Trevor Valle didn’t spend all that time carefully cleaning and preserving a prehistoric triceratops skull just to have a pop star molest it.
So when he logged in to Twitter on Monday, the paleontologist felt a hot, primordial rage seep like lava through his veins. For there, in pure, rules-shmules glory, was this photo from the famously Jack Daniels-breathed pop star Kesha:
There she hovered, her likely chipped nails poking the air just inches from a dinosaur skull that looked devastatingly familiar.
“[S]uck it,” Kesha had written. “I’m standing on the dinosaur bitches.”
“At first, I was like, “What the $%&#?!” Valle told Fusion. He checked with a couple of colleagues and confirmed that, yes, the photo had been taken at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, where he had worked on a preservation project, and not in London as the Kesha had tagged the photo. (She later deleted the tweet altogether.)
“At that point, I went to town,” said Valle, who had personally cleaned the right side of the skull’s frill, its brow horn core, orbit, and face back in 2007 and 2008.
So Valle, also the host of “Mammoths Unearthed” on NatGeo and a specialist in the preservation of fossils, flooded his Twitter feed, @tattoosandbones, with angry tweets, chastising the star for disrespecting decades of natural history, setting a poor example for her fans, and basically committing a huge party foul.
Little did Valle know, though, the danger of poking the hornet’s nest of pop star fanbases on social media. And that’s when Kesha’s acolytes attacked to defend their idol’s perceived glittery, louche honor.
Things got heated.
But Valle said he has no regrets.
“If they were somewhat cordial about it, saying things like ‘Please don’t be mean,’ or whatever, I might have been less rant-ish,” Valle said. “Who am I kidding? No, I wouldn’t have been. What she did was wholly irresponsible, and the blind justifications I was receiving in turn were absolutely hysterical.”
And Kesha’s antics point to a larger societal disrespect for fossils, he says, which leads to natural history museums frequently losing out on funding to art museums. Who knew?
“Art museums, collections, etc. get magnitudes more money than NHMs do. To many people they’re just rocks,” Valle says. “Or, I’ve heard the argument countless times, ‘Oh, but there are others.’ Ugh.”
“Being a paleontologist, of course I’m more passionate about my career,” he continues. “But I’m not about to go poke a heat tile on a space shuttle, hop through the barricade at the Mona Lisa to get closer, or pop a squat on the Great Pyramids of Giza.”
Luckily Kesha has yet to pop any squats on monuments herself—and, she or someone in her camp thought better of her dinosaur disrespecting and deleted her original tweet. And Valle gets the last laugh.
Photo illustration by Elena Scotti