I See Dead People.

So, I have the best job in the world. I really do. I get into stuff for free (gotta love the media pass!) and then people pay me to write about it. This week, I HAD to go see Bodies: The Exhibit at MOSI in Tampa. I’d seen the billboards on 275, and it looked pretty cool, so when I asked Ken (my editor) about it, he suggested I go see it and write about it.

That was also the first I’d heard about the controversy surrounding the exhibit. See, although I write for a weekly paper and I suppose that makes me a journalist, the majority of my news comes from one of two sources.

Source One
*My mom mentions an impending hurricane or if a plane has crashed locally (I can always tell when she’s about to tell me about a plane crash; it’s invariably preceded by the seemingly innocent query, “So, is Tom flying today?”)… yes, she’s a cheery soul, isn’t she?

Source Two
*Hearing about it at The Gabber.

I have a television but no cable service, and I DO get the New York Times on Sunday but only read the arts section and the book reviews. I also, when researching a story, will check out the St. Pete Times online, but on the whole, I’m really not a news kinda gal. I figure if it’s important enough, it’ll filter down to me eventually. Besides, you can work out the important news on your own if you’re clever. Filling up my gas tank still costing about the same as my water bill? Well, then, I’ll assume we’re still dicking around in Iraq or wherever. Trees blowing sideways in my yard? Hmmm, perhaps a tropical storm has developed. Stupid signs littering the right-of-ways? Well, then, elections must be just around the corner. So it all works out.

Knowing that, it should come as absolutely no surprise to any of you that I had heard nothing about the controversy surrounding MOSI’s newest exhibit. Seems that this exhibit, which features REAL LIVE DEAD BODIES, has caused quite a commotion up Tallahassee way… sort of. The doctor who “prepared” these bodies hails from the Dalian Medical University of Plastination (plastination refers to the process used to preserve dead bodies) in the People’s Republic of China, where they used donated bodies and unclaimed dead people (unclaimed after 30 days, I should add) as fodder for the exhibit.

Seems our State Anatomical Board took issue with this use of dead people, saying that while it might be perfectly acceptable in China, we won’t have any of that education stuff in Florida. Which I can understand; after all, with our kids trailing behind most of the other states as far as education (save, I believe, Texas?), why inundate people with educational things if we can all help it? Clearly they aren’t up to it and we must protect them from overtaxing their brains.

Anyway, the board voted not to approve the exhibit and gave the media some great sound bites about counting on the law to do its job. In this instance, the law refers to Charlie Crist, the Attorney General. My experience with our Attorney General consists solely of waiting on him when I worked at Bellagio Italian Restaurant in downtown St. Pete. He and his girlfriend came in every couple of weeks, drank a modest amount of wine, shared a few appetizers, sat on our patio, and made lovely conversation. Here’s what I liked about him: he didn’t talk to me like I worked as a waitress because I lacked the intellect to do anything else. He also tipped fairly. Politicians, take note. I KNOW you’re all talking heads and it doesn’t matter a whit what you say you stand for, it’s really the hired help that runs the show, so when I cast my votes, all I care about is how you tip and how you talk to people. I bet Clinton tipped well. W? I bet he has a tip calculator and excludes the tax and alcohol (which, at a Bush family dinner, could be a substantial portion of the bill) before calculating the tip.

But I digress. My point is this: Crist, hearing of the Board’s vote -this is what I love about politics, really- opted to do nothing. So all the excitement, all the hype, all the taxpayer money spent for this Board to whip themselves into a frenzy over a bunch of dead people… meant nothing. Which is, I believe, how it should be, as far as government regulating museums and arts and culture and all that good stuff. Laissez-faire and all that. If people think it’s inappropriate, they don’t have to go. All the Board has accomplished is that more people have seen this exhibit so far than any other MOSI exhibit, with over 5000 visitors on Sunday alone.

And… it’s no big deal. The corpses look like the ones in a college anatomy class, except these once sucked breath in and pushed it out again. In fact, I can honestly say that I really didn’t learn anything new. That really shouldn’t be a credit to my past science teachers, the exhibit REALLY didn’t teach me anything… it’s pretty basic. A few things of note (and by note I mean they could, potentially, send those of you with weak stomachs running for the restroom): the “embryo room”, with fetuses and embryos in various stages of development, a breast riddled with cancer, and a uterine tumor with hair growth, an eyeball, and a tooth. That’s when Tom looked at me, I think, and said “there are some things I don’t really want to know.”

I couldn’t agree more. I think we both came away from the exhibit with the feeling that it’s a wonder we can walk around without falling down, and also the thought that this whole body thing is an awful complex system just to carry around a brain.

Oh, yes, two other things that stand out, and not in a good way, either:

The movie. It was ok, but any good parts of it were ruined by this pregnant woman who quasi-narrated it. She kept going on and ON and ON about “the wonder of the life growing in her”, her “bump”, and how amazing it was that THERE WAS A BABY IN THERE. All of this done while she laid on a couch in a dimly lit room, a cup of tea next to her, and rubbed her stomach with a dreamy look in her eyes. Now, I don’t have kids, but from what I can tell from pregnancies I have watched or heard about (Luci, Mardi, thanks guys!), it actually involves very little of that type of thing. The birth itself made me groan and laugh- the mother smiled and wept softly and laughed. Clearly she had an epidural. She looked at her husband lovingly, squeezed his hand gently (!), and just repeated her standard line (through tears of joy) about how wonderful and amazing it all was.
The cadavers didn’t nauseate me, but that did.

The other thing that stands out?
The exhibit states that it treats the bodies with the “respect they so richly deserve”; however, while seeing a dissected human form, cut away for better understanding of the body’s muscular system, gives people a sense of how their body works, one has to wonder what level of respect the exhibit affords this same body when organizers pose this same cadaver with a soccer ball in play.

Let’s get the Times to write reviews of exhibits like that, eh?

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Cathy

I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.