Shortly thereafter, students read Cecile Lindsay’s, “Bodybuilding: A Postmodern Freak Show,” and Cyril Siorat’s, “Beyond Modern Primitivism”, from the book Tattoo. They are then asked to “Come to class with examples of bodily freaks in our own culture- for example, tattooing, piercing, ear stretching.” They are then asked to “Think about the relationship between bodily freaks and notions of the ‘primitive.’” That’s some deep thinking to require of sociology students.
By the end of October, students read the professor’s own writing, specifically “Plasticity: On the Unexpected Uses of Plastic Surgery”. They are then asked to discuss this profound question: When is surgery “necessary” and when is it “freakish”?
In an early November class meeting, students are asked to “Think about contemporary manifestations of blackface as a genre of the freak show.” In order to provide a real balance to the class, students are then encouraged to study whiteface. In other words, they read about Michael Jackson. The reading is David D. Yuan’s, “The Celebrity Freak: Michael Jackson’s Grotesque Glory.”
Students are then asked to “Do some research on the most recent Jackson trials and Michael Jackson as a racial and sexual freak.” It is unclear whether students are asked to visit Never-land Ranch or attend a meeting of the North American Man-Boy Love Association. But, then again, calling the NAMBLA meeting a “freak show” might offend GLEAM. So many victims, so little time!
Just before Thanksgiving, students are introduced to a lecture on “YouTube, MySpace, and the importance of self-enfreakment.” They are told to find some examples in new media of freakishness. When they return from break, students get to read the professor’s own essay, “The Pleasure of Freaks.” This all takes place within a lecture titled “Does Pop Culture Need Freaks?”
I don’t know about “pop culture” but academia doesn’t need any more freaks. We just need to put bars on the professors’ windows and charge the public to peer inside their offices. Spectators should be allowed to toss them an occasional peanut or banana.
Eventually, we’ll need to pay someone to clean up the stuff that gathers in their cages. The freaks may call it scholarship. But it smells like crap to me.