Wax museum revels in ridicule as critics lampoon its statues
By COLLIN BINKLEY
Aug. 30, 2017
BOSTON (AP) — A good roasting hasn't caused a meltdown at Boston's new wax museum.
Officials at the Dreamland Wax Museum say they're embracing the extra attention brought by waves of online hecklers who have lampooned some of its less-than-flattering likenesses.
"It's absolutely been a blessing to have all of that controversy," said Michael Pelletz, the museum's vice president of sales. "Even if it's negative press, it's working wonderfully."
Photos of the museum's life-sized wax figures have been circulating online since it opened its doors in July, in some cases inspiring scorching ridicule.
It started with a wax portrayal of President Donald Trump that some say looks more like South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.
Then it was a statue of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady that some called "creepy," with one online critic saying it looks like someone who "would murder you and hide the body."
Now it's a figure of former Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, which one sports-news website simply said "looks like someone who's not Paul Pierce."
Pelletz says some of the figures aren't perfect because they're based on photos instead of actual measurements from the celebrities. And if the sculptors aren't keenly familiar with every contour of Brady's face, he said they can be forgiven — most are based overseas, in London and Paris.
Still, Pelletz said even the imperfect statues are works of art that take months to create.
"I'm proud of every single wax figure in here," he said. "Some people love Picasso, some people don't. It's perception."
Going forward, most new models will be created only after artists sit down with the subject to gather dozens of dimensions. The goal is to add about five statues a year, mostly of stars with roots in Boston.
So far, the jeers have targeted only a small fraction of the museum's 101 wax models of musicians, actors and historical figures. Several others have drawn admiration for their impeccable likenesses.
Brandi Zeitz of nearby Saugus was at the museum with her two sons this week when she stopped cold before a seated statue of rapper Snoop Dogg.
"He's spooky looking. He looks like he's going to stand up," said Zeitz, whose sons posed alongside the statue for a photo.
Some researchers say wax models inspire mixed feelings because of a phenomenon called the "uncanny valley," an idea that people are unsettled by human replicas that look nearly — but not quite — real.
Pelletz thinks that might help explain the online hoopla. But some visitors have said they left feeling disappointed, not unsettled, by the statues.
"We weren't impressed," said Donna Mulvey, of Dedham, who went with her 11-year-old son for his birthday in July. "It seemed as though several of the people's heads were small."
Dreamland is in good company when it comes to wax museums that have drawn ridicule: The internet is littered with reviews claiming that others in England or Canada or California are the world's worst.
Still, it has made for a surprising start for the museum, which marks the first foray into the U.S. by a Brazilian company that owns 30 wax museums in Brazil and Mexico.
Instead of driving people away, though, Pelletz says the attention is drawing curious crowds to the site, which sits steps away from Boston's historic Faneuil Hall and other busy tourist attractions.
"Pictures and videos, sometimes they don't do it justice," Pelletz said. "When people do come, they absolutely love it."
Follow Collin Binkley on Twitter at @cbinkley