Just because a person is different, doesn't mean he or she is a 'freak'
|"American Horror Story" - FX|
But, according to History Magazine, many of the people who worked in these sideshows did not feel exploited. Instead, they felt famous and, oftentimes, became richer than those who came to see them.
According to the article, "Both showmen and performers, alike, argued that it was better if (they) were in public, displaying their abnormalities for profit, rather than struggling to live among everyday people without a job and in complete isolation."
But, by the 1950s, freak shows almost complete disappeared.
"In the early years of the 20th century, a rise in disability rights inspired people to turn against sideshows and what they deemed as exploitation parading as entertainment," the article in History Magazine reports.
This serves as the backdrop for "American Horror Story: Freak Show," which premieres on Oct. 8 on FX. The show will be set in 1952 Florida and follows one of the last remaining freak shows in business.
According to a review of this season by Merrill Barr of Forbes Magazine, the characters in this season "take it upon themselves to integrate into everyday life in order to be seen not as monsters, but as the people they truly are."
And I couldn't help but wonder — are people with disabilities and deformities treated better or worse nowadays than they used to be? Are they viewed as monsters...or as the human beings they are?
In the long run, I am honestly not sure if things are better now or not. According to statistics, more than 65 percent of adults with disabilities are unemployed and, of those working, almost one-third earn an income below the poverty level.
And of course there still is, just as there always has been, cruel people who judge others based solely on their appearances.
For instance, until she had surgery two years ago, Stefanie Grant, 25, was called a "freak" by her peers because of her severe underbite.
"It was really hard to deal with, especially as a teenager, I felt like people didn’t see the real me, they just saw my face," said Grant. "I was called a freak and long face. It was awful."
Others try to make the best out of their disabilities, and, similar to the shows all those years ago, they decide to shine a light on their diseases, instead of hiding and being ashamed of it.
Actor RJ Mitte, who has cerebral palsy, is known for playing Walter Jr. on the television show "Breaking Bad," a character who also had CP. In a recent interview with the Huffington Post, Mitte said he was bullied before reaching celebrity status
"I had kids that would push me and shove me. I had my hand broken," he said.
I wish that media would focus more on people with disabilities. There is more and more healthy representations in movies and television shows of people of different races and sexual orientations, but as the Huffington Post reports, "The same coverage hasn't been extended to those with disabilities."
Mitte said, "I try to bring awareness, not just to CP but to all disabilities in the sense that it's knowledge. My disability gave me so much knowledge that I was able to take into 'Breaking Bad' and to grow and to learn. You always have to bring in awareness because this is real. This isn't something that people are like, 'Oh yeah, that CP thing...' People live with this and people should see it because it is real. This is our world."
And I'm hoping that, besides just the expected scares and thrills inflicted on its audience members, that this season of "American Horror Story" will raise some awareness as well for people who actually have to deal with disabilities like this on a daily basis. Although the show is titled "Freak Show," I hope it shows that people with disabilities are anything but freaks. They are human beings, just like the rest of us.