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Lecture 7

RHETOR 109 Lecture Notes - Lecture 7: Groundskeeping, Tod Browning, Conjoined Twins

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Rebecca Gaydos

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Rhetoric 109
Lecture 7 9/14/2016
Freaks (horror movie)
- Golden age of Hollywood (many ideal bodies) when Freaks was made
- General message?
- Pre Code Hollywood (before there existed a code)
- Browning commodifying bodies for his use
- Distasteful? What it means to put these freaks on film?
- Negative reception when released
oFound to be offended
- Comtemporary reception versus past reception
Category of horror?
- Considered a cult movie in 70s  problematic?
Use of freaks in the movie: empowerment?
- Todd Browning is neither an insider or outsider – grew up in the circus, not
disabled himself
- Contemporarily  argument to be made about the inclusion of POC, women
and perhaps also disability communities  humanize characters through this
- Scene of wedding party: theme of us and them (freaks induct Cleo)
- Daisy and Violet (conjoined twins) in reality were not treated properly in the
entertainment industry (not paid money)
- One dimensional characters?
oNo, a lot of character development would not have been possible
because Browning had to focus on the main plot line with the four
main characters
- We see the characters behind the scenes of the circus, not as audience
- Who to identify with? A lot of confusion, perhaps identify with Freida (sense
of pity, soft lens used on her)
- “Children” in the beginning (“God will protect his children”) to freaks’ ability
to take care of themselves at the end (bear knifes to threaten Cleo)
oReligion? God’s children, marriage, birth etc.
oUse religion as a marker of authority – so that the groundskeeper
leaves them alone
o“Shame on you! Haven’t I told you not to be afraid?”  dual
interpretation: paternalistic? Reinvesting authority?
- Browning is perhaps venerating the freaks?
- Pity is not the feeling designed to be evoked, the reader is brought on to side
with the freaks (revenge narrative in the end of the movie)
oNot the paternistic model of something like the telethon
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