The History And Social Impact Of The Circus Freak Show

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The History and Social Impact of the Circus “Freak Show” Since it's humble beginning in the mid 16th century, the circus and “freak show” act has been entertaining and horrifying people to this day; however, in today’s ultra-sensitive society, how has the classic “freak show” evolved to be deemed acceptable and be used to promote acceptance and positive views of people with abnormalities, rather than viewing these people as “freaks”, as was the original purpose of the classic “freak show”? Popularized in the mid-16th century, the circus freak show became a common pastime in England. People with deformities and disabilities began being treated less as humans, and more as sources of interest and entrainment, and the crowds would gather to see these people exhibited. A notable early display was that of conjoined twins Lazarus and Johannes Baptista Colloredo. As described by History Magazine, “Lazarus was thought to be quite handsome, appearing otherwise perfectly healthy, but for his conjoined twin brother. Joannes Baptista protruded, upside down, from his brother’s chest. He was significantly smaller than Lazarus, and only his upper body and left leg visibly extended from his brother’s torso” (Strange and Bizarre:). Based off this description it is no wonder why the brothers became a popular exhibition at the court of King Charles I. Though the “freak show” was initially a display for the upper class, it would not take long for people to see the profitability of these acts.

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