Filming the Freak Show. Non-Normative Bodies on Screen

Alberto Brodesco


The article focuses on four films that display the exhibition for profit of non-normative bodies in a context that is variously called freak show, sideshow, monster show, odditorium. Freaks (Tod Browning, 1932), The Ape Woman (La donna scimmia, Marco Ferreri, 1964), Elephant Man (David Lynch, 1980) and Black Venus (Vénus noire, Abdellatif Kechiche, 2010) are reflexive movies that tell stories of abnormal bodies and of people who buy a ticket to see them. They inquire the fictional nature of freakness a cultural and historical artefact, a social construction, a frame of mind and a set of practices and draw attention to the continuity between the world of the freak shows and the scientific and medical milieus. The article finally considers the new visibility of the corporeal freak in contemporary voyeuristic television programs.

Key words: Freak Show Cinema and Television Scientific scrutiny Voyeurism

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