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Tod Browning's Freaks Essay

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Director Tod Browning was a product of circus life. He grew up in the circus with manic clowns, hairy women and human deformity all lined up for our entertainment, so he sheds a bit of light on the reality of our idea of what is freakish and what is normal. The film begins with disclaimer about its subject matter set up in the format that would later be adopted and tweaked just a bit by Star Wars. He calls this film a “Highly Unusual attraction” keeping with the circus theme of the film. We have a history of beasts of abnormal birth and who did not fit into society such as Frankenstein, Tom Thumb, Thumbelina, Goliath and Nosferatu. These things were all feared but they also fascinated us. Tod Browing goes on to explain that It's a natural urge to be beautiful across all species. To carry your genetics into the next generation, you had to be a desirable partner and abnormalities just won't cut it. Judging the so called freaks has been going on for thousands of years and it's a taught habit. There is an emphasis put on the freaks code to stick together, as it reads “ the hurt of one is the hurt of all; the joys of one is the joys of all” showing there is a deep need to stick together in a world against them. He ends this opening with “We present the most startling horror story of the abormal and the unwanted.” The word “abonormal” and the phrase “the unwanted” are both in bold. I take this as an emphasis on the circus performers who are deformed, mentally impaired and otherwise mutilated and it puts in a nutshell how many people have labeled them and others like them for thousands of years.
The film emphasizes their normalness. We do not see much of their performances in the circus but we do see their lives outside the big top. ...


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...e Hercules who was her accomplice. She becomes “the duck woman” with no legs, feathers, a stuffed chest and she can not speak, only quack.
Browning shows the “freaks” as regular people, through their affection for one another and their ability to express compassion and reaction to injustice, just like any of us would. He proves they may not look like us, but they can feel and many of them, except for the pinheads, can think just like we do. They've formed tight bonds with one another to protect each other from their fellow circus workers and their audience. The real people who should be ridiculed are the ones who look just like us, but they are cruel and manipulative. It's like the old saying “Don't judge a book by it's cover.” When Cleopatra is now in her own exhibit as “the duck woman” she is now one of the very same people she ridiculed and frowned down upon.


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