"One of Us"
"There is little to be said about Freaks
(1932), Tod Browning's celebrated film, except that it does
not merit that reputation for cruelty accorded it by the litany of belated
surrealists. On the contrary, what I found touching was the human being's
prodigious capacity for adaptation. Seeing the armless man light a cigarette
by using only his mouth leaves us breathless with admiration. This story
shows the infinite ingenuity and the greatness of man. But enough moralizing.
Freaks is a very honest film that can be seen with more pleasure
Jean Douchet, Cashiers du cinema, Nov. 1962, p. 32
What went on behind the scenes made the humanity of the stars even clearer. Johnny Eck was an amateur photographer, and took stunning photos of co-star Daisy Earles. From Johnny's vantage point, 18 inches off the ground, Daisy was an elegant woman, not a dwarf. Randion, who had no arms or legs, had a wife and five children. He made a friend of Eck, based not on mutual handicap but on their mutual interest in woodworking. Conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton had the same, "What are you having?" "I don't know; what are you having?" conversations over the commisary menu as any two women sitting down to eat in a restaurant. And for all except veteran actors Harry Earles and Angelo Rossitto, making a movie was the novelty, not meeting such unusual folks as their co-stars.
The story of Freaks is a sinister love triangle. The beautiful trapeeze artist Cleopatra toys with the affections of dwarf ringmaster Hans, luring him away from his faithful fiancee, Frieda. When Cleopatra and her strongman lover, Hercules, learn that Hans has inherited a fortune, the stakes are raised. Cleopatra marries Hans, planning to poison him for the money. In the film's most famous scene, The Wedding Feast, the "freaks" prepare to welcome Cleopatra to their circle (which already includes many "normal" folks, such as Violet's handsome lover). But as the happy wedding guests chant, "We accept her, one of us!" Cleopatra rejects their friendship. She flings their wine back at them and sneers, "Get out of here, you filthy, slimy freaks!"
Freaks portrays the "freaks" as normal folks, and the beautiful Cleopatra and Hercules as the real freaks -- heartless monsters who ridicule a man's love then poison him. Browning spoils the morality tale in the end when the "freaks" avenge themselves by mutilating their enemies and turning them into sideshow attractions. (The final released version leaves Hercules' fate unclear, since test audiences reacted too strongly to the specific revenge exacted upon him - castration.) Still, Freaks does much to show what the true disfigurement is -- the mutilation of the soul that is unable to see the humanity of one's fellows.
Related Areas at Pro Life Views
- The Finkbine Abortion
How the Romper Room lady's quest to abort her Thalidomide baby won sympathy for abortion advocates.
Information and links about incomplete twinning, in which the two fetuses remain attached to one another in various ways.
Abortion and eugenics still go hand in hand after all these years.
Information and links about congenital absence or deformaties of the limbs.
Quality of Life
Activists often use the poor quality of life of vulnerable people as a justification for abortion and euthanasia. Pro life efforts attack causes of suffering, not suffering people.
Elsewhere on the Web
Bad Baby Blues"
Reflections on abortion of handicapped children.
The Politics of Prenatal Testing, from First Things.
Online magazine for parents and caregivers of children with special needs.
Like this link graphic? Click here to learn how to add it to your web page.