As a former clown and contortionist when he was young, Tod Browning of Dracula and The Unknown decided to show a side of the circus that was as under appreciated as his film turned out to be. If you thought The Unknown was shocking, wait till you see this film. Seen as both a horror film and an arthouse film, Freaks is about a trapeze artist who pretends to fall for a midget with a large inheritance only for all hell to break loose once her plan is unraveled.
Freaks is considered one of the most controversial films of all time. Why, do you ask? Because audiences felt shocked as well as revolted at the sight of seeing these sideshow characters. They were seeing something that they didn’t see everyday and that scared them. It wasn’t just audiences who were horrified but even people like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Louie B. Mayer. Not even in an entertaining way but a disgusted way. The U.K. banned Freaks for 31 years. I feel like because audiences were too busy being afraid of this movie that they missed the point of the story. I’ll admit when I first saw this, I was a teenager and I hated it because I felt like the ending was extreme and I didn’t truly understand it for what it was. Sometimes it takes a second viewing to change your mind.
What I got out of this film was how minorities only serve the purpose in the world of being laughed at and that they can be easily taken advantage of. That was the ideology of people back then. The world wasn’t so accepting to people who didn’t fit into the societal norm. Freaks showed how these people that are always looked down on can take a stand. I would like to think that’s why Tod Browning created this film. Even in the beginning, there’s a caption that explains that people who are born deformed are just casted out by society without anyone to care for them with a glum future. Do you think that Tod Browning had sympathy for them? I don’t think he was exploiting them for the purpose of shock value but for the only shock to be how cruel they were treated. It seems like the audience was no better than the villains of this story. It’s a shame that this film ruined Tod Browning’s career when I think he had a lot of courage to make a film like this and show it to the public. By the end of the film, you’ll be singing “Gooble gobble! Gooble gobble!”
Watch Tod Browning’s masterpiece and write in what you think: