Dinosaurs

A Safari across the United States searching for the national pet; the popular dinosaur as a projection of the nationalist psyche of the United States. In the pop-culture chaos that is uniquely American and that swirls around paleontology's quiet drudgery, Dinosaurs burble up to the top of the celebrity-oriented mass-media-marketplace mosh pit to float about in plain view, gazed upon by everyone. In demanding to see them, we sculpt their meaning; their existence depends on whether or not we have decided to look at them. With the invention of plastics in the 1950s, the dinosaur was domesticated. With this his new pliable material, anyone could mold a dinosaur into any imaginable position. This dinosaur stood up at Sinclair gas stations, theme parks, rest stops and front yards. Severing its umbilical connection to the sober conservatism of paleontology, the dinosaur entered pop culture as a free agent. This was one for the people, the masses--the democrasaurus. Besides in children's narratives (where dinosaurs still rule the world), they have served as political totems, deranged kitsch, icons of domesticated terror and cultural mules for Darwin's (still) troubling theory for the last half of the century. No matter what the newest dinosaur means for that month, or that decade, it will really be about what every dinosaur has always been about--not extinction but the other, deeper dream of the American nation: the big comeback, the perpetual novus ordo of America, the unexpected feat of resurrection.