I saw an artist rendering of a court case on the news recently. Whenever I see one of these sketches, all I can think is, for this reason alone I hope I don’t end up in court. At best, the people in the drawing are only hideous approximations of people, or so I hope. The artist is no doubt counting on the imaginations of the audience to fill in the big potholes of inhumanity in the sketch.

The picture had a splash of orange (the defendant I assume) with what looked like either a wolverine attacking a bowling ball perched on top; that, or a Neanderthal skull packed in steel wool. His (or her) lawyer (again I assume) looked like Anubis, the Egyptian god of embalming and the dead, with a bug in one eye.

Lawyer calls Mom: “Hey mom I’m in the news!”

Mom: “All I see is a dog sitting next to a bag of garbage with a couple of years’ worth of shower drain hair on top.”

Granted, charcoal in hand, the poor courtroom artist was probably scratching away with all the desperation of an addict working a roll of instant lottery tickets. This isn’t what I went to art school for.

Artists know their works are incomplete and inaccurate, but that’s part of the game. They also know the human mind fills in the gaps. When I began painting, I tried a tree. “Who’s that?” Tracy asked. Some gaps are too big for healing. With practice, I eventually got good enough that most folks could at least tell I was attempting a tree.

It all goes back to the old adage “appearances are deceiving.” Dolly Parton once snuck into a Dolly Parton Look-A-Like Contest and lost to a man in Dolly-drag [1]. My world has recently been rocked to learn that George Washington was a red head[2]. He didn’t wear a wig. Carrot Top powdered his hair. All my life I’ve seen him with white hair. I guess I assumed that was its natural color. Assumptions prevent me from thinking things through, gaining much-needed perspective.

We never see things as they are, and we know that by now. Our imagination, or someone’s, is autofilling errors, or “errors,” along the way. Like the fact that Neanderthals’ tracheal anatomy suggests they had high-pitched, raspy voices [3], like Julia Child, and weren’t the guttural doofuses that Hollywood and Clan of the Cave Bear have taught us. But to be fair, nobody would expect such a low-brow, knuckle-dragging thug with a club to speak with a silly high-pitched rhythmic lilt better suited for explaining how to roast chicken.How could Neanderthal kids not burst into laughter when being scolded? What about killing game? So many questions.

Appearances and assumptions. What are ya gonna do? Nothing. We have too many things to track and assumptions are how we stay sane. But knowing the dynamic seems to take some pressure off. Knowing that what we think may not be the last word seems to help somehow.

But I do think it would be more entertaining for Neanderthals to be accurately portrayed in film, especially the fight scenes and grunting.

  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. [3]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *