So the February cover of Vanity Fair features Annie Leibovitz’s photo of Tiger Woods pumping iron in what appears to a prison yard, but that’s not really my territory so I’ll let you judge that elsewhere. The issue also includes British critic A.A. Gill’s reflections on his visit to the Creation Museum, and that most certainly is my territory. Bonus: The piece is accompanied by photos of the museum by actor Paul Bettany,* who plays Charles Darwin in the upcoming movie “Creation.” “What fun!” I thought when I saw the table of contents. “As it so happens, I’ve visited the Creation Museum!”
The result, unfortunately, is the smuggest piece of smuggery in Smugtown. These guys seem like a real pair of jackasses! And so is the magazine for printing this!
Opened in 2007 in Peterson KY, the Creation Museum calls itself a “state-of-the-art 70,000 square foot museum [that] brings the pages of the Bible to life, casting its characters and animals in dynamic form and placing them in familiar settings.” Whatever you’re picturing right now, go ahead and triple it. It’s a ridiculous institution created to support creation “science,” with a confused mission, a LOT of animatronics, and a gross, destructive anti-intellectualism masquerading as “just another point of view.” (Conservative Christians love to talk about One Truth, but when it comes to science they turn into extreme relativists.)
However: The Creation Museum was also an extremely fun place to spend an afternoon. And even though the place is embarrassing, stupid, and in many ways represents the very worst of Christianity and America…Well, it’s just pretty obnoxious for a pair of rich Brits to lecture us about it.
Gill writes of the museum’s patrons:
The most compelling evidence for the ineffable mysterious ways of God are the people who’ve come here to load up with ammunition for the constant and relentless argument with the free world. Here, it’s safe to say, no one is going to get flung into the fiery pit for overdosing on vanity, though they may get done in early for overdosing on carbs. There was an astonishing number of women dressed as if they’d come from the little house on the prairie, in long, floral frontier frocks with bonnets and shawls. Their men are in bibs and braces, with straw hats, authentic pudding-bowl haircuts, and Abe Lincoln beards.
Nice. It sounds to me as if Gill and Bettany ran into a group of Mennonites, but it’s unclear if either of the men are familiar with that denomination or any of its Anabaptist-inspired relatives. But why let that get in the way of making fun of their outfits, weight and haircuts? Bettany takes a picture of a bowl-cut man and his young son from behind, a sneer in rectangular form. The actor also snapped a photo of an overweight – fine, obese – woman sitting on a bench inside the museum (see above). GET IT? She’s fat and dumb and she’s at this dumb museum for fat dummies!
But maybe we should be grateful for Bettany and Gill’s insight. As the great public-health reforms of the early 20th century taught us, sometimes it takes a simple restaurant critic and a millionaire movie star married to one of the world’s most beautiful women to really jolt a country to its senses. Bettany and Gill are basically the new Tarbell and Sinclair. Muckraking! Or, you know, muck-condescending.
Supposedly the magazine will be posting a slideshow of Bettany’s photos online soon, and I’ll link to it here if/when it appears. (The story itself is only in the print magazine.) In the meantime, here are a few of my own photos from the museum. I’m afraid I didn’t take any photos of the hilariously retarded patrons of the museum. But the good news is, that means NO FATTIES.
*Paul Bettany is in one of my very favorite movies of ALL TIME, “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” which I won’t get into here because I don’t want to give him the satisfaction.