpless people on a subway train
           Scream to God as he looks in on them

       He picks up a bus and he throws it back down
As he wades through the buildings toward the center of town

                      CHORUS (2x)
               Oh no, they say he's got to go
                  Go go Godzilla, yeah
                Oh no, there goes Tokyo
                  Go go Godzilla, yeah

             Rinji news o moshiagemasu!
             Rinji news o moshiagemasu!
      Godzilla ga Ginza hoomen e mukatte imasu!
             Daishkyu hinan shite kudasai!
             Daishkyu hinan shite kudasai!
             (Attention, emergency news!
              Attention, emergency news!
       Godzilla is going toward the Ginza area!
    Immediately escape, catch up, find shelter please!
    Immediately escape, catch up, find shelter please!)

               Oh no, they say he's got to go
                  Go go Godzilla, yeah
                Oh no, there goes Tokyo
                  Go go Godzilla, yeah

             History shows again and again
          How nature points out the folly of men