“And the Award Goes To…”: An Examination of Award Show Culture and its Role in Re-freakification

By Amory Orchard

Academy_Award_trophy

As many avid television and film viewers know, awards season is upon us once again. Soon it will be virtually impossible to escape the hundreds of red carpet pictures cropping up on our social media feeds, web pages, and TV screens, as designated entertainment experts discuss red carpet fashion. Despite the fashion talk, one question is on everyone’s mind: which actors and actresses will go home with the most esteemed prizes: The Golden Globes, The Screen Actors Guild Awards—and, of course, the coveted Oscars?

For all the glitz and glamour of the season, celebrity and award show culture has rather serious implications when able-bodied actors portray characters with disabilities and other physical features that stray from the perceived norms. In fact, it has become something of a joke in the business to refer to such roles as “Oscar bait” because many of the past Best Actor Oscar winners—Daniel Day Lewis for My Left Foot and Colin Firth for The King’s Speech among them—have depicted disabled people. Some culture critics even assert that actors take on these roles because they attract awards.

“Why is this a problem?” one might ask. Is this not what actors do, stepping into a character’s shoes to shed light on their struggles? Perhaps. But we should not ignore the social implications of their performances. As disability scholar Graeme Turner claims, “There can be no question that celebrity has demonstrated its usefulness as a productive location for the analysis of cultural shifts around gender, race or nationality, for instance. It is important that such work continues” (13). Although able-bodied actors may have the best intentions when taking on such a role, there have been debates for years about the moral ambiguity that comes with able-bodied actors transforming themselves to “look the part,” rather than studios casting disabled actors. However, this blog post will discuss the role of the media attention their performances attract in keeping this a status-quo in the entertainment industry. As a result, the media reinforces the audience’s fascination with the fact that an able-bodied actor can pass as a member of a disenfranchised population. The actor’s transformation—not the story the performance is supposed to convey—becomes the public’s focus.

While campaigning for Hollywood’s top prizes, actors and actresses participate in photo shoots and interviews designed to advertise the film. What happens, however, is that these articles often discuss how an attractive actor “transformed” him or herself in order to play a disenfranchised person. Then, in the reader’s mind, the actor transforms back into their previous conventionally attractive self by the end of the article. This reduces disability to a matter of make-up—something one can take on and off. Although an audience may not realize the deeper implications, this act dismisses the experience disabled people face in their daily lives. This has been the case with several actors within the past year, including 2015 Academy Tony Award-nominated Bradley Cooper for his role as John “The Elephant Man” Merrick.

According to drama scholar Stanton B. Garner Jr.’s research on modern stage productions of The Elephant Man, audiences are captivated by the “physical process of moving in and out of character” (Garner 84). Indeed, this was shown in Bradley Cooper’s 60 Minutes interview, which appeared shortly before the production was opened to the Broadway public. The interview features footage capturing Cooper’s transformation into the disfigured Merrick before an onstage audience of medical professionals while his caregiver  describes Merrick’s medical condition in dehumanizing terms. Cooper slowly begins to hunch over, his mouth stretches, and his voice changes to mimic Merrick’s. Soon after the interview aired, countless news and tabloid publications recapped the 60 Minutes interview. In each case, there is a variation on this line: “[Cooper, who], ironically, was once crowned the “Sexiest Man Alive” by People Magazine, has now been dubbed the ‘best Elephant man yet’” (Hall). Here, the public’s fascination with watching an attractive, able-bodied man transforming into a severely disabled (and dying) person has been encouraged  by the media. In juxtaposing sex symbol Bradley Cooper with the character into which he transforms, the story of the production becomes less about Merrick and more about the actor who portrays him. The appearance, not the experience, becomes what counts.

Academy Award-winner Eddie Redmayne was treated similarly last year while promoting The Theory of Everything, in which he played theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. As in the coverage of Bradley Cooper’s performance, the media discourse contrasts the actor’s physical attractiveness with his character’s appearance. For instance, in Redmayne’s Vogue interview, staff writer Vicki Woods goes to great lengths in describing Redmayne’s personal appearance before talking about his “transformative role” as Stephen Hawking:

Very few men are heart-stoppingly beautiful, in the way glorious women or racehorses or specimen roses unarguably are, so meeting a bona fide male dazzler, with fan sites sprawled across the Web, is interesting. The huge buzz about his new film, The Theory of Everything, in which he plays the British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who suffers from the debilitating neurological disease ALS, is also interesting. (Woods)

Here, Woods describes Redmayne’s appearance with words such as “heart-stoppingly beautiful,” “glamorous,” and “dazzler,” before contrasting his transformation into Hawking who “suffers” from a “debilitating” disease. Woods not only accentuates the transformation, but, in so doing, denigrates Stephen Hawking’s appearance because he is not a young, muscular symbol of youth.In the end, the only mention of Hawking is a brief explanation of the overall premise. The focus is all on Redmayne.

