Monday, March 18, 2013

Feathered Dinosaurs

It has come to my attention recently that nerds hate feathered dinosaurs.

Not *all* nerds, obviously, but a lot of 'em. And why? Apparently because dinosaurs no longer look "cool" enough: they're "fluffy", they're "chickens", and most importantly, they don't look as cool as they did in "Jurassic Park".

I'm a casual dinosaur fan, but I am pro-feather aesthetics. Feathered saurians look both ferocious and adorable, and it dissolves the idea that dinosaurs are a symbol of obsolescence. They didn't die out because they weren't "good enough": they grew and changed and adapted and are still around today.

I still like the look of "classic" dinosaurs (or really, the style where they are reptilian but sleeker and more active, as inspired by the Robert T. Bakker school of thought), but I don't personally care that one style now is inaccurate to varying degrees.

I say "pro-feather aesthetics" because you can't be pro- or anti-dinosaur feathers: that's like saying you can be pro- or anti-gravity. One's aesthetic distaste for a scientific fact does not change its legitimacy, and you can't "decide" to accept it the way you accept or deny changes to a fictional character. It has already been decided by science: you don't have to *like* feathered dinosaurs, but they exist.

So, there's frequently an anti-science subtext to the hatred of feathered dinosaurs: the complaint is that science has "corrupted" dinosaurs, implying progress should not have happened. Paleontologists should never have dug deeper and found that dinosaurs beyond Archaeopteryx had feathers, or at least never spread it around, because it interferes with the popular image of dinosaurs.

It might not be what the anti-feather aesthetics folk intend to say, but how else would you "reclaim" dinosaurs but by denying what science has found? Pretending dinosaurs never had feathers is like pretending that cavemen rode them. Both have their pop culture appeal, but both can't be considered equal to legitimate science.

What's also eye-rolling is the way the presence of feathers is treated as an emasculation. It might be just me, but there's an ugly sense that by having feathers, dinosaurs have now been feminized, are no longer the scaly behemoths that little boys played with in the sandbox with, but are now (choke!) "girly".

Because of that, I'm reluctant to try to get the feather-haters to accept that feathered dinosaurs are "still badass". It's trying to play the game by the other person's rules, instead of just pointing out that animals are simply animals, not "manly" or "girly". Nor do scientifically-accurate depictions have to prove themselves, either.

It's also strange that others keep going back to Jurassic Park as the counter to feathered dinosaurs. "Jurassic Park" had great SFX and was a fun movie (though as I get older, the anti-science preaching becomes more annoying), but its dinosaurs are essentially movie monsters who run all over facts in the name of being cool.

And yeah, I'm fine with most of that (except the T-Rex's vision problems, which make no sense in all the wrong ways) *in a movie*. But to hold up these exaggerations of dinosaurs as the ideal counterpoint to modern science is insane. It's like saying werewolves are the "true" vision of wolves, and all those packs in the woods are just poseurs.

I've got no problem with preferring the "look" of reptilian dinosaurs, whether those dinosaurs are from the eighties or the eighteen hundreds. But turning that preference into a denial of science, or a defense of dinosaurs' implicit masculinity, doesn't work.

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