2.27.2008

The Wrath of the Raptor


In 1993, Jurassic Park was released. The velociraptor was introduced into pop culture and, as a result, those evil, door opening, conniving, dinosaurs that lived over 65 million years ago forever changed its landscape. More than any other dinosaur, raptors are viewed by the public as the “it” dinosaur.
Last year on ICTV’s DP Show, they had a sketch featuring Jake Alinikoff as a human/raptor hybrid http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7rH2f4Jgss. The sketch raises the question: Why not a human T-rex? Why not a human stegosaurus? Despite their differences, the T-rex and stegosaurus were rather dumb creatures. In Jurassic Park, raptors were described as being “smart as chimpanzees.” Perhaps it’s the intelligence factor that the public craves in their dinosaurs.
A cursory search on ytmnd.com yields nearly 450 animated GIFs about raptors. Most of them revolve around Raptor Jesus. Encyclopedia Dramatica defines RJ http://www.encyclopediadramatica.com/index.php/Raptorjesus as, “A minor, mildly retarded 4chan meme consisting of a raptor's head crudely photoshopped onto any picture of Jesus.” Raptor Jesus must be the missing link between deities and dinosaurs.
There’s another side to this raptor revival: dinosaurs are long gone, and yet, because of Jurassic Park, a fear still exists. Granted, T-rexes and dilophosaurs are scary too, but a raptor can open doors and slit open a man’s stomach. Raptors can problem solve. Their intelligence is both admired and feared.
Randall Munroe, author and creator of the web-comic XKCD http://www.blogger.com/www.xkcd.com, has a running joke about a fear of raptors http://xkcd.com/155/. Another comic shows a substitute teacher handing out a test revolving around raptors. The students question the test, and the teacher tells them that survival against raptors is more important than math.
A couplet of Sci-Fi channel movies plays out this fear in Raptor Island and Planet Raptor. These movies are like Jurassic Park but without the fat of other dinosaurs. The movies are pure unadulterated fear generators powered solely by raptors. The former stars of the series, Lorenzo Lamas (Renegade) and Stephen Bauer (Scarface – no relation to Jack), play a Navy Seal and Criminal, respectively, held up on an island populated by raptors.
There’s a sad (maybe fitting) truth about Raptors, though. According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velociraptor), velociraptors were only about two feet high. And they were covered in feathers. I doubt that if Michael Crichton and Stephen Spielberg made their raptors in Jurassic Park reflect the actual dimensions of a velociraptor, this permeation into pop culture would have existed. And yet, here we are, in a society that both cherishes and fears a dead animal.
-Harrison

2.04.2008

Advertising: Charlie Brown floats, other ads sink

Well, the Super Bowl is over; dreams of eternal undefeated glory crushed, unlikely dumped-on has-beens celebrated (Petty or Manning, you decide!), and of course shiny newfangled things pressed on the public. For those who are like me (gay? non-athletic?) the Super Bowl is good for one thing and one thing only. . . commercials!

This year, the abundance of energy drink ads must have had some adverse effect on the non-football parts of the evening. Most ads seemed like they were hopped up on speed-- or maybe the ├╝ber sexist, violent, tastelessly offensive offspring of a George Saunders short story.

Many people have already posted their best-of, worst-of lists, including Slate's Seth Stevenson. It's very funny, especially told from his perspective (a Patriots fan begrudgingly fast forwarding through the painful game). In it, he notes this Coke ad (posted above) as the clear winner of the night and I couldn't agree more. After much wincing and swearing off brand loyalty, one of my friends remarked incredulously, "That wasn't so bad. . ."

It was actually enjoyable. Let me elaborate: While other ads, obsessed with establishing a new customer base, went all out, Coke was the only company that came across confident in their consumers. They delivered an aesthetically pleasing spectacular, without horrible dialogue to boot! The nostalgic elements, a blimpy Stewie from Family Guy, Underdog (the Giants!) and Charlie Brown, were not nauseating like other ads that involved Richard Simmons or Night At the Roxbury references. And the back-and-forth battle for the flying bottle of Coke was clever in adding relevance to the viewing occasion. You stay classy, Coke!