It is true that some award-winners have been disabled themselves. For instance, both Harold Russell (who lost both his hands in World War II) and Marlee Matlin (who is deaf) won awards for the films The Best Years of Our Lives and Children of a Lesser God, respectively. However, they are two rare exceptions. As Award Show Season 2016 kicks off, countless speeches will be made by winners, often thanking the real people they portray. Redmayne himself made such a speech last year, dedicating his Oscar to those diagnosed with ALS, vowing he will act as a “custodian” of the prestigious award. However, it is imperative for average audience members watching these award shows to consider the persuasive media “buzz” that led to this actor being nominated in the first place and the way they discuss those people whose likenesses the actors are representing. After all, part of the fascination with his performance lies with us, the media consumers: the underlying fact that he can convincingly transform into someone else—but can always transform back.

 

Works Cited

Garner Jr., Stanton B. “In Search of Merrick: Kinesthetic Empathy, Able-Bodiedness, and Disability Representation.” Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 29.2 (2010): 81-103. Print.

Turner, Graeme. “Approaching Celebrity Studies.” Celebrity Studies 1.1 (2010): 11-20. Routlage: Taylor & Francis. Web. 16 Nov. 2015. <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/19392390903519024&gt;.

No Winners Here

By Allison Haste

The days of the fat lady freak show exhibits are gone…or so we like to think. With 16 seasons to date and over 7 million viewers, it’s hard to deny the popularity of NBC’s The Biggest Loser. The show follows the lives of several people in a competition to lose the most weight and win a cash prize. Although the days of paying money to gawk at a fat person in an exhibit are over, what really makes The Biggest Loser any different?

First of all, the nature of The Biggest Loser lends itself to the freakification of its contestants. Inherently, reality television is exploitative because it leaves the image of the people being presented up to the choices of the producers. They can cut and edit the film however they want in order to make the contestants’ actions fit their script. They can take the contestants’ actions or words out of context in order to twist them into how they want them to be perceived.

Kai Hibbard, the first runner up from season 3, has spoken out to several news outlets about her experience with The Biggest Loser. She claims that there were several occasions where she or other contestants of the show were injured and told by a doctor to rest, but the production team told them that they were not allowed to rest if they wanted to stay on the show. Hibbard told The New York Post about a particular episode in which the contestants were led to a stall in a horseracing track, and then had to race one another like animals on the track. Hibbard describes this challenge as being humiliating, so she chose to walk rather than run in the race. However, she felt that The Biggest Loser production team edited the footage to depict her as being lazy for not running the race, rather than a protest of the event.

So what makes The Biggest Loser an acceptable form of entertainment? People are comfortable watching the terrible things that the contestants are made to do because it is all done under the guise of caring about their health. The extreme diet and exercise programs are made out to be a lifesaving transition into a healthier lifestyle. The show’s success depends on the viewer’s idea that fat always means unhealthy and that thinness always means healthy.

To The New York Post, she said, “there was no easing into it. That doesn’t make for good TV. My feet were bleeding through my shoes for the first three weeks.” She described the workouts that they were to do every single day—sometimes for 5 to 8 hours straight. In addition to the excessive exercising that the contestants did, their food intake was severely restricted. According to Hibbard, the contestants were only allowed to eat less than 1000 calories per day. These practices led to dramatic weight loss of up to 30 pounds per week. According to most doctors, weight loss of about 1-2 pounds each week is considered safe and sustainable.

Clearly, this show is not about anyone’s health. Being pushed to exhaustion and deprived of nutritional food does not make for a healthy individual. Although most people are aware that the weight loss tactics demonstrated in The Biggest Loser are not healthy, the show portrays the contestants as needing these drastic measures because they are so fat and unhealthy.

Finding the Other at “Home”

By Ellie Fawcett

In October of 1996, an episode of The X-Files called “Home” aired for the first time. Despite this seemingly innocuous title, the episode caused a massive controversy and was banned from airing on Fox again for three years. Today, almost twenty years after the original airdate, “Home” continues to top lists of scariest or most disturbing TV episodes.

