Freak Show History

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The legal definition of a “freak show” is a sideshow at a fair, featuring abnormally developed people or animals. The reason for the popularity of these shows can be described as perplexing because as a society people negatively judge other forms of entertainment that take advantage of people with disabilities. The freak shows became famous because of the wide variety of performers that were put on display. These performers, called “freaks” , are defined as a person, animal, or plant with an unusual physical abnormality. In popular culture, the “freaks” and “freak shows” have been romanticized into shows such as American Horror Story, where the darker sides of the freaks are emphasized. However, the actual history of these shows are complex…show more content…
The American history of freak shows has deep roots that can be traced back into the time of the Enlightenment period, when society had a fascination with science and travel. Dr Brigham Fordham of UCLA university stated that “During this time, freak shows were promoted as being morally uplifting and educational” (Fordham 211) The fact that these shows were being positively promoted speaks to the curiosity of the human body and the lack of medical knowledge about these serious deformities. If people had the medicinal knowledge that we have today, it is possible that people would not have been able to positively promote these practices. However, in the early 20th century, the medicinal approach began to come into view and gain more say than the scientific model. This lead to people with unusual bodies being increasingly viewed as sick or having a medical disorder. Dr. Fordham describes the effects of the medical model taking force by stating that “humor and mockery became stronger elements of the freak show”(Fordham 212). Due to this and many other factors, laws began being put in place regulating and even prohibiting some freak…show more content…
In order to understand the basic psyche of the freaks, people must look into the contrasting psyche of deformed individuals. For example, Francis MacGreggor describes firsthand accounts of deformed individuals through direct quotes, such as “A patient with congenital facial malformation: ‘I won’t eat in restaurants; people might think I have a contagious disease” (MacGreggor 631). Many of these deformed individuals feel out casted and looked down upon by other people. They feel as though their deformities make them a target for ridicule and since they do not feel comfortable in a public setting, and this causes feelings of loneliness and depression begin to creep in. In other words, the deformed individuals feel out casted by society. To contrast, Racheal Adams describes how the freaks in a freak show “announce themselves as the antithesis of normality”(Adams 9). The contrast exists because the performers in the freak show use their deformities and abnormalities to put on a show. They have greater meaning in their life and even though they are being put on display, the freaks utilize the show as their way of normality. The shows require comradery and teamwork, so the loneliness and depression that exists in the out casted deformed individuals, is replaced by friendship and the building of bonds. Another example regarding the psyche of

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