Book notes; Starring T. rex!: Dinosaur Mythology and Popular Culture

22 05 2007

When I arrived home yesterday I was pleased to find that the rather thin book Starring T. rex!: Dinosaur Mythology and Popular Culture (by Jose Luis Sanz) had come in the mail and I proceeded to devour it over the course of a few hours. The book only runs about 152 pages, many of these with various movie posters, book covers, etc., some of the chapters being a mere 2 pages long, and the brevity of many of the chapters concerned me. Indeed, when I started reading the book I was a bit let down by the content; it served more as a list of dino-media broken up into certain categories more than a study of the evolution of dinosaurs as pop icons or how popular perceptions shaped the appearances in both the media and science. Most of the books, stories, films, etc. discussed I have either viewed first hand or heard about previously (if you’re interested and can find a copy of the tape Fantastic Dinosaurs of the Movies, it’s a good collection of trailers from the films discussed in the book), and so there wasn’t much that I didn’t know about. In fact, some rather significant pop images of dinosaurs are left out altogether or merely make a fleeting appearance, i.e. the Topps Dinosaurs Attack! cards/comic, Star-Spangled War Stories comics, various Marvel comic encounters with dinosaurs (be it the Fantastic Four or the X-Men in the Savage Land, as well as the stand-alone series Devil Dinosaur), The Land Before Time series, etc. etc. etc.

I don’t want to be overly harsh when it comes to this book; it is an easy read and can serve as a great resource for anyone wishing to find a listing of dinosaurs in pop culture, but the book doesn’t seem to have a unifying theme other than “dinosaurs in the media.” Focusing on the cultural evolution of the dinosaurs would have strengthened the book a bit, or if it was meant to be more of a catalog than a discussion the media should have been broken up into groups, listed chronologically, and then discussed. Still, I would recommend the book to anyone unfamiliar with dinosaurs in the media, and it certainly can be helpful to those looking for a short list of films or books to study on their own time. A copy of W.J.T. Mitchell’s The Last Dinosaur Book: The Life and Times of a Cultural Icon should be arriving in a few days, and from what I can tell that book is more likely to be what I was looking for, and as always you can expect my thoughts on it when I’ve finished it.

Why the recent interested in dino-psychology? Well, other than trying to figure out why I find these animals so alluring, I am interested in the interplay between science and pop culture, and I I also intend to write an in-depth post about dinosaurs as “dragons” for the anti-Creation Museum mini-carnival coming up in a week. Last fall I wrote about AiG’s misuse of Baryonx to try and support it’s view that the St. George mythology was real and proved dinosaurs walked with men (and this will be included in the post), but I also want to discuss the role that dinosaurs (or rather, their remains) have in mythology worldwide. This, of course, will include some discussion of Behemoth in the book of Job, and why the famous “swings like a cedar” lines have more to do with a mammals genitals than dinosaurs.


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6 responses

22 05 2007
RedMolly

why the famous “swings like a cedar” lines have more to do with a mammals genitals than dinosaurs

Now this I am looking forward to.

Do you think there’d be a spot in this carnival for a discussion of creationism and its interface with homeschooling? (I’m assuming there will be hordes of field-tripping homeschoolers descending upon the Creation Museum, alas.)

22 05 2007
laelaps

Absolutely, in fact I think that someone (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more) should write on that topic; as I’ve found in an cursory look at creationist homeschool lit, no science is safe. The worst violation I found was the statement that fungi should be taxonomically grouped with vascular plants because they were both created on day 3. Anyway, it sounds like a great topic, and someone should certainly write about it😉

22 05 2007
Phil

I found “The Last Dinosaur Book” to be a very interesting read, although you may have an argument with some of his taxonomic claims.

22 05 2007
laelaps

Thanks Phil; from what I could see I figured I would have some issue with what the author had to say (i.e. I’m interested to hear why children actually hate dinosaurs), but I figure it might give me some ideas, if nothing else. Most of the ideas I’ve heard to date circle around persisting dragon mythology or the Jungian allure of deceased (and therefore “safe”) monsters, but those don’t quite seem entirely satisfactory to me. I’m sure you’ll find out my take on it soon enough, anyway, thanks!

23 05 2007
Bora Zivkovic

Mitchel book had some negative reviews when it came out but I found it generally informative and entertaining. BTW, Archy had a great post about cedars some time ago.

24 05 2007
laelaps

Thanks Bora; I’m sure Mitchell’s book will be thought provoking if nothing else. And thanks for the link to archy’s post; I read it when it initially came out, and later wrote my own analysis of it for ProgressiveU and it was immensely popular, so I thought I would mention it again for anyone who missed it the first time around. Thanks!

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