Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Big Fish Eats Little Fish: Plaques Symbolize Battle of Ideals

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Big Fish Eats Little Fish: Plaques Symbolize Battle of Ideals

Article excerpt

RALEIGH, N.C. -- In the beginning, there was a fish on the back of a car. And it begat a "Darwin fish." And it begat a Darwin fish swallowed by a "Jesus fish."

Call it evolution or just smart business: Sales of competing fish emblems are booming in the Bible Belt.

For a while, Christian motorists were being one-upped by drivers who -- tired of seeing the Jesus fish -- glued on a mutated fish with outgrown feet that sports the word "Darwin." The new design, created in the 1980s, was meant as a poke at biblical creationism. "It made me laugh out loud when I saw, and I'm not a bumper- sticker kind of person," said Barry Blanchette, the owner of Nice Price Books in Chapel Hill, who stuck a Darwin fish on the back of his white Dodge Caravan. "It's just a clever design." Not everyone thought it was a funny comeback. An evangelical Christian in Tacoma, Wash., frustrated by the walking fish, began pushing a new item: the Darwin fish being swallowed by a larger Jesus fish. "We're trying to level the playing field, so to speak," said Patrick McConnaughey, a former Navy shipyard worker who started selling his swallowing fish decoration last fall. "Everywhere the Darwin fish goes, we're coming right behind it." The fish plaques all got started back in the 1970s, when Christians started putting the fish outline on the back of their cars as a symbol of their faith. The solidarity soon spread to T-shirts and even advertisements in part to attract fellow Christians to local businesses. Out in California, some people decided a parody was in order. While just who made the first Darwin fish is debatable, a design by Hollywood prop man Chris Gilman took off. He got Daphne Bianchi, a friend from Texas, to help him sell the first 10,000 plaques. It took more than two years to do so, but after some media publicity in 1994, sales quadrupled and Evolution Design items are now moving across the country. "It was something I believed in, but I was not out to change the world," Bianchi said. …

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