Friday, 18 December 2015

Jurassic Park for Archaeologists

One of the things that is often stated at info sessions about graduate degrees in the arts are that they are very isolating and lonely experiences. Considering the lack of traditional classroom learning and time for extracurricular, it is quite easy to get stuck in one’s own specialization and forget to socialize. At Melbourne we try to mediate this isolation through organizing graduate groups and having communal office spaces. A positive thing about this is that you meet a lot of new people and get to learn new things about those you already know.

Early this year we learned that one of our new colleagues had never seen Jurassic Park. Now while I am sure this is not so uncommon in the new generation, it still came as a shock to many of us who had grown up with fond memories of Sam Neill’s reluctant heroism and Jeff Goldblum’s introduction of the rocker-mathematician look. We felt that as a graduate community we had an obligation to initiate Marc into the glorious world of dinosaur films and began to plan a movie night.

Now this was a slightly controversial decision as archaeologists have spent decades arguing the difference between themselves and paleontologists at school visits and cocktail parties.  The popular Youtube phenomenon Archaeosoup even wrote a song called ‘We don’t do dinosaurs’ to express the distress that every archaeologist feels when confronted with the comment ‘You’re an archaeologist e? Man I always wanted to dig up dinosaurs as a kid.’

However, in the spirit of camaraderie we decided to leave our ‘archaeologists are not paleontologist’ pickets at home for the evening and dive into a bout of 90s nostalgia. The film did not fail to deliver and we all enjoyed an evening of T-rex chases, veggiesauruses, a chain smoking Samuel L. Jackson and Jeff Goldblum reclining like some kind of Greek Apollo statue.

By some stroke of luck the new Jurassic World film came out only a few weeks after our movie night, so the dinosaur-filled joy could continue beyond our original movie night. Loudly humming the Jurassic Park theme song we walked from our attic office in the university to the theatre in the centre of the city. Despite what anyone else might tell you, the movie was amazing and delivered on all the things we have grown to love about the Jurassic Park franchise. There was witty humour, giant lizard-like dinosaurs, arrogant scientists, a sense Michael Crichton's moral technologism and the addition of this hero:

I would love to say the entire experience was educational. That it taught us something about misrepresentation of academic disciplines in public media, the hollywoodification of our research, the difficult balance between maintaining academic integrity and assuring commercial success. In truth I have to say that none of these things were really brought up during the movie. Ultimately the aim of the movie nights is to bring all us grad students together and to give us a break from the daily toil of research and teaching. Really it is about easing the stress and solitude of the postgraduate experience.

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