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Just in time for All Saints Day
November 1, 2003 12:05 AM   Subscribe

Famous freaks. There really should be an IFDB. Until then, marvel at these miraculous testaments to God's sense of humor.
posted by condour75 (12 comments total)

 
Marvel at the human exploitation and slavery! There was a missed opportunity for a PETP protest of the late 19th century circus.
posted by rschram at 12:49 AM on November 1, 2003


Artist James Mundie has a great site called Prodigies: Anomalous Humans featuring his portraits of sideshow performers (and other famous people with rare physical conditions), containing "overlays" of elements and ideas from classical art. (To get a better idea, see the introduction.)

I find his portraits respectful, celebratory and candid, avoiding both sentimentality and exploitation. This is part of what he says about the term "Freaks":

When deciding on a title for this series, I chose to avoid using the term "freak" outright because its modern usage has many negative connotations; however, note that among performers the term was considered an honorific. The freak was an exalted individual in the sideshow business; for as talented and flamboyant as a sword swallower, snake charmer, fire-eater, contortionist or human ostrich might be, he or she would never equal the draw of a genuine 'living curiosity'.
posted by taz at 2:10 AM on November 1, 2003


Also check out I am Not a Freak Show, a contemporary series of monologues by seven performers afflicted with the typical "freak" medical syndromes.
posted by condour75 at 4:34 AM on November 1, 2003


sarah baartman, the so called hottentot venus, was not a freak. the racists who stole her and exploited her were the freaks.
posted by t r a c y at 5:09 AM on November 1, 2003


You want to see a freak show? A guy sitting in a cubicle, staring into a computer all day, typing until he gets carpal tunnel syndrome, with a "thank God it's Friday" coffee mug sitting on the desk. There's your freak show. —David Apocalypse, professional "Human Blockhead"
posted by rushmc at 6:29 AM on November 1, 2003


Then there's the curious tale of "Lobster Boy", Grady Stiles ...
posted by RavinDave at 7:21 AM on November 1, 2003


For anyone interested, I have some related images up on my site.

Check out I am Not a Freak Show, a contemporary series of monologues by seven performers afflicted with the typical "freak" medical syndromes.

I like the idea of this show, but I have to say, the title makes it sound like it will be just a boring series of rants about prejudice. By doing the show to begin with, they are obviously playing to the audience of freak shows, so they should make sure the show is willfully aware of its own line-walking. Maybe it is, but the defensive title makes it sound otherwise.

sarah baartman, the so called hottentot venus, was not a freak. the racists who stole her and exploited her were the freaks.

The original link claims she was fully aware of the choices she was making, and wanted to make money. I don't know which is more true, but it's at least possible she was in shows of her own volition... I still don't really understand why she was considered so freakish, though - was her body that radically different from european women?

nice quote, rush.
posted by mdn at 9:11 AM on November 1, 2003


""I can't understand it. How can she say I'm being taken advantage of? Hell, what does she want for me - to be on welfare?"
--Otis Jordan (aka 'Frog Boy')


Discussions of the public display for money of people who have physical (or mental) abnormalieies is a very complex thing. For every 'Freak' (note the quotes) on exhibit there are many more people suffering similar conditions who are not on display. During the golden age of Barnum, et al, a persuasive argument could be made that those persons who came into partnership were actually better off than those persons with the same condition who were kept at home, sometimes hidden away by family and denied an education.

On the other hand, it is certain that some performers were horribly exploited (although modern studies seem to suggest that this was not actually the norm), and to our modern mind it is often easy to think that anyone who displays their body for money is being exploited, when -- again -- that may or may not be the case.

The link that RavinDave posted is an excellent one and I hope everyone will take the time to review the entire site.
posted by anastasiav at 9:12 AM on November 1, 2003


I Find Dead Bodies? Intravenous Fluid Destroy Beards? Incredibly, Fred's Dodge Ball? In-store Food Department Blowout?
posted by mcsweetie at 10:24 AM on November 1, 2003


Internet Freak DataBase, I assume.
posted by SPrintF at 11:10 AM on November 1, 2003


It Feeds on Dead Bodies? Indian Food: Deeply Beefless?
posted by mcsweetie at 11:23 AM on November 1, 2003


It's frightening, dem bones.
posted by condour75 at 11:54 AM on November 1, 2003


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