Is Circus Freakism Immoral?

So, here’s the big question: is it wrong to have circus freaks?

When I was a young man, in my home town of Hutchinson Minnesota, every year the carnival would roll into town. From where they came, I have no idea, but with them, came a host of sundry characters and one really pretty girl.

Oh what a fun time that was, too. My friend Paul would always get the wrist band for unlimited rides, because his parents were “rich.”

Me, no wrist band. I was too poor for that. Oh, I went on a few rides here and there, but not unlimited like my wealthy friend. He also had a full refrigerator at his house and the only time we ever had a full refrigerator was after Thanksgiving dinner.

Anyways, I remember very distinctly passing a trailer. A big, extended trailer with giant air-conditioners hanging out of the back and a canned barking reel going, that said, “Come see the fattest woman in the world. She’ll keep you warm in the winter time and cooool in the summer time!”

Well. I was fifteen years old and this was a good, Christian town, mind you, and right there in the middle of this Puritan settlement was…this? Coooool in the summer time? Huh?

I didn’t go see her, I was too scared, but damn it if the image of what may have been in there ever leaves me. I can only imagine.

So, is this immoral to have such spectacles on display? I don’t think she was enslaved against her will. I am quite certain she went willingly where ever the carnival traveled. And got paid too.

The most famous example is, of course, Joseph Merrick, otherwise known as The Elephant Man. I mean, what else was Merrick to do? He made his living as a freak.

Bearded Ladies have always been a mainstay of the freak show.

Now, I am not saying this isn’t sad, for certain it is, I am just wondering if we should consider it…well, immoral.

2 thoughts on “Is Circus Freakism Immoral?

  1. Hmmm….that’s a fine question. On the one hand, like you say, the “freaks” are participating by choice, and who are we to say their means of making money are wrong? On the other hand, it’s kind of disturbing to treat other humans like zoo animals. I think I land in the “if they’re happy, I’m happy” camp on this one.

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