Vanity Fair? More like Vanity Unfair!

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!”

Actor Paul Bettany, who took this picture, "gets it." This woman doesn't, which you can tell by her weight.

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.

Adam and Eve (note: NOT Adam and Steve)

Workers on Noah's ark. Wish I could remember the audio here. Yes, there was audio.

Man and dinosaur, created just a few days apart.

Because we have completely different systems for making judgments about the world?

*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.


11 responses to “Vanity Fair? More like Vanity Unfair!

  1. But creationists are dumb and fat — why not laugh and joke along with some fun, slender Brits? That obese woman should maybe spend more time developing a sense of intellectual curiosity and less time shoveling processed foods — cheap and widely available because her pious fetus-fetishizing representatives are in the bed with Monsanto, Con-Agra, etc. etc. — down her big old mouth.

  2. I’m not saying there’s no room for making fun of Creationism. There’s PLENTY of room for that. But this piece was such a lazy sneer from two guys who made no attempt to understand the culture of Creationism at all, or to imagine that the people who believe it are human beings. Also, it’s obnoxious to visit a museum and assume that every single other visitor except you is just drinking it in with 100% credulity. We actually don’t know a thing about that woman’s intellectual curiosity. All we know is that she was there — but so were Gill and Bettany (and me, too!)

  3. Also, “Perley,” next time you’re in New York let’s lock our doubting friends in a windowless room and force them to watch “Master and Commander” with us.

    • Perley J. Thibodeau

      I have no idea what you’re talking about.
      I’ve never heard of Master and Commander
      And I’m always in New York
      I live here!

  4. Why in the world would a European waste time trying to understand the culture of Creationists? Are Creationists really concerned with understanding the nuances of the disparate cultures of the rest of the world, or are they just interested in converting us? Yes, I’m generalizing here, and not every single person who rejects evolution is an evangelizing bigot, but the Christian Right on the whole has not really made a good name for itself, particularly in the past 9 years. As a political group, they have preached the superiority of America, so I think it’s perfectly fine for some Brits to react with animosity to their arrogance and stupidity.

  5. I’m not at all opposed to animosity, including funny animosity or mean animosity. I’m opposed to the lazy, snide animosity in this particular article. I’d be equally annoyed by a Creationist parachuting into New York City to wander around the Museum of Natural History for a few hours, and then flee back to Kentucky to insult the weird hairdos of the museum’s visitors.

  6. Also, obviously I think intellectual curiosity is a virtue, but to say we should only be intellectually curious about people who share that precise virtue … well, the world gets a lot smaller.

  7. Ruth, this is helpful. It makes me think I should add yet another chapter on evolution to my upcoming book of essays, “Big Ass.”

  8. Oh Ruth, I loved your post. Right on. And I remember your visit to the Creation Museum.

  9. What a lovely, and appropriate bit of alliteration – “Smugest Smuggery” – would make a great blog/book title, and is easily applicable to so many narrow-minded world views. Thanks for the insights and your enthusiasm.

    (but for a real Paul Bettany fix, my favourite is ‘A Knight’s Tale’)

  10. Pingback: Vanity Fair misunderstands American Christianity. Again. « Public Road

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