Today I was made aware of a new TV show coming to AMC in February of 2013.
It’s called “Freakshow” and this is what the website says about it: “AMC’s Freakshow is the new unscripted series that follows Todd Ray’s quirky family business — the Venice Beach Freakshow. Leaving behind a successful career in the music industry, Todd was finally able to realize his true passion: bringing together all things bizarre and unique, including two-headed animals, strange artifacts, eccentric performers and human oddities. Located on the Venice Beach Boardwalk, spectators gather to see truly exceptional people, specimens and creatures. Todd and his wife Danielle open their home and hearts to the extraordinary people who proudly call themselves ‘Freaks.’ Normal is relative.”
There’s been quite a reaction within some of the limb-different community due to the fact that a couple of the people in the show are limb-different themselves. One has no arms and one, no legs. As a voice in this community, I want to share my thoughts.
My goal with LOH is to help those with limb-differences, especially kids, to embrace and celebrate who they are. I do that through humor, mostly. And by sharing my life with you all. The important things, you know, like how I put toothpaste on my toothbrush or peel a banana. And I love words. I love the power they hold.
So, I get the crux of the anger here. I really do. People are concerned that a program called “Freakshow” will enable folks to call limb-different people “freaks.”
Let me explain why I’m not as angry about this…yet.
First, the show doesn’t air for another two months. We haven’t seen it. The only video clip is fifteen seconds long. My stance is to wait until I have a better understanding of what they are trying to accomplish. It seems to me, from what I’ve seen and read, that they are actually trying to flip the word “freak” on its head. They are showing people who have accepted themselves for who they are (they are not being called freaks; they are calling themselves freaks – somewhat ironically it seems to me) and aren’t afraid to show “normal” people that their perceptions need to change.
I actually feel like this is kind of what I do. I’ve put myself out there as “that one-handed guy” and I try to change perceptions.
Second, the word “freak” certainly has a negative connotation, but it only has power if you give it power. The concern about this word hits close to home because I recently launched a new graphic that says, “Different Is Awesome!” As a relative newcomer to the limb-different community, it’s been eye-opening to see what words offend people so deeply. I thought long and hard about using the word “different” because of this. Personally, I’m a proponent of claiming the words for myself. A lot of people don’t like being “labelled” as different, but the fact is, we’re all different! So, I embrace it. To me, insisting that I’m not different is like saying (in regards to race), “I’m colorblind.” It’s just not true. I see that we’re different, so why not talk about it and celebrate it?
So, my stance on “Freakshow” is this: Before I decide to be against it, or its creators, I’ll wait to see what it’s all about. Perhaps it will be eye-opening for people all over the country to see limb-different people being awesome! Maybe it will spark really good conversations about our place in society and how we’re thought of and treated. And you know what? Maybe it’ll be horribly offensive. But, I don’t know that yet. If it is, you bet I’ll be first in line to get it off the air. I’m hopeful, though, for the former.
If you’re angry about it and have your reasons, by all means, voice your opinion. Email AMC and let them know your concerns. But, what might even be better would be to ask them questions. Ask them what their goal is. See what they say. Let them tell their side, too.
And please, when using your voice, remember who you’re representing. My goal is to stay respectful, to sound intelligent and to err on the side of love. I refuse to wish ill-will on people I don’t know and have not met. They have their story, too.
I think this is a fantastic discussion and an important one to have. I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment below.
This feels weird to write, but it’s true…I love you guys. Thanks for being so awesome.