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[personal profile] x_h00ine
ETA: Entry unlocked in the unlikely event that non-LJ folks might be interested in reading my impressions of the exhibit.

Having bid a fond farewell to [livejournal.com profile] drbunnyface and [livejournal.com profile] capeman this afternoon, I collapsed for what turned into a relatively long nap. It's been a lovely, sleep-deprived, overindulgent weekend and I will be shamed to give my wellness update for the week. However, for the moment, I'm having trainwreck experience about Gunther Von Hagen's Human Body Worlds.

When [livejournal.com profile] bsdinobaby came out to the Painful Acres for brunch Friday morning, he had mentioned that there has been a fair amount of controversy surrounding von Hagen and the exhibit, which is currently running at the Museum of Science and Industry. I'd really heard nothing about the man, his work, or the show (MSI has quite the crack marketing staff these days), and I didn't seek out any information before we headed out to see it on Saturday.

I so completely eschewed advance information and the MSI's website was so complicit in information repulsion that I didn't note that: (a) We could've purchased tickets in advance online, thus saving us about 40 minutes of standing in line before we ever got into the bloody place; (b) though the Museum closes at 5:30 PM (as I'd confirmed on Friday when we were wondering whether or not to try to go then), the exhibit is open until 9:00 PM. Thanks to the cavalcade of ignorance, it was not the smoothest visit ever, though the 40-minute wait did afford ample time for changing our dinner reservations (for which we were late anyway).

Our tickets were for entry at 5:30 PM. We got in line around 5:20 and probably didn't enter the exhibit until at least 5:45. This was all rather disheartening, as there were still far too many people in the exhibit at a time to really enjoy it. I don't know what the museum's plan is for timing the ticket sales, but it seems to be pretty deeply flawed. We ended up having to rush through the last room, having spent just shy of two hours getting to that point.

The exhibit is divided into anatomical systems: locomotive, nervous, cardiovascular, and digestive, plus a kind of gallery of awe---bodies in motion, human bodies and elements thereof placed in their jaw-dropping context. Most accurately, the final gallery really contains what could have been a gallery of the reproductive system and human ontogeny/development, but I'll get back to that later.

The basic design of the exhibit is glass cases placed centrally with full-body specimens placed around the edges. The casestend to be about 15 feet long and probably 4.5 feet high, which, as [livejournal.com profile] drbunnyface pointed out, is not optimal for the height-challenged. They are designed for two lines of visitors to view simultaneously from each side, which is absolutely necessary in terms of human-flow issues. However, the specimens are not always oriented in an equal opportunity way, so it was possible to have chosen poorly in terms of viewing side for an entire case.

The whole-body specimens are assembled on very low platforms and most have no barriers between the specimen and the visitor. Actually, I should have taken better note of which were glassed in and which were not---off the top of my head, I can only think of the "Chess player" and the "Pregnant Woman Reclining." The former, possibly, because of the removable props, the latter, likely, because it seems to be the one that evokes the strongest reaction. They're placed well away from the walls in most cases, so it's possible to walk completely around each. Although many people didn't seem to be taking advantage of this (seemingly content to view each from the "front"), the ability to view them in the round was essential as most of the perspectives on each dissection were carried out from head to toe and front to back.

One serious oddity (and flaw, to my mind) regarding the physical MSI set up, is the fact that the reclining pregnant figure, along with several embryonic and fetal sepcimens, are in a section that is curtained off from the rest of the exhibit. It also merits its own ostentatiously placed guard. I have no idea if it was originally envisioned in this way or if there is a story behind the separation, but it's disconcernting, moving from a number of case specimens progressing from very early embryonic stages (the first of which is 99% uterus, leading to a hilarious [to me] discussion between two visitors about how you can see the tiny fingers even that early [fallopian tubes, dearies, look it up]), up through later fetal development. Also in this corner are two "closets" full of hanging sections, including shoulder-to-shoulder sagittal sections and front-to-back coronal sections. Their placement seems to have been given little thought.

Overall, though, the arrangements of the figures are stunning. The first two full-body specimens were relatively simple dissections revealing the depth and complexity of the muscular arrangement of the appendicular skeleton, skillfully done with beautiful attention to detail, but for me and [livejournal.com profile] drbunnyface, nothing particularly new. However, the third one took a few minutes to sink in: It was an assembled skeleton, with ligaments, but no other flesh, reaching out toward the figure in front of it, which was the musculacture of the same individual, arranged in the same pose.