Why?

The plot of the episode centers on a trio of brothers named the Peacocks who are under investigation by everyone’s favorite FBI agents, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. The two are investigating the grisly murder of a baby born with a multitude of congenital birth defects. Mulder and Scully suspect that the baby was murdered by the family because the birth defects would have prevented it from surviving and thriving. Thinking that the brothers are the only surviving members of the Peacock family, the agents believe that the brothers have kidnapped a woman and are forcing her to give birth to their children to continue the family line. The truth they discover is far more horrifying: the brothers’ paraplegic mother, thought to have been killed in a car crash many years earlier, is in fact alive and has been producing offspring with one of her sons. At the end of the episode, the brother and mother escape Mulder and Scully and run off ostensibly to begin a new inbred family. The reason the Peacocks have been inbreeding is never explicitly stated in the episode, though the agents  speculate that it has been happening in the family for quite some time.

Strangely, this most disturbing episode of The X-Files has  ties to the freak show tradition. Glen Morgan, one of the two writers for the episode, recounts an experience he had in college reading Charlie Chaplin’s autobiography:

Before he [Chaplin] was famous he was traveling in musical theater, and he rented a room in a tenement with a family that took a liking to him. They said, “Hey, we got something to show you.” And they take him up to a room with a cot, and under the cot was a man on a platform, and he was wheeled out and they stood him up and they clapped and danced and the guy did tricks. It just seemed like such a horrifying situation, and I’d been trying to use it. So we had been working out the story where there was another brother under the bed, and Jim Wong one day goes: ‘It’s the mother! The mother’s under the bed!” (Wong)

The story Chaplin recounts in his autobiography deals mostly with his horror at a scenario in which a man with no legs is brought out by his family and made to perform tricks. The family hopes to send him to the circus, to make him perform as a freak, presumably to supplement their income. Chaplin walks away deeply disturbed by the whole incident.

Viewers of “Home” also come away from the experience disturbed, though not for the same reasons as Chaplin. While Chaplin was apparently disturbed by the treatment of the limbless man, the viewers are horrified by the actions of the Peacock family. Glen Morgan has taken the freak show narrative Chaplin told and turned it from a pitiable story to a horror story. In some ways, this means that “Home” furthers the freak show narrative of othering those who are different. By turning Chaplin’s pity-inducing story into a terror-inducing story, emphasizing the Peacock family’s brutal and inhuman tendencies, and turning them into incestuous murderers, the freak show tradition of creating fear and discomfort toward the people exhibited (here represented by the Peacocks)  is continued and, in fact, expanded upon. It parallels the “us vs. them” mentality of the freak show, making the Peacock’s disabilities into objects of terror for the “normal” viewers.

Yet, the Peacocks are not truly a clearly defined other. In a show that regularly deals with the supernatural, featuring episodes covering everything from pyrokinesis to aliens, this episode is particularly disturbing to viewers because it is focuses on an apparently entirely human family. The Peacocks do not have any explanation for their behavior. They are not aliens; they have not been enticed by the government somehow; they are merely human beings who act in an inhuman manner. As Doryjane Birrer states we are “disturbed to find how increasingly blurred are the boundaries between us and them, human and monster” (218). Where the freak show created a comfortable and obvious other against which the audience could position itself, this episode unsettles that trope. Here, the Other is not quite as other as we might like to believe.

Living in a world after the freak show does not mean that we are free from the long-reaching cultural shadows it throws. The binary opposition of the human vs. the Other is still very much present in our understanding of the world. We fit ourselves comfortably into the side of human and imagine anything not fitting limited criteria of humanness is clearly and distinctly Not Human and therefore monstrous. The Peacocks crash through the boundary of human and Other, destroying the binary opposition we find so comforting. When the freak in the freak show is presented to the audience, his or her differences are the focus of the presentation. The fact that the Peacocks are human is emphasized in this episode, forcing the audience  to confront one of the scariest truths of all: sometimes, human beings are the monsters.

