English Composition 1001
Essay 2 Microtheme 5
After reading Rachel Adams’s chapter “Sideshow Cinema”, I have gained a new perspective on Tod Browning’s film Freaks. Adams suggests that there may be a fine line between monster and victim regarding the normal people, such as Cleopatra and Hercules, and the freaks, such as Hans and the conjoined Hilton twins. “After establishing Hans as a sympathetic character who suffers unwarranted abuse, the spectacle of Cleo’s body, mutilated at the hands of the freaks, leaves the viewer unsure about who is the victim and who aggressor,” Adams describes (77). Up until the point of Cleo’s revelation as the “chicken-woman”, the normal-looking people leave us to feel more sympathy for the freaks based on ...view middle of the document...
This is true when we are looking at Cleopatra from his point of view as well. Compared to Hans, she seems a lot taller, and we can understand Hans’s reference to her as the “big woman”. As a result, he looks more abnormal or freakish, and the audience feels sympathy for him.
Cleopatra can be considered a victim rather than a monster when we see her in the form of a chicken-woman. “The most obvious interpretation of this ending is to take it seriously, to believe that the freaks are capable of extreme, sadistic violence,” Adams writes (82). Here, it being shown that the freaks truly are the monsters, especially when they can disfigure Cleopatra in ways of which the audience will never really know. Here, the freaks are what we can consider monsters, in that they are very different-looking to what “normal” people are accustomed. Because of this, we can alienate them into their own group that we seemed to have already named the “Freaks”. They are violent like many of the monsters with which we are familiar. The film Freaks seems to switch back and forth between who is truly the monster and who is truly the victim. I believe it leaves viewers to make a decision on their own. “It is a key feature of psychoanalytic readings in which the disabled body stirs unconscious responses in the viewer based on her fears about her own bodily integrity,” Adams says (85). If the audience is comfortable with extreme differences in physical features of the body, they may be more likely to see the freaks as villains. If the viewer is sensitive and alarmed by the disabled bodies of the freaks, the might see them as victims and therefore feel greater sympathy towards them.