Have the Freaks Jumped the Shark?
November 28, 2005 8:57 AM   Subscribe

Our desire for the freakshow is on the wane, or at least it seems that way based on some recent closings. Is it the difference in admission costs? If the EH's relative value calculator is to be believed, that 1841 dime museum should only cost about $2.10 to get into in 2003, not five bucks. Even for free on MetaFilter only about twenty people care to discuss freaks. Perhaps we've just gotten used to seeing this kind of thing on sponsored television and don't want to travel to see it. It's certainly not because our tastes have gotten so much more evolved. Perhaps our threshold for how whack something has to be before we consider it freakish has been raised somehow...
posted by phearlez (12 comments total)
*drops trou, raises money*
posted by loquacious at 9:07 AM on November 28, 2005

Maybe the Internets' wide offerings (no goatse.sx pun intended) have desensitized our youth to the wonders of the freak show. Nice post, btw.
posted by Rothko at 9:07 AM on November 28, 2005

I think it probably has more to do with being better educated - people who never had more than a grade-school education were probably more easily impressed with Feejee mermaids and their ilk.
posted by GuyZero at 9:15 AM on November 28, 2005

Why go to a freak show when you can watch all the freaks on the reality game shows for free, or the price you already are paying for cable/satellite?

Just watching E!'s The Soup'll give you a good overview.
posted by linux at 9:18 AM on November 28, 2005

I'm not convinced it's a matter of education, particularly given the success of newspaper columns like News of the Weird and things like Cecil Adams' Straight Dope and email lists like This Is True. People like odd stuff and not everything in these dime museums is fake. Is it just the idea of traveling to things? Do they want to see the same whacky crap but have it explained for what it is, a la Penn and Teller's tv show "Bullshit?" Maybe it's just a simple matter of museum attendance being down across the board.
posted by phearlez at 9:21 AM on November 28, 2005

It's also a question of economy. Cultural expenses, by which I happily include freakshows, of any sort are always down when wallets are thin.
posted by linux at 9:25 AM on November 28, 2005

I'll miss the Dime Museum, even though it was never the same since the one partner pulled out. That said, what was always the biggest draw of the old freak shows and ten-in-ones? It was the sports, the prodigies, the born freaks, the "Alive-- But HOW?" And let's face it-- this sort of thing just isn't shocking anymore. A man with no arms? A woman weighing 400 pounds? An adult standing under three feet tall? A guy with a thick, scaly skin condition? I suppose it's actually a measure of progress that these people aren't segregated from society and forced into lives of exhibitionism, but even so, who would want to travel and pay money to look at people like this when you're just as likely to see them standing in line in front of you at Wal-Mart? One of the cashiers at my local Rite-Aid is a little person, and she's as friendly and competent as anyone could hope for. At a convention, I once saw a guy with no arms, but with hands that grew straight out of his shoulders, singing karaoke and sounding pretty decent. And fat people? Good lord, folks, this is America! If I don't see at least one person with an eight-foot waistline, it's an unusual day. Let's face it-- the day of the freak show is over, and no matter how weird you look, you're expected to go out and get a job just like everyone else.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:40 AM on November 28, 2005

It's no longer a matter of 'one of us... one of us...'.

It's 'all of us... all of us...'
posted by davelog at 9:55 AM on November 28, 2005

I think it's also simply that nobody has the time--we work too much! Have we not been moving away from time-intensive options for some time now as a result? The most obvious example I can think of is DVD sales/rentals vs. box office receipts.

On a related note, I'm happy to see that the Museum of Jurassic Technology is still going strong.
posted by halcyon_daze at 10:21 AM on November 28, 2005

I agree with the posters who have suggested that this form of entertainment has been replaced by television.

Also, I think the phrase "jumped the shark" has jumped the shark.
posted by subgenius at 11:31 AM on November 28, 2005

If the internet is outsourcing out freakshows, where will our own freaks work?
posted by jeffburdges at 11:36 AM on November 28, 2005

Don't worry, our freaks have a huge future in politics. Look at the strides that have been made in the past few years!
posted by davelog at 11:37 AM on November 28, 2005

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