According to the internet ‘Freak show’ means;
1.a display of people or animals with unusual or grotesque physical features, as at a circus or carnival sideshow.
2.any ludicrous, bizarre, or dehumanizing occasion, function, performance, etc.; grotesque, circus-like event: endless interviews and auditions that became a ridiculous freak show.
Now think of that definition in relation to pop-culture and you’ll realise like me that these freak shows are no longer confined to circuses but have bled out into the majority of pop-culture. Of course it is in varying degrees, Big Brother for example is a programme about putting a group of people with strong characters into a house together and prompting chaos to ensue, and people love it, or at least they must do since it’s on its 14th series. And although this is a relatively harmless example, the ante must always be upped, and here lies the problem.
The latest ‘shocker’ in this culture is the girl ‘eating her own bloody tampon’ in what is clearly a desperate attempt at attention and fame. And whilst most people would not want to be famous for a disgusting and deeply questionable act, in a freak-show culture the path to fame becomes irrelevant when all you want is to be known. And so as long as fame for the sake of fame is valued these bizarre methods of attracting attention will continue, and increase in extremity.
And why wouldn’t they, pop culture is doing the same thing, and so odd behaviour and attention seeking becomes normalized. Talent shows become more and more about displaying the odd balls that turn up at auditions, and less about ‘finding a star’. Every year on X Factor there is an odd contestant that makes it to live shows and stays for a few weeks in an attempt to keep people interested in the show after auditions close.
Reality TV takes many forms, and the TOWIE/MIC/Geordie Shore variety is possibly the most identifiable of them all. Ordinary people with no extraordinary talents are suddenly famous and wealthy/er as cameras invade their daily lives for the entertainment of the masses. But this format would not be entertaining, the daily grind is not something anyone craves seeing on TV, so they manipulate and exaggerate ‘reality’ for entertainment. Although they disclose this, people seem to disregard it and still see the TOWIE lifestyle of parties, sex and scandal as reality. So when reality show reality is compared to real life people are bound to question what makes the people in the two realities so different? Freak-show behaviour is the answer, the orange glow of fake tan is nothing more than clown make-up, the outfits costumes and the words scripted. These reality shows are not reality, and when reality is distorted and exaggerated, people start acting in distorted and exaggerated ways. Because why can’t anyone be as famous as the people on these shows? They just live in the right place and have the right look/personalities, both of which can be faked.
I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here is a show based on the humiliation of its stars, and pushing them to complete tasks the audience find unpleasant so they can watch them squirm. Eating eye balls and penises serves no other purpose than to shock the audience for entertainment. And with its cast of Z-list celebrities in a last ditch attempt at rekindling the light of fame, the audience is encouraged to believe that a shocking and bizarre act if publicised, will lead to this holy grail of fame and fortune. These reality shows are used by so called celebrities to propel their careers back into the spotlight, for further fame and fortune. So why can’t anyone with a camera shock the world and suddenly be a star?
I struggle to care about the girl supposedly eating her tampon, I haven’t and wont watch the video (why would I want to see that?) and frankly I don’t need to. I pity her for being weak enough to fall victim to freak-show culture like so many before her, but I am not interested in the lack of talent being hidden by ‘shocking’ acts. Even if she is talented (for all I know she is), it would all be eclipsed by that one bizarre video.
Reality TV is not the devil, it is intended for the shock factor and to entertain, but it never claims to be unscripted or designed. Reality TV should not lead to a culture of freak shows, but when there is such a high exposure to these kinds of realities the lines become blurred and people lose the ability to tell what is rational behaviour and what is not. And when the ante is always upped, and someone is always rich and famous as a result, it can be all to appealing to your average Joe on poor wages relaxing in front of the telly.
- Reality TV fans more likely to use tanning beds (todayhealth.today.com)
- Stop feeding the F-list celebrity machine (irkitated.blogspot.com)
- Hundreds queue to audition for TOWIE-style reality show Sent to Coventry (dailymail.co.uk)