All posts tagged: freaks

Real Monsters and Real Disgust: Comparing Reception of FREAKS and FRANKENSTEIN

INTRODUCTION Scholarship surrounding Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932) mostly includes discussion about public perception of disability. This discussion is certainly warranted, but I am hesitant to place sole responsibility for the film’s poor reception on said perception. Indeed, to place such emphasis on viewer attitudes about disability is to ignore systematic exploitation and “othering” of disabled people on behalf of MGM and the film itself. Therefore, with this essay I aim to provide a more complete historical analysis. I cannot claim to provide a complete historical analysis, because it is probably contentious to claim whether any historical analysis is fully complete. Nonetheless, I hope this essay suffices to make the point that discussing the 1930s attitude about disability is not enough when doing this reception study. I make this point by referencing a few different historical elements. Firstly, I raise James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) as a foil case because both films were characterized as “gruesome” the PCA files, and because they both have similar themes about ‘who the real monster is.’ Secondly, I compare the discussions …

Nicole Diroff is a double-major in Cinema Studies and Philosophy, with a minor in Creative Writing. She’s also the editor-in-chief of this edition of Screen Culture, and hopes one day to become a full-fledged professor.