At this point, I've dissected or supervised the dissection of probably 30 human cadavers and 20 or so different primate species. I can't describe how profound the effect of that first figure was for me. In learning and teaching anatomy (and the two are difficult to disentangle---we are truly, truly unique), there is a physical emphasis on geography and a theoretical emphasis on system. In the lab, you master the landmarks of a region from every conceivable view, reducing the body to manageable regions. In the lecture hall, you then try to ignore the distance between physical structures and try to master how an entire system works together. To have the two entire systems juxtaposed in correct geography was both one of the biggest intellectual "Ah ha!" moments I can recall having in recent memory, and a profoundly moving experience. As P.Z. Myers so eloquently put it I am beautiful on the inside.

The vast majority of the full-body specimens are equally anatomically informative and artistically challenging. The "Chess Player" dissection brought me back to my very first day in the human morphology lab as a student. The supervisor had prepared a similar laminectomy dissection (removal of the spines of the vertebrae and the top arch of the spinal canal to reveal the spinal cord and nerves emerging at each level). Each dissection group came through for an individual tour. My group consisted of three anthropology students and one med student who lasted about 2 seconds before face planting. Med student mockage aside, however, this again was a fantastic piece, bringing the processes of intellect and motion together in a way that's often missing from hands-on dissection classes. For example, at Pritzker, the brains of the cadavers had been removed for use in the dedicated neuroanatomy class, divorcing movement from thought.

The thoroughness of representation and the depth of perspective contained in the specimens is astounding, and my fingers ache to think of the painstaking work. I have prepared a few detailed dissections in my day, taking the skull down to view the inner ear from the top, removing the buccal surface of the mandible to view tooth roots and innveration, etc., and it can be crazymaking. It seems as if every conceivable view is represented somewhere, either in the cases or the full-body specimens. The juxtaposition of diseased and healthy specimens alongside those showing medical intervention (artifical joints, valves, arterial stents, etc.) is also highly effective. I couldn't help being completely blown away, both as a scientist and consumer of art, by the arterial specimens in which the arteries are filled with red polymer and the rest of the flesh and bone is dissolved away, leaving the three-dimensional structure rendered in the bold lines of the main vessels tapering into the incredibly delicate capillaries at the skin's surface.

Amid the cases and specimens, there were floor-to-ceiling banners with classical anatomical drawings and other artwork regarding anatomical research, and some containing text reflecting on death, the body, and being human by scientists, artists, philosophers, etc. Some of the drawings are amusingly reflective of their period (e.g., a muscular diagram of a young man standing near, for some reason, a hippopotamus), but to my mind, they really do add to what von Hagen seems to be trying to do.

For all the time humanity has spent glorifying its own form and striving to set itself apart as some kind of miracle, we've spent equal time trying to grasp our own role as part of the natural order. In a week filled with "Will the Real, Itelligent-Design-Endorsing Republicans Please Stand Up?" it was restful to be surrounded by hope from then and now. The specimens themselves, as well as the banners and artwork served as a reminder that there are and have always been people constructing forceful, persuasive images of and ideas about the authentic, natural glory of being human.

At the end of the galleries (uh, before the mandatory exhibit-themed store, of course) is a guest book and a blow-up of a completed donation form (with personal information removed) from someone who determined to donate his body as the result of seeing the exhibit. I didn't spend much time at the guest book after seeing one entry that simply said "It was kinda sick," and another delivering the shocking news that this "isn't really for kids or toddlers." Actually, I would dispute that, having been fascinated by anatomy from a very young age, but unless someone chloroformed you and your toddler and dropped you off in the middle of the gallery, there's no excuse at all for that kind of complaint. There are ample images about the exhibit and the ticket lobby has clips from it running on televisions.

Since I started writing this, I searched around a bit to get a sense for what controversies have surrounded it. I'm really surprised by the vehemence of reactions and the wide variety of objections being raised. Many take issue with von Hagen's claim that his techniques and specimens are art (something he seems to be downplaying these days), relegating him, at most, to the status of craftsman (a distinction and demotion, I note, peculiar to Westerners who view art as a recreational excess, rather than something that exists in the middle of real life).

At least two authors of this type of criticism seem to have been so determined to sneer that they missed relatively straightforward scientific and artistic messages inherent in some of the pieces. For example, one writer was intensely critical of the "gimmick" of "Rearing Horse with Rider," in which the human figure holds his own brain in one hand and his mount's in the other. The viewer can approach closely enough to get the full effect of the horse's immensity and just as it's sinking in, the eye is drawn to the human brain positively dwarfing the horse's.