 

Works Cited

Birrer, Doryjane. “A New Species of Humanities: The Marvelous Progeny of Humanism and Postmodern Theory.” Journal of Narrative Theory 37.2 (2007): 217-45. JSTOR. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

Wong, James, and Glen Morgan. “‘X-Files’ Writers Recall the Show’s Most Disturbing Episode.” Interview by Jeremy Egner. The New York Times 30 Oct. 2015: n. pag. The New York Times. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

Questionable Choreography

By Nikole Darnell

Since it premiered ten years ago, Fox’s dance competition show So You Think You Can Dance has cha-cha’d its way to the top with nineteen awards and sixty nominations (“So You Think You Can Dance: Awards”). The show has frequently been praised for its outstanding choreography, staging, lighting, and more. Married couple Christopher Jennings and Krystal Meraz, better known by their respective stage names, Pharside and Phoenix, are the award-winning choreographers for the show. Their intricate pieces generally feature a theme, especially their hip hop numbers.

In Season Twelve, the duo choreographed a freak show-themed routine for the top seven members of Team Street to Rob Zombie’s “Dragula.” While, at first glance, the number seems innocent and simply entertaining, one can definitely find problematic elements in it, from the choreography and costuming to the types of characters that the dancers are instructed to portray. There are stock carnival characters, such as a clown, a ringmaster, and a tight-rope walker. Then there are also more dated characters, like a strongman and a bearded woman. However, the dance also features a pair of conjoined twins, the only performers in the dance whose costumes refer to the circus’s dark history of exhibiting people with congenital disabilities. Is it really acceptable for the non-disabled to mimic the disabled? Representing conjoined twins as freaks undermines their humanity and, in this case,  makes them into something to be feared rather than what they really are– human beings with thoughts and feelings of their own.

No matter what the role, the performer is made up to look dark and scary, indicating that this particular carnival is something to be feared. Every character in this piece is a little bit frightening, but the costuming and makeup choices definitely accentuate this in the conjoined twins, played by Dancers Yorelis Apolinario and Ariana Crowder. Their hair and costumes are definitely out of the ordinary, but the real anomaly is their makeup, which is done so that it appears that blood is running from the girls’ eyes. Of course, everyone is made to look horrifying, but the other costumes seem a little less so. Virgil Gadson, the dancer who plays the clown, wears a typical clown suit and makeup. Many people are terrified of clowns—Virgil’s appearance could have provided a perfect opportunity for the show to capitalize on terror, if that is what they desired. There are all kinds of designs for creepy clown makeup. After realizing this, it seems especially odd that the show would choose to make the conjoined twins’ makeup more frightening than the clown’s. After all, a clown makes the choice to become a clown. Conjoined twins do not decide to be conjoined twins.   

While other characters have choreography that matches their roles, Ariana and Yorelis are given moves that make their characters seem even more disturbing. At 0:23, Eddie “Neptune” Eskridge seems to lift the tightrope walker with only one arm. The tightrope walker, Jessica “JJ” Rabone, pretends to do her act from 0:59 until 1:09. The bearded lady, played by Džajna “Jaja” Vaňková, can frequently be seen stroking her facial hair. But for the dancers portraying the conjoined twins, the actions are very different. At the beginning of the number, from 0:00 until 0:13, Ariana and Yorelis mime activities that could actually be performed by conjoined twins until the ringmaster, played by Megan “Megz” Alfonso, appears to cut them in half. This part of the choreography is incredibly insensitive to those who are actually conjoined twins, given that it seems to deny the reality of their experiences., At 0:32, Yorelis is instructed to make a disgusting face while the rest of the dancers appear to unscrew her head. At 1:42, the girls join hands and run off to their final position, only to appear to be “re-conjoined.” Choreographing the girls to be split and then put back together is not only unrealistic and disturbing, but it reinforces common stereotypes about conjoined twins. For example, when “normate” people imagine being conjoined, they often imagine what they would feel like if another non-conjoined person were suddenly attached to them. This denies that being conjoined affects a person’s experiences and worldview. All of the other characters were given reasonable choreography, so why is it that the conjoined twins were made to look so terrifying?

It is important to point out that Yorelis and Ariana were simply doing the choreography that was assigned to them. They are actors playing a role and were trying their very hardest to win the show. There are plenty of other characters the show could have incorporated into the routine, such as a lion tamer or even some circus animals. In a society that is shifting towards a more accepting, politically correct world, it is appalling that no one else seemed to be upset that the dancers were mimicking conjoined twins in such a grotesque manner. This questionable choreography is another instance of how society fears what they do not know or understand and make it into something ugly or unclean. After all, conjoined twins are real people. They do not exist to fuel our nightmares.

 

Works Cited

“Pharside & Phoenix.” The Movement: Talent Agency. The Movement—Dance Talent Agency, 2015. Web. 16. Oct. 2015.

“So You Think You Can Dance: Awards.” IMDb.com. IMDb.com, Inc., 2015. Web. 16. Oct. 2015.

