I just got done watching Freaks
, the 1932 film that apparently caused a great deal of controversy. While I think the ending could be considered problematic, for reasons that would take a lot of explaining, I thought overall it was pretty decent in it's portrayal of the characters and performers, many of whom had various physical abnormalities. In fact, by portraying many of the sideshow performers as normal humans with the associated emotions and complexities, I thought it actually did them a great service.
Which is why I thought the controversy a little odd, as it seemed like many people were simply freaked out because the film was portraying these people as human beings. In other words, it seemed that people were upset by the subject matter, not because it portrayed the performers in a negative light. The latter case I would consider legitimate, the former seems merely an expression of people's bigotry towards those who happen to be different.
Then there is the problem of studio interference, which complicates matters a great deal.
For those who haven't seen the film and want to know what I'm talking about:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freaks
In any event, I did a bit of googling, and wasn't able to find any articles discussing the matter in depth, so I was wondering if anyone out there could link to something with some meat to it or offer up their thoughts on the matter.
Ultimately, as many of you might be aware, I am interested in how films portray minorities. So since JamesKunz offered up a challenge for us to post more, I thought I might try and get a discussion started on this issue.
Personally, I would not argue that Hollywood always has to portray minorities in a positive or sympathetic light, however, it gets frustrating when there are so few positive or sympathetic portrayals of many minority groups. I mean I don't think it's fair to pick on individual films but trends in the media are fair game to point out.
I call it the "villain or victim, but never the hero" paradigm, in which people in minority groups are always portrayed as the bad guys or needing the hero's help. Ultimately it feels like the media does it this way primarily to reinforce negative stereotypes about a particular group or minority.
There's also the issue of when looking at characteristics of villains, even if the villian is a straight (or unspecified) male, he will often be given feminine characteristics, in contrast to the uber machoness of the hero.
This is why I think Freaks
is such an interesting case study. The villians are the "normal" able bodied folks, while the "freaks" (I'm pretty sure the title was meant ironically, unlike Psycho
, which I would argue definitely stigmatizes mental illness) are presented as being able to defend themselves when one of their own was (almost) victimized.
Anyone else have any thoughts on the matter?