Others insist that the so-called artistic placement obscures the anatomical information, citing, for example, the "Drawer Man" and the figure carrying his own skin like a coat. The former wasn't included in this exhibit, so I can't comment, but I thought that the volume of the skin relative to the individual's musculature was both visually striking and informative.One blogger seemed to think that the main point of the exhibit was to emphasize the similarity of human flesh to food. Although I can't agree that von Hagen is doing something so simplistic, I can't help but wonder if that's not a message that needs sending, having experienced many "well what does it look like?" "well, kind of like chicken or pork" "ew! That's disgusting! We don't eat muscle" moments live and in person and had a student share with me the Girl Scouts exclaiming "ew! They look like animals" regarding whole fryers.

Probably the largest category of criticism comes from those who feel that the exhibit denigrates humans by defiling corpses. Many deny that any information is conveyed and, furthermore, that von Hagen has no desire to convey information, only to shock. He is called unbalanced, pornographic, psychotic, cold, calculating, opportunistic. Scientist, knowledge, and information all frequently appear in sarcastic quotemarks.

Other critics shift the focus from von Hagen and question the motives of those who donate, in either pitying, contemptuous, or disbelieving tones. The specimen of the pregnant woman figures prominently in these critiques, demanding pity for her husband and loved ones and insistence that she could not have known what von Hagen had in mind. I'm not trying to pull rank, but I think it's safe to say that I've put more thought into death and rituals of death than the average person. The tone of this school of criticism should not surprise me, but it does rankle. They implications range from the insistence that individuals either have no right to determine what should happen to them after death, or that the idea of "informed consent" is a complete fallacy regarding one's own physical remains. It's particularly grating that the shrillest, most absolutist of these are devoid of any real consideration or appreciation for the plethora of different ways in which human groups treat the dead.

In my cultural anthropology class, I try to introduce the idea of the "Tao of Humanity" by drawing on Herodotus's story about King Darius bringing Greeks and Indians together to talk about their rituals for the dead. The point is not that we eat or bury them, but that there is no human group that simply ignores the fact that death represents an individual and collective loss. Bioarchaeologists have gone along for the culture-historical, processual, post-processual ride in trying to determine whether mortuary archaeology is telling us about the living, the dead, or neither. To pretend that those of us living in the Western World today have some kind of clarity on the subject is sheer hubris.

That said, there are some serious allegations that all of the specimens were not obtained via voluntary, informed consent. There have been reports in the German media that some of the corpses were victims of Chinese execution. The evidence does not seem to be especially robust that this is the case, but it's difficult to find a treatment of it that contains any facts, let alone dispassionate reporting regarding them.

Whatever the nature or orientation of their issues with the exhibit, every critic seems convinced that von Hagen has nothing more in mind than cheap thrills and exploitation. It is very difficult for me to reconcile these simplistic condemnation with the richness of my own experience of it (and the apparent richness of the experience not just of my companions, but of the vast majority of the visitors there at the same time we were). I feel like I absorbed very little of what was available for the taking, and it's somewhat depressing that so many seem to have been able to reduce it to so little.

Date: 2005-08-08 09:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] keswindhover.livejournal.com
I saw this exhibition in London. I admit the pregnant woman and the foetuses made me uncomfortable, and the posed tableaus like the chess players made me feel in some way as though Hagen was 'playing' with corpses, which feels disrespectful, in a way that dissection and plastination itself doesn't. I'm not saying that's logical, but it struck me that way.

But the most of the exhibits I think increased my feeling that human beings are something wonderful, rather than reduced us to lumps of meat. I love your description of a 'gallery of awe' - that's exactly what I felt walking around. The sheer mind blowing complexity of what goes on under our skins is utterly amazing, and beautiful.

Date: 2005-08-08 06:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] x-h00ine.livejournal.com
I saw this exhibition in London. I admit the pregnant woman and the foetuses made me uncomfortable, and the posed tableaus like the chess players made me feel in some way as though Hagen was 'playing' with corpses, which feels disrespectful, in a way that dissection and plastination itself doesn't. I'm not saying that's logical, but it struck me that way.

I can absolutely understand the exhibit being unnerving, and of course visceral responses don't have to be logical. Although I think the fact that it caused you to think about your own "lines" between respectful and disrespectful treatment and justified and unjustified uses of human remains argues for the fact that he's achieved somethign complex. The fact of the matter is, your reaction is introspective and the result of actually taking in the exhibit. So many of the reactions I've seen show no thought at all, taking the attitude that von Hagen and the exhibit aren't worthy at all of consideration, because he is "just" trying to do a, b, or c. They tend to have a serious book-burning tone to them that disturbs me.

