For the Love of Freaks

Below is a video supplying pictures and brief explanations for the mutations of somebody’s list of the “Top 10 Freaks of Nature.”

(Ignore the random advertisement.)

The interesting part of this video slideshow is that it emphasizes their employment as “circus freaks” who often made a nice chunk of change working under P.T. Barnum, of eventual Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus company acclaim.

However, the video also notes the human qualities of these supposed “freaks.”

–          The Four-Legged Girl ends up getting married and having 5 children.

–          The Bearded Lady ends up getting married and having 2 children.

–          The Original Siamese Twins married 2 sisters, fathered 22 children, and owned a plantation in North Carolina.

–          The Lion-Faced Man was quite intelligent, spoke 5 languages, and enjoyed making the best of the opportunities with which his condition presented him.


In 1932, director Tod Browning made the film Freaks, in which the cast was formed of people with actual physical deformities rather than of actors with make-up and costumes. It was considered as so “culturally repulsive” that is was banned from being played in the United Kingdom for 30 years.

(Freaks movie, watch the first 7 minutes of it.)

However, in the film, the physically deformed “freaks” are inherently trusting and honorable people, while the real monsters are two of the “normal” members of the circus who conspire to murder one of the performers to obtain his large inheritance.

Essentially, the story is about Hans, a midget, attempting to find love with Cleopatra, the attractive, full-grown, normal woman who is a trapeze swinger in the circus troupe, and in just the first 7 minutes of the film, we see familiar tropes of human emotion and interaction: love, courtship, jealousy, anger, and embarrassment.

Is this forbidden love on a phenotypic scale?  Why does love have to be hindered by physical appearances?

As stated by the character Benedict Lambert in the novel Mendel’s Dwarf by Simon Mawer:

“You can tell nothing from a man’s appearance, nothing except the depths of your own prejudice” (pg. 42).

Something to think about.

–Justin Barisich

~ by justin.barisich on April 12, 2010.

One Response to “For the Love of Freaks”

  1. Good points. Do you think that some of the “freaks” who experience huge success in life experience this because of their differences? Similar to the fact that many little people with mediocre acting skills often are cast in multiple hollywood blockbusters or freakishly tall women end up as international supermodels? Is it their freakishness that causes their success or their freakishness that causes their motivation to prove they can be successful?

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