“Side Shows and Reality TV”

Library of Congress Photo

When I was a child we went to the Oregon State Fair. It was a dazzling array of rides, games, food and agricultural exhibits. What it no longer had, as my mother told me, was a “freak show,” more properly called a side show. She told me that people used to pay money to see people with medical conditions such as a very large woman called a “fat lady,” and a very short person called a “midget.” She and I agreed that we lived in kinder times in the 1950’s and that people would be ashamed now to pay money to stare at fellow humans.

But “reality TV” has arrived in full force to provide countless opportunities to gawk without the possibility of shame. One channel in the United States hosts a variety of such programming. My Giant Life, 1000 Lb. Sisters, My 600 Pound Life, Little People Big World, The Little Couple and Abby &Brittany(two headed conjoined twins.) There clearly continues to be a large audience ready to stare at the same giants, “midgets,” “fat ladies,” and other rare conditions as there was in earlier times.

Is it still a source of shame for the television viewer? I don’t know. I have never watched one second of any of those shows myself. LOL

20 thoughts on ““Side Shows and Reality TV”

  1. I know what you mean. I feel bad to see people being exploited and yet there seems to be a willingness on both sides, those being viewed and viewers to watch them! I guess human nature hasn’t really changed much.

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  2. This is shameful. I think it is worse on television, because that tells millions of people it’s okay to stare at people who are different. Who would want to watch this on TV?

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  3. I don’t watch those shows either because they are about as far from reality as possible. I still remember going to one of those freak carnival shows. They were Siamese Twins. Even though I was pretty young at the time, it made me terribly uncomfortable. Because my mom had taught us it’s not polite to stare at others, it felt wrong to do that. It was the one, and only time I went to anything like that.

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  4. I dislike most reality shows and especially the type you have identified. I assume though, that the people featured have chosen to appear, drawn by money and their moment of fame no doubt. And the prospect of becoming a ‘celebrity’.

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  5. The freak show owners of old used many fakes. They would be so envious of the modern ‘real’ freaks who seem very happy to have their disabilities or problems paraded on TV shows. We have a channel that seems to be ful of such distasteful shows, Channel 5. I don’t watch them, unless they are real ‘serious’ documentaries with some purpose or message.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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