American Horror Story: Freak Show
Read all about the TV show American Horror Story: Freak Show in this article.
American Horror Story is an American anthology horror television series. The show has been on the air for eight seasons. Although the characters and plot lines are different every season, they’re all mysterious and terrifying. The fourth season, Freak Show, is the most underrated of them all. It’s not that no one liked it, but it left fans with a strange taste in their mouths. It wasn’t bad, nor was it the best, and it ended without fanfare or major criticism.
When it aired, viewers had only seen three seasons of American Horror Story: Murder House, a classic horror story of a haunted house, Asylum, the acclaimed season that takes place in an insane asylum in the 60s, and Coven, the unpopular season that tells the story of a contemporary Witches’ Sabbath.
Freak Show wasn’t about witches, ghosts, or insane people. Freak Show was about people who, until very recently, had been condemned and classified as “freaks”.
Why is this season worth taking another look at? One reason is its aesthetics. The circus atmosphere is magical and transports you to another time. Most importantly, however, the season values and embraces differences.
AHS: Freak Show – Truth or fiction?
Freak shows originated in the mid-18th century, reached their peak in the 19th century, and disappeared at the beginning of the 20th century. The performers were real people with physical defects and anomalies, some of which are curable today. At the time, however, these kinds of people were usually condemned to a miserable existence. Freak shows, as unethical as they may seem, offered them an alternative, a way to make a living.
For example, there are countless stories of Siamese twins who could have easily been separated at birth. Instead, they were left intact and exploited in freak shows. Anyone with some kind of birth defect or unusual physical attribute (extremely fat, tall, etc.) had the risk of ending up in a freak show.
The plot of AHS: Freak Show is reminiscent of the 1932 movie Freaks. It takes us back to a freak show in Jupiter, Florida that is rife with murder, revenge, and human trafficking (among other things). The owner of the circus, Elsa Mars, promises to rescue people and give them a more dignified life by performing in her circus. The truth, however, is more complex. Elsa, who lost her legs, is also a freak. She hides her insecurities behind the curtain. The only thing she really wants is to be a star, and she’s willing to do anything to reach her goal.
The complexity and depth of the characters is fascinating, and each one deserves a separate analysis. They have fears, insecurities, and dreams just like any other person. On more than one occasion, they reclaim their right to a dignified life, and their right to be treated as what they are: human beings. Real-life characters inspired many of the characters in the show. Many of them experienced first-hand what it meant to be a “freak”.
The history of “freaks”
American Horror Story is often inspired by real life. The similarities between its fourth season and the movie Freaks aren’t coincidental. The season is obviously inspired by the film.
AHS: Freak Show draws from true stories, like that of Edward Mordrake, a man who had an “evil” face on the back of his head. The actors themselves also helped create a realistic plot because many of them were “freaks” in real life. The word “freak” doesn’t refer to people with specific physical characteristics. Instead, it’s anything that falls outside of the ordinary.
Music also played a very important role in this series. Of all the songs that came out of Freak Show, the homage to David Bowie stands out. Bowie was a “freak” from head to toe, a peculiar character both physically and musically. Bowie softens the season’s bloody murder. His aesthetic and essence take over Elsa who, in one way or another, knows she’s a freak. The song ‘Life on Mars?‘ is a strong social criticism but also verges on surrealism. It’s an ode to “freaks,” to all those who are different.
‘Heroes’ is another song from a key moment in the series. It shows that everyone deserves to be a hero, if only for one day. The show also uses the Nirvana song ‘Come As You Are’ to invite us all to be who we are and accept ourselves. Nirvana is another band that broke the mold and defied musical and social norms.
In Freak Show, everyone has their time to shine
This season of AHS is about inclusion, acceptance, and embracing differences. Ryan Murphy, the show’s creator, looked for Hollywood actors that are no longer as “desirable” due to their age or physical appearance. He cast Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates in complex roles.
Murphy cast them again in Feud: Bette and Joan along with actresses such as Susan Sarandon. He showed, once again, that age doesn’t have to be a barrier in show business and that talent is about more than beauty. He also casted an actress with Down’s syndrome, Jamie Brewer, who has also starred in other seasons of the show.
The show also cast a transsexual actress, Erika Ervin. The great thing about AHS is that it doesn’t limit their actors in conventional ways. Erika Ervin wasn’t cast as a transexual but as a very tall woman. The show also casted Jyoti Amge, the shortest woman in the world, Mat Fraser, an actor born with a rare disease popularly known as “seal limb”, Chrissy Metz, an obese actress, Rose Siggins, a woman with no legs, and Ben Woolf, the late actor with pituitary dwarfism.
It’s important to note that, in Freak Show, most of the freaks aren’t evil. Each one is different, and each one has worries of their own. The most terrifying character in the show is actually the most “normal.” His name is Dandy Mott, a rich young man who starts murdering people because he’s bored with his life.
AHS: Freak Show wanted to show that everyone deserves a moment in the sun, that talent knows no age, and that we’re all unique. In spite of the macabre plot and dark and twisted story, Freak Show brings some light to our lives. Just like David Bowie said, we can all be heroes, just for one day.