Monday, April 23, 2007

Madame Tussaud’s

For reasons both banal and obscure, Mrs Brit and I visited Madame Tussaud’s last week.

Never again. It scared the bejesus out of me as a kid and it did so again this time. The Chamber of Horrors, even with the jumpy-out actors ‘live’ section is not remotely frightening, but the rest of it is bloody terrifying.

You walk through a series of uncanny valleys, bizarre mocked-up cocktail parties littered with such incongruous guests as Elvis Presley, the Incredible Hulk and Chris Tarrant. Charles Darwin stands next to Neil Armstrong. A grotesquely accurate Stephen Hawking sprawls cheerfully in his chair.

Always there is the spine-shiver of eyes upon you: either the super-real glass stare of the waxworks, or, if you stay still too long, the puzzled look of a tourist wondering who you’re meant to be. The half-familiarity of the figures is what makes it such a strange experience, especially the realistic ones (Samuel L Jackson is freakishly lifelike; James Dean is appalling). More disturbing is the semi-erotic aspect. Girls drool and drape themselves over an ossified Orlando Bloom. Boys gawp at Jennifer Lopez’s plastic rump.

I simply don’t get what Madame Tussaud’s is for. The most interesting game seems to be discovering how tall everybody is: Christina Aguilera is a dwarf; Ronald Reagan was a giant. Other than that, the popularity of the place is a mystery to me. Can anyone explain it?

12 comments:

monix said...

I always thought its purpose was to be next door to the Planetarium but I see that wonderful experience has been replaced by the 'Stardome' which sounds as bad as the waxworks.

Ali said...

Last time I went, I was most impressed by how Queen Victoria looked like an elderly man in drag.

People got Madame Tussaud's because there's nothing else quite like it.

Peter Burnet said...

There is a progressive slide down the socio-economic scale for this kind of popular attraction. Think of Blackpool. A hundred years ago, well-heeled gentlemen took their fiances to fun-fairs and amusement arcades like Coney Island, but now they are pretty much for bikers and the sporadically employed (and married). Maybe in a hundred years the yobs and chavs will all be going on eco-tours to Costa Rica.

Brit said...

The great big green dome that used to be the Planetarium is now just part of the Tussaud's entry ticket. You watch an amusing but frivolous Aardman animation in it.

Peter: exactly right. The plebs first took over the English seaside resorts, then as they got richer and flights cheaper they took over the beaches of Spain and Portugal. The beautiful people now have to go into outer space to escape them.

Peter Burnet said...

Or impose state line and time zone rules on themselves.

martpol said...

What?! The Planetarium no longer exists?

monix said...

It closed last year, Martpol. I didn't see anything about it in the news and there wasn't a day of national mourning.

Duck said...

Science is being dumbed down in public venues. The Science Museum of Minnesota is a joke. Awhile back they had one exhibit where some person created bronze statues from full body casts of ordinary people of various shapes and sizes, mostly fat and unattractive. The exhibit had post it notes with which people were encouraged to write down how each body form made them feel. What this had to do with science I haven't a clue.

They also had one room dedicated to a reconstruction of a traditional Hmong hut. Not much in the way of science to learn from that.

Gordon McCabe said...

The Planetarium had to close down because the light pollution was too severe in central London. You couldn't even see the Milky Way anymore.

monix said...

If only someone had asked, I would have let them re-site it in my Devon garden!

Gordon McCabe said...

And why not, Monix. After all, the Royal Greenwich Observatory moved from Greenwich to Herstmonceux, Sussex after the war, due to light pollution. That's sufficient precedent.

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