Before proceeding with the showing of the following HIGHLY UNUSUAL ATTRACTION, a few words should be said about the amazing subject matter. BELIEVE IT OR NOT —- STRANGE AS IT SEEMS, in ancient times anything that deviated from the normal was considered an omen of ill luck or representative of evil. Gods of misfortune and adversity were invariably cast in the form of monstrosities, and deeds of injustice and hardship have been attributed to the many crippled and deformed tyrants of Europe and Asia.
HISTORY, RELIGION, FOLKLORE, and LITERATURE abound in tales of misshapen misfits who have altered the world’s course. GOLIATH, CALABAN, FRANKENSTEIN, GLOUCESTER, TOM THUMB AND KAISER WILHELM are just a few, whose fame is world wide.
The accident of abnormal birth was considered a disgrace and malformed children were placed out in the elements to die. If, perchance, one of these freaks of nature survived, he was always regarded with suspicion. Society shunned him because of his deformity, and a family so hampered was always ashamed of the curse put upon it.
Occasionally, one of these unfortunates was taken to court to be jeered at or ridiculed for the amusement of the nobles. Others were left to eke out a living by begging, stealing, or starving.
For the love of beauty is a deep seated urge which dates back to the beginning of civilization. The revulsion with which we view the abnormal, the malformed and the mutilated is the result of long conditioning by our forefathers. The majority of freaks, themselves, are endowed with normal thoughts and emotions. Their lot is truly a heart-breaking one.
They are forced into the most unnatural of lives. Therefore, they have built up among themselves a code of ethics to protect them from the barbs of normal people. Their rules are rigidly adhered to and the hurt of one is the hurt of all; the joy of one is the joy of all. The story about to be revealed is a story based on the effect of this code upon their lives. Never again will such a story be filmed, as modern science and teratology is rapidly eliminating such blunders of nature from the world.
With humility for the many injustices done to such people (they have no power to control their lot) we present the most startling horror story of the ABNORMAL and the UNWANTED.”
This quoted prologue introduces FREAKS, a 1932 film directed and produced by Tod Browning and presented by MGM. Highly controversial in its brief screening, it was followed by 30 years of suppression, appearing on black lists worldwide; yet it’s quite crucial to understanding the plight of the ‘abnormal’, to realising the detrimental effects of society’s desertion of being true to oneself in quest of ‘the love of beauty.’
It’s a film about circus side show performers, those of a different time, those which no longer compliment the monkeys and the elephants. It’s about the man who walks on his hands, the midget ballerina lover on a horse, Josephine-Joseph the half-woman-half-man, the armless woman who eats food and drinks wine with her toes, and the siamese twins feeling sexual arousal when the other kisses their mate. All presented as Freaks. Because they are ‘different’.
FREAKS is one film that truly searches the soul. “They did not ask to be brought into the world, but into the world they came,” retorts the circus announcer.
The film depicts a beautiful trapeze artist, the ‘normal’ person known as ‘the peacock of the skies’, who woos the leader of the Freaks, a midget prince who owns a considerable fortune. The peacock intends to poison the midget prince, kill him, and inherit his fortune. The other disformed humans, the Freaks, discover the Peacock’s intentions, joining forces to protect their ‘midget’ Freak of a leader.
The audience is captivated by the discrimination of these disformed figures, via the freakish nature of their lifestyles, and by the life or death battle between the ‘freaks’ and the ‘normals’. Browning presents this film in such a manner that ‘noramls’ see their own world through different eyes. I, for one, shall never again laugh at the dancing midget on the bar at the local pub.
Even in 1932, eighty years ago, society was so concerned with socialism that people with aesthetic setbacks, the sideshow performers, were clearly affected, regarded as second to human. Because of their physical ‘deformities’, they were regarded as sickly; and in my fullest belief, that’s what led to their underdeveloped minds. These actors, to me, seem mentally handicap, in a dramatic sense; and I believe it’s because they were living constantly with the fear of their freakish natures, of being unacceptable existences. They were truly not mentally sick… and in the long scheme of things, they were not physically sick either.
They were just different.
Enter the modern day bulimic.
I’m a fucking freak. I’m outcasted because I shoved fingers down my throat, vomiting calories for 11 years; and I write about it. I don’t hide it. Thus I am shameful. If this film were to be remade in modern society, it would depict the modern monstrosities that exist due to society’s concern with aesthetics. It would be about the modern freak, the anorexic, the bulimic, and the binge eater, amongst many others.
It freaks me out that this film was produced exactly 50 years before my birth, yet we have not progressed in terms of acceptance of the ‘different’, we’ve just declined. Boys and girls are forced to enter into the modern day freak show, if they are different.
“They don’t realise I’m a man, with the same feelings they have,” says the midget prince, fighting to woo the ‘beautiful lady’, the peacock. That’s exactly how I felt when the cheerleaders in high school never invited me to a party, because I wasn’t thin. So, I changed myself to be accepted, and I nearly killing myself in the process.
I hate the peacock’s character. Although considered to be ‘normal’ and ‘beautiful’, I regard her to be the ugly one, the monstrosity. The only thing that I like about her is her headband.
And yes, I think she’s fat.
It’s ok to be different. To hell with the normal people who don’t accept the Riff Raffs
Rock on, my fellow FREAKS.
© Nicole Marie Story Enterprises, LLC and nicoleandgwendolyn.com, 2011.