Christians Throw Freaks to Lions
We are the original shock image, mirabilia monstrosum. Long before the first caves were painted, monsters like ourselves were born into the group, a living image of the Other, or created by accident/a passing beast of prey. Born or made, we were greeted with fear and loathing, sympathy, curiousity, and a near-endless variety of explanations....
Freaks Steal the Show
Priests, not showmen, were the original carnival barkers. When "group exhibits" (trans., freak shows) first went out to the unwashed masses of Europe, it was courtesy of Mother Church....
Long before Ticketron or Octoplex, freaks were the main draw at fairs and fairs were the only shows in town. Send in the clowns...
P.T. Barnum's greatest show on earth was not a circus the the prestigious American Museum. In 1840, it was New York City's grand tourist draw, and freaks were its stars.... In its first five years, the museum drew crowds equivalent to the entire population of the U.S. (Eat freak dust, Disneyland.)....
Freaks of Science
Prudish progressives of the early twentieth century called freaks and freak shows "morbid and unwholesome." The proper role for human curiosities was to become patients, "to be viewed," as Robert Bogdan said in Freak Show, on hospital rounds and in private offices by appointment only."....
Animal, Vegetable, Criminal
Darwin's new theory of evolution and Pasteur's germ theory popped into the popular science blender together in the mid-nineteenth century. The resulting sci-fi slurpee wowed the public, as awed by eugenic science as they were by Samuel Morse's new telegraph. A fearsome wave of social engineering followed. People like us, running around loose, became, overnight, the symbols of unsanitary evolution gone awry....
Leslie Fiedler, in Freaks, called it a panic over "devolution: the nightmare fear that through 'miscegenation' our children or our chldren's children may create in the future the subhuman we cannot find in the past."
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld in 1927 the right of states to forcibly sterilize us, "in order," the Court said, "to prevent our being swamped with incompetence." ...
Objects of Charity
Our lords for this century are those street corner saints, the charities. Public opinion, fortified by public service announcements, would like to see a cure for what ails us. Thus what public donations are not spent to maintain the charity's home office and officers are often expended on "research" -- much of it on genetic prevention of our kind.
David Hevey wrote, "It goes without saying that similar large syms are not spent by charities 'researching' the implementation of civil rights for the disabled." ...
"The disabled' emerge, like a lost tribe, to fulfill a role for their photographers but not for themselves...
"Passive and stiff and 'done to,' the images bear a bizarre resemblance to colonial pictures where ' the blacks stand frozen and curious while 'whitey' lounges confident and sure."
The Creatures Time Forgot
A Place in the Country
.... With fine Victorian sentiment in full flower, scientific progress being measured in kilowatt hours, and degenerates on the loose in the streets, common sense demanded that the animally passionate be put in the charge of the new and learned scientific professions. We would now come under the rule of lords of the state.
"The purpose of institutions is to suspend the socially dead until their actual physical deaths."
— David Hevey
The Creatures Time Forgot