Date: 2005-08-08 07:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marcee12.livejournal.com
Kes - Had you ever seen anything like it before? Dissection, etc? It sounds terribly interesting to me and my brain would love to see it, but I'm certain my stomach would object. I know Chrispee was trained in this kind of stuff, but as far as I know - you weren't. Was it scary/shocking/disgusting to you?

Date: 2005-08-08 07:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] keswindhover.livejournal.com
No, I didn't find it disgusting, and it didn't upset my stomach.

I think the figures who are recognisable people, with intact faces, or tattoos on their arm or whatever, are disturbing on one level.

And the pregnant woman worried me because I felt concern about her as an individual - what disease did she have that she knew would kill her in mid-pregnancy? (Thus enabling her to give her consent.) And given that she knew she was dying, and her child with her - why was she willing for her unborn child to be plastinated in her womb and displayed to the world?

I would still say see the exhibition if you have a chance - it will really make you think about what's under your skin, and how utterly amazing it is.

Date: 2005-08-08 07:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] keswindhover.livejournal.com
p.s. forgot to say, I think visceral stuff is only really stomach churning if it smells - and these corpses don't!

Date: 2005-08-08 12:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chi-editrix.livejournal.com
I was dimly aware of this exhibit (sitting as I am less than one mile away) but knew nothing of the controversy. Now I'm keen to see it.

The MSI has for decades featured cross-sections of human cadavers in glass (in the stairwell) and as far as I know no one had anything to say about it. In the 1970s when I was pregnant I used to love to go look at the "pickled babies" -- real fetuses preserved in glass jars which had been there at least since the 1940s and perhaps longer. Then one day there were all sorts of warning signs around them and the next day they were gone. Some might say this means people are more sensitive to the ethical issues about respecting human remains. I just don't feel this way and it's hard for me to understand why people do.

Date: 2005-08-08 06:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] x-h00ine.livejournal.com
Yup, the "body slices" and the babies (which are back, by the way), were always things I was fascinated by as a kid (not, I think, in a morbid way, either, I was just thrilled to have a sense of how I fit together).

It's a strange "I don't know what art or science is, but I know what it isn't, because I refuse to look at it." A substantial chunk of the exhibit is simply a new, better way of doing those kinds of cross-sections (we used traditional sections to teach and learn, and it's hard to convey the improvement in clarity and detail of the plastinated sections) and isolated organs or joints. People don't seem to respond negatively to that, it's the full-body specimens that preserve the individuality that seem to just drive people crazy. One thing that struck me as odd was that the only artificial parts of the specimens are the eyeballs (which preserve very poorly by any means), and rather than leaving them out entirely, they bothered to put in fakes.

Date: 2005-08-09 10:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] warinner.livejournal.com
Dunno if the body-that-went-through-the-bread-slicer is back in the stairwell but it was damned odd experience as a kid to be trotting past it, not paying it particular attention and then realizing what it was. I was scarred for life.

Date: 2005-08-08 06:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mr-booze.livejournal.com
The preserved fetusses are back, btw.

As for placing the cadavers (NOT CORPSES! as I was informed) in life-like positions, I didn't think of it as playing with them at all, for me, it was almost an epiphany, for seeing the various systems of the human body not only made visible, but made visible in the context of how they function in life. You're spinal cord wasn't made for lying on a slab. It was made for walking, horse-riding, archery, or leaning over a chess table. Displaying these bodies in poses of life rather than death, for lack of a better word, really brings the exhibit to life. I can only imagine how sterile and unconnecting such an exhibit would be if all the cadavers were just laid out on tables, or standing with arms and legs spread like a Da Vinci sketch.

Not to mention it begs the question: Why is our culture obsessed with portraying the dead as asleep? It is not my impression that sentiment is shared globally. So what is our deal?

Another thing that struck me during the exhibit, was that because all the figured were stripped of their skin, it became much more personal. Walking through the exhibit were pretty much all walks of life, young, old, male, female, black, white, indian, etc. But there was barely any such differentiation of the exhibits. Certainly a some were obviously male, and some were obviously children, but I, at leat, couldnt' have told you if they were 30 or 80. And I certainly couldn't tell you what ethnicity they were.

Consequently, I think the most common reaction is looking and thinking "That's what *I* look like on the inside?". Not "that's what he looks like" or "that's what they look like". The body you're looking at might be you, but it might just as easily be African, or Mexican, or a Jew, or Iraqi, or whatever your hate-du-jour is.

