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Back in college, before blogs, we used to sit around for hours and know that we had the answers to the worlds problems. One of the things that we were feeling good about with regard to society at that time was our disdain for freak shows. A quick history lesson for some. Carnivals, circuses, and traveling tent shows used to employ or enslave “freaks” for the purpose of selling tickets to look at these oddities of life. (Some of the freaks were frauds, but some were real.)

We of the cultural elite at that time felt pretty superior by virtue of our having no interest in laughing or staring at such folks. We were also pretty proud of our enjoying the company of people of every color, nation, and creed. We were quick to include the deaf, blind, or wheelchair bound in our groups, too. Surely society had advanced in a major way for us to be so inclusive.

Now, here is the question. Were we right? If we were right, our society must be in decline at this point since much of our most popular television is now watching the weirdest of the weird get some attention.

If we were right, should we be concerned about this turn of events? If we were wrong, and it is perfectly ok to amuse ourselves by gawking and laughing at human oddities, I’d like to hear why.

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About Randy

  • Bennett

    “our most popular television is now watching the weirdest of the weird get some attention.”

    What are you talking about? What TV shows rival freak shows from the circus or carnival days? Please give some examples, instead of expecting me to accept your statements *again* as truth without substantiation.

  • Rick Johnson

    What’s your definition of a freak? You
    kinda leave that WIDE open. Do you mean
    Bill O’ Reilly or a late, late night TV
    preacher? Paris Hilton or Alligator Man?

    To be honest with ya Randy, the more I
    read your post, the more confused I get.

  • I think a freak is someone who will eat a bunch of live bugs for attention. Beyond that, I don’t think there’s anything on tv that isn’t representative of the populace as a whole, in one way or another.

    Are you a freak if you like to get freaky?

  • Rick Johnson

    Well yeah,there is getting freaky in the
    good sense. LOL.

  • I eat bugs, not to get attention, but because I don’t mind eating them. If I was lost in the jungle with nothing to eat then bugs would be my only food source and there wouldn’t be any hesistation. Bugs are a huge source of protein. That’s my survival tip of the day.

  • Most people turn to eating bugs in the jungle because they have no alternative. Since you have alternatives but choose bugs anyway for the protein, I wonder how many you have to eat to really get the beneficial nutrition. It doesn’t seem very effective or a smart source of nutrition when there are viable alternatives, which have basically been ‘sanitized’ at least compared to eating a bug.

  • Bennett

    There’s a great sushi place in Berkley on Telegraph ave called Yoshi’s. If you get to know the chefs at the sushi bar (by being a good polite customer), they start handing stuff across the counter, with a challenging grin.

    Teriaki grasshopper was most memorable.

    Steve, someone who eats things for the shock value is a “geek”. No kidding.

    Nonetheless, this post is BS.

  • Methinks Randy calls a freak anyone different from Randy.

  • I kind of get what Randy is saying – the barbarians are indeed inside the gates, and perchance are us – but in a flat world, it doesn’t really matter, does it?

  • Randy’s post is solidly correct – but it does need a definition of “freaks”

    I almost instantly reduce people to “ignored and bored” on my own personal “BS” meter if they are doing things merely to shock people. It’s why shows like Fear Factor and Punk’d and Jackass hold no apeal to me whatsoever. But all are IMMENSELY popular.

    From my POV now at 33 it could be something to do with a more adult mindset – inevitable usually unless rich and pampered or poor and pampered (but that doesn’t happen very often) – and not being in my teens, which obviously just happens. But I remember feeling the same way about Beevis and Butthead and other shows where crap got dumped on people for a lark.

    And Randy is also therefore correct on another thread (which was likely the inspiration for this one) people respond to that which is shocking. But people of a certain immature mindset I would argue.

    But it is different now in the realm of politics and cultural issue. I would say people respond that way because there are some very fucked up people with some very fucked up ideas. And it’s hard to tell – especially over the Internet just what type of person the writer is. Especially when people are often there just to get attention.

    But the fact that they bothered to write about something usually means that is somethng they feel strongest about.

    Not always.

    My post equalizing Christianity and Scientology was more of a mental exercise for me, though I believe everything I wrote. I don’t spend any time at all outside of my family and friends talking about it period – and not much inside my circle.

    To not believe it is also just dishonest and being shocking for shock’s sake.

    (That’s a bit o’ rambling isn’t it?)

  • Bennett

    Well there you go. I ditched the sat dish years ago and have four channels, plus fox (very very fuzzy, never watch it). Nothing worse than Survivor or Bachelor(et) comes through the airwaves to my roof top antenna.

    So my appologies, I know not what I say.

  • Temp:”And it’s hard to tell – especially over the Internet just what type of person the writer is.”

    As you’ve ably demonstrated by making a snap judgement of me and following it up doggedly despite all evidence to the contrary.

    That having been said, I find it hard to believe that Randy is actually old enough to have been around when Freak Shows were still popular. It’s been a long, long time.

    But he does have a point, and I wish he’d expanded on it in the context of modern culture.

    IMO freak shows and the modern equivalent are not necessarily a bad thing. They put the human condition in perspective. By looking at the extreme and the freakish, we come to understand the nature of our own lives and appreciate our lives more. Freaks are an object lesson of fates avoided and things we should be thankful for.


  • Dave, are you saying that it’s a good thing that people are born to be “freaks” because they help to make the “normal” people feel better about themselves?

    “Well, I’ve got cancer, but it could be worse, I could be a chick with a beard.”

    “That guy over there has no fingers! I guess losing my job isn’t the worst thing that could happen to me after all!”

    While I think it’s true that many people look at these “freaks” and feel the way you described, I certainly wouldn’t say that’s a redeeming factor at all. Using another person’s apparent misfortune to make yourself feel better doesn’t seem right under any circumstances.

  • RJ

    It is cruel to gawk at and laugh at “freaks” but it seems to be a part of human nature. Even people who refuse to engage in this behavior usually have to make some intellectual effort in doing so.

    Must be something in the reptillian brain that causes us humans toi have an interest in and feel amusement about the misfortune of others…

  • I’m not sure if your comment was meant as a response of sorts to mine, RJ, but I wanted to respond nonetheless. I agree with you that it is probably part of human nature and that there is an “intellectual effort” involved in choosing not to gawk or laugh. This being said, however, I believe that those who make the effort, even if it is an effort, are better than those who choose to succumb to their base impulse to laugh or stare.

  • RJ


    I totally agree.

    There’s a saying. Don’t recall it exactly, but it’s something like this:

    There are three kinds of people. There are those who talk about ideas. There are those who talk about events. And there are those who talk about others.

    The first group tend to be intellectual heavy-weights. The second group tends to encompass the Average Joe. The third group is composed of immature scum.

    Please correct me if I have butchered this bit of wisdom…