The Struggle for Social Superiority: Giants in Harry Potter

By Cassie Grosh

The Harry Potter series has touched people around the world. From encouraging literacy to creating friendships among fans, the Harry Potter franchise has had many positive effects on popular culture today. While the novels highlight lifelong friendships, cover the timeless coming of age process, include stories of love and triumph, and show how to cope with loss in a healthy way, Rowling illustrates the imperfections of wizards through negative examples of the wizarding world’s social hierarchy. This is most obviously seen in the prejudices of purebloods and those who follow Lord Voldemort, the antagonist who is determined to kill all Muggle (human)-born wizards and rule the wizarding world. Throughout the wizarding world, wizards  clearly have a higher social standing than other humanoid beings, and this is made particularly evident when one examines their disappointingly negative treatment of giants.

While giants are not placed on display or exhibited in any way within the wizarding world, they are clearly not welcome within its society because of their racial and physical differences. This parallels the historical treatment of people considered physically different in the real world. Due to physical differences, people within our own world have been stereotyped and separated from society. From around 1200-1700, those who appeared physically different were often killed throughout Europe. These people were believed “to have fallen from spiritual favor.” As time passed, people began to adopt scientific ways of understanding differences.  This led to an increase in asylums during the 1800s. However, people quickly learned that there was a market for exhibiting people with physical disabilities. As soon as a market was formed, these people were then used as entertainment. Then, in the mid-1900s when the market for human oddities as entertainment dissipated, people were again sentenced to live their lives in asylums (Appendix 14C).

Even in today’s world, people with physical difference are typically isolated and separated from the majority of society. There is no true acceptance, and this allows for stereotypes and prejudices to continue. While times have drastically improved, there are still issues with “freaks” in modern times. Extremely tall men and women (usually above six or seven feet in height) are considered “giants” to the rest of mankind. People allow for a physical difference to alter how they view, approach, and associate with certain people. While people of extreme height are not necessarily considered violent in society, they are commonly compared to creatures of fantasy literature with horribly violent reputations.

At one time, wizards made a point of killing giants in an attempt to keep the wizarding world safe (Rowling, Goblet of Fire 430, Order of the Phoenix 426). There is no direct evidence within the Harry Potter series to suggest that giants were used as entertainment, but they were deemed lesser and sentenced far away from civilized society. The supposed violent nature of giants led to a forced move of all giants out of Britain and Eastern Europe. All contact with giants was broken, and violent stories of giants from the past were told to perpetuate the growing stereotype. Giants were only considered potential allies to wizards once it was learned that Lord Voldemort intended to use giants on his side of the war (Rowling, Order of the Phoenix 431). The assumption that giants “like killing” kept many in the wizarding community from reaching out to giants in search of aid (Rowling, Goblet of Fire 430). This became disastrous when the giants held no sympathy for wizards and chose Lord Voldemort’s side in the war.

Giants in Harry Potter are described as members of a race that bears traits considered “abnormal” in humans and wizards. The size and appearance of giants force the recognition that giants and wizards are not one and the same. This othering is another parallel with people who were exhibited in freak shows and human zoos. Many people who were forced to be on exhibit were considered “exotic” due to racial differences. Their physical attributes were accredited to all people from the part of the world where they supposedly originated. These people were “from an undefined and strictly non-British region of elsewhere” (Ferguson 245). This relates to giants who no longer live in Britain but “abroad…in mountains”  (Rowling, Goblet of Fire 430). Similarly, giants are kept at a distance, and this physical separation allows for the stereotypes and prejudices against giants to continue from afar. In Harry Potter, giants are only found after traveling through France, Poland, and Belarus, a small country south of Russia. The reader is not told where the giants can be found, simply that they live “in the mountains,” an area distant and different than the Scottish countryside where Hogwarts is located (Rowling, Order of the Phoenix 426).  The physical difference giants exhibit becomes a geographic difference that furthers the societal separation and allows for the negative stereotypes to continue.

However, it is not these foreign giants but Hagrid, the beloved gamekeeper of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and professor of the Care of Magical Creatures courses, who comes to mind first when one thinks of giants within Harry Potter. He is the first giant a reader encounters, but he is only a half-giant himself. Hagrid’s father was a wizard and his mother a giantess (Rowling, Goblet of Fire 427-428). While he was raised by his father, that did not stop the genetics of his giant heritage from showing through. His difference in appearance clearly played a factor in his education. During Hagrid’s third year at Hogwarts, he was expelled for supposedly opening the Chamber of Secrets, an underground portion of Hogwarts, home to a reptilian creature that hunts and kills Muggle-born witches and wizards (Rowling, Chamber of Secrets 246-248). Despite a lack of proof or evidence framing Hagrid, he was chosen as the scapegoat and lost not only his wand but also any chance he had at receiving an education.

