MIKE "DEADGUY" RESPONDS:
Always great to hear that someone actually reads my stuff now and then. I
appreciate the kind words. Ready for an eyeful though? I took time and
consideration in responding to this because I know what it's like trying to
figure-out what's good for my son to participate in at his age. Hopefully,
it's not too long-winded.. and helps you in your decision.
5 years old? Hmm.. I'd be hard-pressed to suggest that it's great for
someone that young. It all depends on the way he's been raised I guess.
There were certainly kids his age taking in the sights, and I noted a book
at the end of the tour that had been filled-out by some of the kids that
came. (obviously the writers were more like 8 to 12, rather than 5 years
old, but it might give you the idea..)
I read through a bunch of the kids entries, and noted that the general
concensus was, in their words ".. gross, but really cool and I learned a
lot, except where the one guy was chopped-up into thin pieces, that was just
really REALLY gross..."
Oddly enough, I think the exhibit they were referring to was right next to a
female whose skin had been cut up into strips, where there was only skin in
stripes about 3 inches wide across various parts of her body. That was one
of two that had a fully visible intact vagina complete with stubbly shaven
pubic hair. There didn't seem to be any mention of her in the children's
accounts, which surprised me a bit... The sliced guy they were referring to
was essentially shaved into thin slices and displayed like a plate
collection arranged in an elongated human form... I didn't think that looked
too bad in comparison to the lady, but maybe that's just me.
My own impression of the exhibit was definately influenced by my interest in
horror props and suchlike, and therefore probably not worth much as an
impartial observer. I was thinking more in terms of how to recreate the
bodies and body parts, and marveling that although the exhibit, by
definition is gory (artistically mutilated bodies) they didn't strike me as
being gory at all. That's likely due to the lack of blood, and the serene
faces, I guess.
Anyways, I DO remember thinking that there was an awful lot of genitals on
display, inciting quite a few kids to nervously giggle and point. That's
normal behavior though, despite how mortified the parents seemed to be. I
DID hear a few unfortunate parents having to answer the questions about why
the lady's penis was gone when everyone else still had one.
One observer in particular, a little girl, perhaps 2 years old, suddenly
noticed the penis hanging from one of the bodies and decided to let her mom
know about it, very loudly, as her mom tried to shush her in embarrassment.
Of course everyone within earshot got a chuckle out of it. "Mommy! Mommy!!
LOOOK! LOOK MOMMY!" (I think I may have related this event in my article
already, but I'm not sure.)
Anyways, if you think you and your son are ready for discussion on the topic
of physical differences between men and women, and he's patient, then I'd
say yes.. take him, he'll be awestruck. The circulatory exhibits
especially, are incredible to look at, and definately inspiring for young
However, MY son isn't ready for that yet. It's a whole lot of people moving
slowly and quietly, and he'd be far too fidgety for that. Unfortunately,
everything had to be read too, so it seemed that many kids weren't really
doing much besides darting around to peer and giggle at stuff by themselves,
instead of waiting for their parents to read through stuff. There was the
occassional exception, where they were being guided closely through each
exhibit by their parents. Unfortunately, it seemed like you couldn't just
read every sign verbatim to a kid and have them understand it. Each one
would have to be summarized to the child, and paraphrased into terms they'd
understand. Not a bad deal, but difficult for a kid that might be fidgeting
after a few minutes of waiting for their parent to finish reading it.
There was an audio tour that I missed out on, where you get headphones and a
tape recorder telling you about each exhibit. Judging by the lack of signage
in areas like the circulatory room, I missed quite a bit of information by
not getting the headset. I don't know for sure, but I suspect the headset
tour would be difficult for a small child to grasp, assuming that the
dialogue would be similar to the signage. Still, for an adult, I highly
recommend it if you want the full experience.
The only thing in the exhibit that might be considered "bad" would be a side
room that dealt with babies and fetuses. There were deformities, and some
fairly horrific stuff in that room. It's a little strange to look at human
fetuses floating in formalydehyde (or water?) especially those in later
stages of development, or the conjoined ones, etc. I realize that the
fetuses had to be treated this way because they'd fall apart under their own
weight, but it also seemed a bit extreme to see some of the very small ones
stabbed onto a thin rod like an insect for display.
Even some of the folks that decided to "brave" the room were leaving before
reaching the end of it, looking vaguely unsettled. I didn't see any kids
looking around in there for more than a second or two, before parents
decided it was time to move on.
I seem to recall (though I might be mistaken) that there was even what's
called a "harlequin baby" in there. If you are unfamiliar with the term,
it's a terminal condition where the skin is dry enough to crack, at every
wrinkle there's blood and a bit of pus coming to the surface through the
cracks. It's horrific to look at. Babies born with that affliction simply
don't survive long. If you think you have the stomach for viewing that kind
of thing, you can do a google image search on "harlequin baby" (be sure to
hit the image button, right over the search bar before hitting "go"). It's
unsettling to say the least.
Anyways...to sum it up: If you have a patient, non-fidgety 5-year-old with
an interest in museums, human physiology, and why/how to stay healthy (the
focus of the tour, it would seem), AND you're prepared for awkward questions
in front of a snickering audience, and likely, disapproving glances from
senior citizens, then by all means, get him there. It doesn't emanate
horror, and if anything, I noted that some of the children where speaking in
terms of thinking they were looking at representations of bodies rather than
the real thing. .. so were some of the adults. For them, I suspect, it was
just like any other trip to the museum but with more realistic models.
Personally? I can't fortell the future or anything, but I suspect my son
wouldn't be prepared for that kind of thing until he was a minimum of 8
years old. That's despite the fact that he's been raised with anatomically
correct plastic skeletons hanging around the house every so often...
Predominantly because I figure he'd go stir crazy and start acting up, but
also because he's currently having trouble understanding the concept of what
happens when people die in real life, (due to a grandparent passing away
recently). The exhibit doesn't seem to promote discussions about death, but
it would just be a matter of time before I had to explain that they were
actual corpses standing there and why they weren't in heaven.
Also, the level of dialogue would be MUCH easier when he's older, and he'd
even be able to read the signs on his own, rather than have me explain
everything to him in small child terms, and bore him to death when he's
simply not interested in some of the information I was relating.
Anyways, be sure to go, at least by yourself, and when you do, please let me
know what YOU thought of the exhibit. I'd love to hear about it.
Thanks again for reading my article at "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" at
www.crazedfanboy.com hope to hear from you again! Did you check out Nolan's
review, too? Personally I thought his was more informative than mine... I got
carried away with the "death thing" and where did these bodies come from,
rather than the meat of what you're looking for.
--Mike "Deadguy" Scott