When I was a kid, I wanted to be a paleontologist. I wanted to be a paleontologist so bad I learned how to spell it. To my parents the most important part of this burning passion for prehistoric life was how unbelievably adorable it is to see a 6 year old child say Pachycephalosaurus. To me, almost two decades later, what matters to me is why I wanted to be a dinosaur scientist in the first place. When the last three kids said they wanted to be, in turn, an F1 driver, a policeman and a nurse, answering my teacher’s vocational queries with possibly the largest word anyone in my class had ever heard was a bold declaration. I said “Paleontologist,” but I might as well have said, “I’m going to be your class nerd and if any of you want to throw stuff at me I’ll be over here in the corner reading quietly.”
Now I don’t want to wade into the nature vs nurture argument, but seeing Jurassic Park as a young child* was a pivotal developmental moment in my life. It gave birth to the first of many obsessions in my life. I loved dinosaurs and so I had to know everything about them. Some nerds are made, not born.
I never ended up going down the paleontology career path, or a good number of the other paths I intended to go down as I grew up and tried to figure out what I wanted to be, but I think about it a lot. How many actual paleontologists did Jurassic Park create? What about geneticists? There has to be someone out there with a genetics degree who only has it because they really want a live dinosaur. How many people went on to study forensic science because of CSI:Miami? What percentage of Whitehouse staff are there because of the the west wing? As someone with a deep love of numbers and an unhealthy interest in stories and storytelling, I desperately want to know the actual numerical answers to these questions.
I started off wanting to write a blog post about how artists are more than just creators when they interact with their audiences and get to hear about how their art has impacted on the lives of their audience**, but now I just want to go do some statistics. Either way, that’s one story about how a story*** had an impact on me.
I’ve got a hundred more.
*Whilst writing this I’ve had a few words with my parents. When Jurassic Park came out Michael Medved was screaming and shouting about parents taking their kids to see it. In fact he said that any parent that takes a young child to see Jurassic Park is “guilty of unconscionable child abuse.” Spielberg wouldn’t let his son Max see it in the cinema and he was 8 at the time! I’m sure I was very persistent about going to see it but I don’t remember it being much of a fight. I assume I had to promise not to have nightmares. When I consider the number of times I’ve said “don’t tell mum I let you watch this” to my little brother I have to assume that my upbringing was some kind of experiment.
**and I kind of just did. Meta.