Hagrid’s physical and genetic difference is alluded to as being the evidence used against him. Despite the Chamber of Secrets holding a clear tie to those related to the founder of the Slytherin house and pureblooded wizards, Hagrid is found guilty. He is judged based on his difference.  Nearly fifty years later, when the Chamber of Secrets opens again, Hagrid is taken into custody and suspected of once again opening the Chamber of Secrets and targeting muggle-born wizards (Rowling, Chamber of Secrets 261-262).

One of the main characters, Ron Weasley, is distraught when he learns of Hagrid’s heritage. Despite being one of the kindest wizards introduced in the series, Ron finds himself completely convinced of negative giant stereotypes he learned growing up. Ron describes giants as “not very nice,” “vicious,” and “like trolls…they just like killing” (Rowling, Goblet of Fire 430). Despite unintentionally befriending a giant, Ron’s previous perception of giants creates a rift between him and Hagrid. Ron’s opinions of giants are based on stories and stereotypes, and these opinions have led him to see himself as superior..

Hagrid is not the only giant to which readers of Harry Potter are introduced. Madame Maxime, the headmistress of the French Beauxbatons Academy of Magic is a giantess. Similar to Hagrid, she is only a half-giantess. While her size makes her obviously different from a normal witch, Madame Maxime is aware of the stereotype surrounding giants, and she refuses to admit to her heritage. When questioned by Hagrid, Madame Maxime claims to “’ave big bones” (Rowling, Goblet of Fire 429). The difference between Madame Maxime and Hagrid is their professional standing. Madame Maxime has worked her whole life to overcome the stereotypes placed on giants, and she now holds a prestigious and well-respected position. Hagrid unfortunately suffered from giant-based stereotypes and was not given an opportunity to achieve a position of power. While he loves his job as gamekeeper and professor, Hagrid has no professional standing to lose if the world learns of his heritage. If Madame Maxime were to admit to her giantess heritage, she would risk losing her position as headmistress at Beauxbatons Academy.

Hagrid explains that giants fear and distrust wizards as much as wizards distrust giants. He and Madame Maxime had to refrain from using magic while visiting the giants due to centuries of distrust and attacks from wizards (Rowling, Order of the Phoenix 426). After so many giants died at the hands of wizards, giants began attacking all wizards for their own safety. This is evident later when Hagrid has to tie up his own brother, Grawp. He argues in Grawp’s defense saying, “he doesn’ really know his strength” (Rowling, Order of the Phoenix 692). Giants fulfill the violent stereotype not out of nature but out of self-preservation.

The giants in Harry Potter are clearly othered in the way freaks of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were. Seen as nothing more than dangerous, deformed creatures, giants held no chance at being a part of civilized wizarding society. They were kept separate from the “normal” or “ideal” witch or wizard, and this separation goes beyond that of social boundaries but crosses over into a physical separation. Nearly a whole continent separates the wizards within the Harry Potter universe from the nearest, and possibly only, clan of giants.

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, people deemed worthy of being displayed in freak shows and human zoos were physically separated and othered in much the same way as giants. These people were lower in the social hierarchy because they did not have the physical characteristics society preferred. These people’s homelands were also considered exotic or distant, much like the mysterious mountains giants reside in. Giants, like people exhibited, are separated in both a physical and social way. These blatant separations allow for the theme of social hierarchy to travel through the wizarding world in a way much more subtle than disputes between pureblood, half-blood, or muggle-born wizards, and these separations reiterate values and views of those attending freak shows and human zoos in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

 

Works Cited:

“Appendix 14C: Perspectives on the Historical Treatment of People with Disabilities.” Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice. Ed. Adams, Maurianne, Lee Anne Bell, Pat Griffin. New York and London: Routledge, 2007. N. pag. University of Arizona. Web. 18 Dec 2015.

Ferguson, Christine. “Gooble-Gabble, One of Us: Grotesque Rhetoric and the Victorian Freak Show.” Victorian Review 23.2 (1997): 244-250.

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic: 1999. Print.

—. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic, 2000. Print.

—. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic, 2003. Print.