The word that we might have used most often in the course of the seminar probably is “freak”. But what do we actually mean by using this word? What is a freak? If you pick up the Oxford Dictionary, you will find that a freak is “a person, animal, or plant with an unusual physical abnormality” or “a person who is obsessed with a particular activity or interest”. This leads me to the following thesis: There are (at least) two kinds of freaks, the ones that are or become freaks unwillingly (e.g. due to having an accident or a disease), and those who make themselves freaks (although this can also be accompanied by some sort of psychological disease).
What I would like to point out is that the word “freak” – which is unfortunately negatively connoted – is quite ambiguous. In class, we talked about the Elephant Man for instance. It was not Joseph Merrick’s fault that he had all these deformities and was thus a freak. His disease is to blame for him becoming a freak. There are of course many more people like Joseph Merrick, and I would like to shortly present two of these “natural” freaks.
Marlie Casseus suffers from polyostotic fibrous dysplasia, a genetic disorder of bones. An 18-pound tumor covered her face before it has been removed in four surgeries.
Shiloh Pepin suffered from the Mermaid Syndrome, which means that her legs were fused together. Moreover, she had no bladder, no rectum, no uterus and no genitalia. She managed to live for ten years despite this disease.
What both of these impressive girls have in common is that they can actually be considered freaks because of their physical abnormity. But would we really refer to them as freaks? Personally, I would not. I would rather handle it like the TV show and call these girls “Extraordinary People”. How come? The word “freak” is – as I already mentioned – usually used in a negative context. I do not think that one of these girls partakes of something negative. You just have to watch the videos above to find that both Marlie and Shiloh are full of life and moreover very inspiring for us all. Thus I rather admire them, and I would never call them freaks. They are just special, and they cannot be blamed for what they look like.
But why is the word “freak” then used that often? There must be another sort of people that we can call freaks because they make themselves freaks. Here is one of them:
Maria José Cristerna, also called the “Mexican Vampire Woman”, compares her appearance with a game. Aside from her fang teeth, she is nearly completely tattooed and has some metal implants in her head.
Why would I call her a freak? The reason is obviously her extraordinary appearance. In the video, Maria is even called “the world’s most unusual woman”, and honestly, I agree. Furthermore, it is mentioned in the video that Maria is a battered housewife and tells the story of her family in her tattoos. Since that is no excuse for becoming a “Vampire Woman”, I consider her a freak. There are many people with a dramatic background that do not express themselves in their appearance (and even if they do, they do not do it in such an extreme way). So, Maria is a freak because she seems to like what she looks like, and because she seems to be obsessed with the whole vampire issue.
All in one, what is the difference between the two girls and Maria? Both Shiloh and Marlie cannot be blamed for what they look like. We feel compassion for them and marvel at them because they manage life quite well in spite of their diseases and their appearances. If we look at Maria, we are just shocked because of what she looks like. We do not feel pity for her. It was her conscious decision to get all the tattoos and the implants. She has been made a freak by herself.