People with Disfigurements – Freak Shows?

Upon watching Beauty and the Beast, a new reality television programme produced by channel 4, I came to the realisation that people with physical disfigurements are seen as being “freaks” in the media.

In the UK there are more than half a million people living with severe facial disfigurements who aren’t accepted into society; they’re judged on their looks.  Alison Walsh, the disability Tsar for Channel 4, defended the show in The Guardian by telling the readers that ‘prejudice is the beast’ and that the series ‘declares war on that and on beauty fascism’. She states that Beauty and the Beast is being developed in association with Changing Faces, a charity that supports and represents people with disfigurements.

The true question is, do shows like Beauty and the Beast result in the viewer empathising with the people with facial disfigurements or open the door for entertainment by laughing at them? Beauty and the Beast could possibly be perceived as a freak show whereas Walsh declares the lives of disabled people being like “poetry”. Is it really poetry or good afternoon entertainment? Disabled people are not often shown on television, unless they are taking part in documentaries or shows such as this one. Surely this shows how people with disfigurements are still not accepted. Not to say that wanting to feel good is wrong, but the true “Beasts” are the ones who are so self-conscious they change themselves; people with disfigurements are more comfortable in their bodies than those who are “normal” and don’t need cosmetic surgery to boost their confidence.

Personally, I think shows such as Beauty and the Beast are ways for disfigured people to connect with people on an emotional level, to try and make their audience understand how they feel. They clearly understand the risk they take in viewers perceiving them as amusement instead. Perhaps it is worth the risk so they can be heard and maybe slightly more accepted into the vicious society of the modern era.

For more information, check out Changing Faces



Filed under Illness, Media

4 responses to “People with Disfigurements – Freak Shows?

  1. India Clare

    Very interesting, well done Pryanka!

  2. Random

    I think that yes, some people may see disfigured people as freaks, but some people also see people who have had a lot of plastic surgery done as vain and shallow. I think the main difference is that if I call someone vain since they have had a lot of cosmetic surgery done that seems almost fair, whereas most people, if they heard a disfigured person being insulted, would be more likely to defend them. So yes, they are possibly seen as freaks by a minority, but they are also helped by a large part of society, and get disability from the government if they want. So I don’t believe that they are really seen as freaks at all.

  3. Wouldn’t you be defending them out of pity and sympathy more so than of anything else? Assuming that people think of ‘freaks’ as those who are out of the ordinary, then unless you jump to each and every stranger’s defence, shouldn’t this special and benevolent treatment that you give to people with disfigurements be seen as you seeing them in a different light to the way in which you perceive and respond to any other average person?
    Yes, they may get advantages and benefits from the government, but this proves furthermore that they aren’t categorised with everyone else, not all of us get help from the majority of our society!

  4. Random

    Sympathy doesnt mean I look down on them. It means I feel sorry for them which shouldn’t make them feel abnormal. I would feel sorry for anyone who’s parents died but that does not make them freaks, and since I feel sorry for them I choose to defend them from those who have no empathy.
    You are correct in saying part of the definition of freak is being treated differently but we should always treat those people differently who are sad, or lonely. We should give them preferential treatment. If the so-called “freak” is perfectly happy and secure there would be no need to defend them but if they are unhappy iI see it my duty to defend them, like I would anyone in distress.

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