February 22, 1932 [Freaks]

Tod Browning walks into the sawdust spotlight, a small smile growing behind his hand, and does a little danse macabre, tripping over his freaks a bit, treading on toes, bumping heads--but he dances on, and they take up the step, some of them grinning--always--some grimacing at the attention we pay--but we all pay, eventually, in this thunderstruck world Browning loves, a circus-inside-a-circus, rings within rings.

The freaks are impossible not to watch, like Lear's Fool, chiding us--then disappearing, leaving us on the blasted heath--their gooble-gobble-one-of-us chant rising in outrage and vengeance. The Living Torso lights a cigarette, and Zip and Pip bob their tiny heads and giggle, with Armless Girl and Half Boy sidling up--all of them suddenly supplanting the "normal"--and ending up as strange and halting as any of us.

Browning has made his masterpiece, lost in the woods but strong as blood-ties, alive in its own skin, without a single glance our way.


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