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Too Much of a Good Thing – Freak Show

September 30th, 2009

There used to be over 100 freak shows touring with fairs and circuses across America.  For P.T. Barnum, it was big business.

http://freaks.monstrous.com/freak_show.html  describes the history of the freak show exhibition and features an unusual poem in which it the so eloquently described  by Wordsworth:

“All moveables of wonder, from all parts,

Are here–Albinos, painted Indians, Dwarfs,

The Horse of knowledge, and the learned Pig,

The Stone-eater, the man that swallows fire,

Giants, Ventriloquists, the Invisible Girl,

The Bust that speaks and moves its goggling eyes,

The Wax-work, Clock-work, all the marvellous craft

Of modern Merlins, Wild Beasts, Puppet-shows,

All out-o’-the-way, far-fetched, perverted things,

All freaks of nature, all Promethean thoughts

Of man, his dulness, madness, and their feats

All jumbled up together, to compose

A Parliament of Monsters. Tents and Booths

Meanwhile, as if the whole were one vast mill,

Are vomiting, receiving on all sides,

Men, Women, three-years’ Children, Babes in arms.”

The freak show or side show used to be one of the main attractions at county fairs and circuses across America.   People would flock to all manner of human and animal oddities.  These freaks of nature perhaps underscored awareness for the  “normal” observers to be more mindful and thankful for their good health and normal physical form.   With the advent of political correctness and realization of human exploitation, freak shows had all but disappeared from our culture by the 1970’s.

Or have they?   The clamor to see and often times, even pay to see personalities who have had excessive cosmetic surgery and/or body modification.  I believe this represents a persistent desire to see such oddities.   Pop culture and mass media obsesses with who has had what and what the result looks like.  Photos of celebrities snapped right after cosmetic surgery fetch handsome rewards for the press.  When I would see the late Michael Jackson, I would try to examine his face just trying to figure out what else he had done.   It is culturally acceptable for us to look at physical oddities when people have done it on their own accord.  Think back to Britney Spears shaving her head in a Los Angeles salon.  Is this really news?

The popularity of reality television is also part of this trend.   We seem to have an attraction to see physical distortion and  bizarre human interactions, we watch and we wait for the emotional train wreck.

We have traded the freaks of nature for the freaks created and celebrated by the media.  There has been a distinct move toward commodification of celebrity. However, today nobody is standing outside the tent selling tickets in exchange for a peek!

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Too Much of a Good Thing – Making Money

September 29th, 2009

Joan Rivers has had a lot of cosmetic surgery by her own admission.   In her book,  Men Are Stupid…And They Like Big Boobs, she presents her opinions, impressions and attitudes regarding cosmetic surgery and what it has done for her.   Clearly she believes in having cosmetic surgery and considers it to be an  important option available for women today.

Some say she has had too much done.   Certainly, in my opinion, her appearance does not look natural.   If this is the definition of having too much done, then I would have to agree.   Yet there are many women and men which have had  as many  facelifts, eyelid surgeries, injections, and facial implants as Joan Rivers which look completely natural and refreshed.  People have different opinions in judging an attractive aesthetic, which often varies regionally or culturally.  What people want to look like in Los Angeles, may not be the ideal benchmark in New York or Paris.

I believe the reason for Joan River’s love of plastic surgery is not as pathologic as perhaps Michael Jackson.  I suggest that the reason for her obsession might be related to her income.   Her ability to work as a personality is perhaps shored up by her extensive cosmetic surgery.   First her physical appearance of not looking age 75 or of having a peculiar cosmetic processed facial appearance creates Hollywood buzz.   Secondly, her confidence in presenting herself may be stronger because she feels that she looks her best after all this cosmetic surgery.   This phenomenon  is actually more closely related to Lizardman,  who has pushed the limits of physical appearance through body modification.  Surgery serves as a vehicle for attention.  He  has had  so much done to himself that he now makes personal appearances for a fee.   It has become his job.   Pure and simple, it is my theory that these individuals have done this for fame and fortune.  Controversy sells!

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