Perhaps connecting like this is a little harder for women, as there seemed to be significantly fewer female exhibits, but if nothing else, it reinforces how thin--literally--the differences between us can be.

Date: 2005-08-08 07:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mr-booze.livejournal.com
Great Scott, I need an editor.

Date: 2005-08-08 07:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chi-editrix.livejournal.com
Not at all. This question seems to be coming up lately: I read a long article in the NY Times Sunday magazine about the end of life, hospices, palliative care, etc., then on Six Feet Under there was an extremely graphic corpse, the corpse of one of the main characters was shown. In an interesting sidebar to what Christine said above, the character's brother (director of a funeral home who has embalmed countless bodies in all states of disrepair) was ooked out because he had donated all his organs and had no eyeballs. Of course, also because it was his brother. It was difficult to watch. Then today's blog from Joe.

Date: 2005-08-08 07:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mr-booze.livejournal.com
Actually "I need an editor" just referred to my voluminous typos and grammatical flummery.

Date: 2005-08-08 01:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rednekkid.livejournal.com
Please take me to see.

Date: 2005-08-08 11:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bsdinobaby.livejournal.com

You'd seriously enjoy it, I think.

Date: 2005-08-09 03:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rednekkid.livejournal.com
Yeah, I know. But reading x_fuckingincomprehensibleloginname00this's review makes me seriously thing I'd seriously enjoy it that much more with her.

Date: 2005-08-09 03:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rednekkid.livejournal.com
Uh, "think" not "thing". And boy does that post abound with the [jrh].

Date: 2005-08-09 03:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bsdinobaby.livejournal.com
Well, yes.

Date: 2005-08-08 03:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chicagowench.livejournal.com
You really. REALLY. Don't want to get me started.

I mean, at all.

Date: 2005-08-08 09:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chicagowench.livejournal.com
Buckle the fuck up.

I have such a long, tangled history with this exhibit. It came to my attention all the way back in 2000, when it was jaunting about Europe and Asia. To put it mildly: Gunter von Hagens may be a genius, but he's also a really disturbing man. He's also money obsessed. The place of former employ (PFE, henceforth!) was one of the first places they approached in north america, and the terms they dictated were...shitty, to say the least. Add into that the reticence on the part of the extremely conservative American Museum Executive Swath, and it took them years to get anyone to take the plunge. Once LA booked it and there were no riots in the streets, other museums were tripping all over themselves to book it. US Museums: fucking risk averse pansies who mollycoddle their audiences and are afraid to be daring, lest they be villified like the brooklyn museum of art or lose funding in a knee-jerk conservative environment. As soon as they see something makes money, though, they suddenly lose all their moral outrage and book it.

One of my greatest challenges at PFE was fear. What if we offend our guests (let's put up warning signs) what if it's too much (let's curtain it off). As I see it, the role of a museum is to prompt thought or action. To jar people out of complacency by making them more knowledgable, making them feel like yes, they can ask questions. I have no doubt that if PFE were to make the decision, say, 4 years ago as to whether to do a sliced humans exhibit as part of their permanent collection, they would have dithered for at least 2 years and then bowed out of it out of fear.

Date: 2005-08-08 09:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] x-h00ine.livejournal.com
To put it mildly: Gunter von Hagens may be a genius, but he's also a really disturbing man. He's also money obsessed.

Hmmm . . . of course I have no sense of the business end of the whole thing, but I have to say that he acquitted himself well in the transcript of the BBC online chat that I read (which, I think, dates to when the exhibit was in London). Of course all the questions started from the position of "Given that you're a godless, unbalanced lunatic who will be tortured in the deepest pit of hell . . . " and his replies were pretty even-handed, addressing the substance of the questions (if there was any to be had) and ignoring the personal slights. That said, it's not hard to believe that he's someone one would instinctively cross the street to avoid.

Perhaps I was just ignorant enough of the controversy not to notice that my possibly delicate feelings were being spared, but I didn't feel overwhelmed by disclaimers (other than, as noted, the weird cordoning off of girls and babies). I'd like to see it again, perhaps this time without the entire population of the Greater Chicago Area.

Date: 2005-08-08 11:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bsdinobaby.livejournal.com
Just to let you know, I saw the exhibit on Saturday (early, after a lot of weirdness) with my 5 mates.

We all liked it, and enjoyed it. We thought the "advanced" version of the audio narrative was, in short, inadequate, and I tested my knowledge of anatomy pointing out various things to my crew of folks. Once it became clear that I knew mostly what I was talking about, I generally had a small group of people asking me questions over the cases.

This highlighted to me the biggest shortcoming of the exhibit, which is that most people didn't know what the fuck they were looking at and the signage was inadequate. Also, they should have had the info on the plastination process up front and made it part of the experience, instead of in the book at the end.

I also, BTW, knew all about this exhibit from CW, so I was a bit.. er.. jaded, maybe, but I still enjoyed it an awful lot.

Funniest moment; when I had to explain to a woman (at least 30) what the two things dangling off a guy were. Apparently, sans flesh, she didn't recognize testicles.

That may be a good thing.

BTW, I met a pimp on the red Line train. He managed to dissect quite handily the claims of Intelligent design folks. It was odd. I'll perhaps cover this in an update.

Date: 2005-08-08 07:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jonesiexxx.livejournal.com
Woo and Hoo! The exhibit comes here September 30. Right in time for the Book of Life to open on Rosh Hashanah. (Speaking of cultural rituals and attitudes to life and death).

Thank you for posting this. I don't know that it would have occured to me to go if I hadn't read this. Now I can't imagine not going.

Date: 2005-08-08 07:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] x-h00ine.livejournal.com
Yes! I was really happy to see that it's going to Toronto. You will love it!

Date: 2005-08-09 05:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bsdinobaby.livejournal.com
BTW, the Buffalo Contingent informs me that the one in Toronto is called "Body Worlds 2". It may/may not have different displays, but I can check with my clued wife and find out.

Date: 2005-08-09 12:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chi-editrix.livejournal.com
had a student share with me the Girl Scouts exclaiming "ew! They look like animals" regarding whole fryers.

I feel the need to Share my observation that Americans are so protected from these realities. When I went to live in England in 1967 I knew what a steak looked like: it was cut up in a neat little package in the meat section of the grocery store. The first time I walked into a proper butcher shop and saw a side of beef hanging from a hook in the ceiling I can tell you I had a new appreciation of my carnivore identity. Of course, we are all Americans now. Some of us are protected from the reality of the food we eat and others of us are dying of starvation.

Date: 2005-08-09 02:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] iayork.livejournal.com
had a student share with me the Girl Scouts exclaiming "ew! They look like animals" regarding whole fryers.

I feel the need to Share my observation that Americans are so protected from these realities.

Yeah, but.

I'm not exactly sheltered from those sorts of realities. I mean, I've butchered my own cows, slaughtered my own chickens, I'm a licensed meat inspector. But every time I visited a chicken slaughterhouse, I stopped eating chicken for a few months. Because, you know, they look like animals.

It's not so simple.

Date: 2005-08-09 03:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bsdinobaby.livejournal.com
BTW, re: kids and toddlers.

I think if you know your kid, you know what their limits are. I am pretty sure that I would have been okay with the exhibit when I was pretty young, and I know some people who would freak out at it as adults. The real problem is that (shockingly, I realize) most parents wouldn't know their kids from a very expensive hole in the ground.

To illustrate, this one couple had a kid in (probably around 5) and the girl was walking around, looking at everything, and she started to appear more and more and more like she was going to vomit. Until she got to the chess player. At that point, she put her hands to her mouth, turned around, and screamed like she was having night terrors. I mean, seriously, it was that completely shattered "Holy crap the world is ending" scream that I know I've done when I just.. whatever. When my brain freaked out, or whatever happens when you wake up terrified and screaming like an animal. I NEVER wanted to hear that sound from a 5 year old, let alone in public, let alone when she was awake.

Her father, sensitive sole (I realize that's misspelled, but I like it like that) that he was, just looked over and said "They're just dead bodies." Her mom, thankfully, managed to grip her very tightly and hold her until the girl just started crying, instead. I think the father knew he was pushing his daughter, and did it anyway.

On the other end of the spectrum, a family came in with a little boy (6ish) and he was holding his mom's hand walking around. He finally stopped, tugged on his mothers arm, and said very quietly "Mom, I don't think I can do this. I'm sorry, I thought I could." She offered to take him out of the exhibit, but he wanted her to see it, so he sat over where they were dispensing the fucking awful audio tour, facing out towards the entrance. The parents reassured the kid that they were glad he tried and were proud of him, and went on to see the rest of the exhibit.

I'm not a great parent, so I don't want to criticize too much, but I just think a lot of people don't really try very hard to understand their kids.
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